QSuper is reinventing itself. On the eve of marking a century, the $32 billion superannuation fund for Queensland public sector workers has new investment beliefs and a strategy that is purposefully different from those of its peers. In its dynamic pursuit of risk factor exposures, it aims to break the straitjacket of investment benchmarks that mean little or nothing to its members. SIMON MUMME reports.
The shooting of Damian Leeding is breaking news when I meet QSuper’s investment team. On the previous night, senior constable Leeding and his police officer wife, Sonya, responded to a triple-zero call from the Pacific Pines Tavern in Nerang on the Gold Coast. Armed robbers had besieged the pub. As Leeding intervened, the culprits shot him in the face at close range. Sonya and fellow officers kept him alive on the scene before he could be taken to hospital. He died the next day.
Across the table from me, two QSuper executives, Rosemary Vilgan, CEO, and Brad Holzberger, CIO, talk about the horrific crime. As police officers, the 35-year old Leeding and his wife are members of the superannuation fund, and soon his savings and life insurance policy will be paid to Sonya and their two young children. These procedures seem coldly administrative while news of the shooting is still fresh, but they show why it is crucial for super funds to work hard for their members. There are people behind those account numbers. At some point, we depend on super.
Each year about 30,000 members attend QSuper seminars. The events focus on investment and retirement. Vilgan says one of the chief questions asked by members at these gatherings is: ‘Will I have enough?’ The sessions are staged southwards from Cairns along the Queensland coast, inland to Toowoomba and in the capital, where we now sit, in the fund’s Eagle Street offices overlooking the river as it curves towards the Story Bridge. We are here to talk about the investment strategy its members rely on to fund their retirements – or whatever else life throws at them.
cracking a ton
Next year QSuper marks a century. It will manage more than $32 billion for more than 530,000 members in a broad range of jobs: police officer, public servant, teacher, nurse, fire-fighter and ambulance worker, among others.
But despite all of this money and its long history, the fund will really be no more than six years old. For most of its 100 years QSuper will have been closed to anybody not employed in the Queensland public sector. But in 2007, when the fund decided to market its services to the broader public, it was forced to reinvent itself. “It was a new entity at $25 billion,” Vilgan says.