Superannuation fund chief executives are in the vanguard of a sea change in business leadership that prioritises values, believes an international business mentor.

Anthony Howard, an author and a confidant to leaders in large publicly traded companies in Australia and abroad, will be speaking at FEAL’s annual conference in Melbourne on August 6, on how chief executives can navigate the increasing pace of technology and societal change.

His key message is that until 10-15 years ago change was fairly predictable and organisations could reasonably plan for the future and then deal with the unforeseen circumstances as they arose.

Now, he says with a high degree of disruptive global activity in business, it is hard to predict the future or business growth with the same degree of confidence or economic foundation.

The answer he says is to focus on what can be controlled.

“In the absence of a lack of clarity your existence flows from meaning and purpose not from a financial return,” he suggests, adding that chief executives needed to ask why their organisation existed.

Howard sees this change in focus, which is already in use by superannuation funds, as aligning with younger employees who have higher expectations of their employers being a force for good in the world.

“The purpose of an organisation cannot just be a rise in its share price,” he said. “That is a completely unsatisfying answer for current and emerging generations.”

He adds, that a good value set will ultimately assist in financial success. “My strong belief is that when you do that, then profit and engagement flows,” he said.

Howard’s third point is on the transformational role smart computers with cognitive abilities have already played in medicine diagnosis, and in chess, and foresees they will have a bigger role to play in investments. He goes so far as to say he is convinced the traditional role of a chief investment officer will disappear as a result within five to 10 years.

“Algorithms will be smart and faster, they will be able to take account of every variable and will be non-emotional in decision making,” he said.

Ultimately Howard believes chief executives of superannuation funds are capable of making the shift to this new style of leadership.

“The industry is a leader, because it is actually set up to create wealth for the future, that is a very different dynamic to a retailer that is set up to sell a product today and satisfy a shareholder,” he said. “I know a lot of people in the industry who are very good people who would articulate their purpose in a noble way, their systems and processes would be aligned with that purpose.”

To register for the FEAL annual conference, see here

To find out more on Anthony Howard, see here

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