Outgoing Mine Super CIO David Bell (Pic: supplied)

David Bell, the chief investment officer of Mine Super has resigned from the $11 billion industry superannuation fund to finish a doctorate degree in investment management.

Bell – who has been CIO of Mine Super since July 2014 – will remain with the fund in the coming months while the search a replacement takes place, a statement released on Friday said.

“It has been my decision to leave the fund to focus on the completion of my PhD through UNSW (which has one of the best and most demanding PhD programs),” Bell told Investment Magazine.

“Over the past number of years, we’ve created a great foundation, strengthened the capability of the investments team and are well set up for the future. I believe now is the right time to move on and know that the fund has robust transitionary arrangements in place to continue to deliver exceptional retirement outcomes to members”.

Over the last three years, Mine Super (formerly Mine Wealth + Wellbeing) has overhauled its investment model from being consultant-led to an internally driven model.

“We have internalised strategic asset allocation and updated the investment operations platform. We can already see the results of this endeavour – our portfolios are constructed better,” Bell wrote in an op-ed for Investment Magazine in May.

As part of the restructure the fund also moved from a strategic asset allocation approach to a total portfolio approach (TPA) strategy – in which the best ideas from a team operating collaboratively compete for capital constantly.

Bell told the CIMA Society of Australia Conference 2018 in Sydney on November 1 he felt like a “kid in a candy shop” after a restructure that took more than half a year and completely overhauled his fund’s investment process to more closely align it with a TPA model.

He said the restructure created much more flexibility to tailor options to suit members with different circumstances, such as tax requirements for people in their accumulation phase versus retirees. It also created the ability to better differentiate “stable” from “aggressive” investment choices,

“What’s most exciting is that model can bring new investment ideas into our portfolio,” Bell said.

Currently most funds are somewhere on a sliding scale between the two approaches but that the trend was increasingly towards TPA strategies.

The traditional SAA approach is based on a set meeting schedule that is only loosely connected to the fund’s investment goals, he said. Strategy is updated infrequently as decision rights reside with the board and only some implementation decisions are delegated to the executive team. It involves setting asset buckets that need to be filled, with less room for deviation from rigid weightings.

A TPA strategy, on the other hand, has a continuous, dynamic focus on achieving the fund’s investment goals. While the board often sets the risk budget, decision rights reside with the CIO and executive team, and the portfolio is managed in real time as invest.

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