Statewide Super CIO Con Michalakis (Photos: Matthew Fatches)
Statewide Super CIO Con Michalakis (Photos: Matthew Fatches)

Statewide Super’s high-profile CIO, Con Michalakis, said his top priority was helping to build the strongest investment team possible while forging a sound culture of putting members first.

Speaking at the Conexus Financial Superannuation Awards, held in Sydney on Thursday night, he said his team members monitored their commitment to fund members by constantly forcing themselves to question whether they were making the right investment decision.

Based in South Australia, the Statewide CIO said he was able to stand apart from the political noise emanating from the cities on the eastern seaboard, leaving his team to concentrate on building investment portfolios and communicating with members.

“So it’s a lot easier for us sometimes,” he said, when accepting the Chief Investment Officer of the Year award.

The award was presented to him via video by California State Teachers’ Retirement System CIO Chris Ailman, for having made the greatest contribution over the last 12 months to the implementation of investment strategies and the advancement of members’ interests.

Ailman said selecting a winner for this category was one of the hardest decisions for the judges, as all of the CIOs had achieved so much of late.

The finalists for the award were: Jonathan Armitage, MLC; Sam Sicilia, Hostplus; and Chris West, WA Super.

Michalakis’ investment style is to take very chunky stakes in investment targets – which has boosted the fund’s returns for the last seven years.

“If we are allocating money to an absolute return fund, a venture capital play or infrastructure investment, we don’t invest small amounts – we would rather have good-sized allocation for our best ideas,” he said.

The reason: it makes a greater impact on an $8.5 billion portfolio.

“So we find our best ideas and make sure they have an impact,” he explained. “While we don’t frequently change our asset allocation – we are long-term investors – if an opportunity presented itself we would seize it.”

Elizabeth Fry has been a financial journalist for more than 25 years and has written for a number of publications, including CFO, The Financial Times and The Australian Financial Review.