The $90 billion QSuper industry fund has promoted Charles Woodhouse to the position of CIO. He succeeds Brad Holzberger who will retire in September after serving as the fund’s investment head for 20 years.
Woodhouse has been QSuper’s head of funds management since 2009 and is directly responsible for QSuper’s investment in infrastructure, real estate, and private equity, as well as the fund’s mandates with external investment managers.
Holzberger famously changed the fund’s investment strategy after the global financial crisis by slashing equities and bolstering the fund’s exposure to high-duration bonds. His focus on achieving CPI plus returns – rather than being consumed by peer relative returns – made the top-performing fund an outlier in the local superannuation industry.
Woodhouse said the ability to set a different strategy from the rest of the market has been key to the success of QSuper. “It is a tribute to the organisation’s willingness to take a long-term view on investment outcomes on behalf, and to the benefit, of our members,”
Ratings agency Chant West last week placed QSuper number one for performance over the past year and in the top four over 10 years. It acknowledged that QSuper’s strategy to invest in long-term bonds and infrastructure had delivered returns with less volatility than other funds.
The superannuation fund has allocated a solid 25 per cent of its $90 billion to fixed interest investment, in contrast to the average balanced fund which holds a lower weight and is generally concentrated in credit exposure rather than government bonds.
“Investment markets are always challenging, but we have a depth of experience in assets that others are just finding their way to,” Woodhouse continued. “Our reputation for delivering for members on the one hand, and for being strong investment partners on the other has put us in good stead. I will endeavour to maintain that reputation of excellence.”
Woodhouse, who has also held the positions of acting CIO and deputy investment chief during his time with QSuper, joined the fund in 2009 from QIC where he was director of alpha investments. Before that, he was managing director of Los Angeles-based fund manager Stonebridge Capital Management.
Q Super’s chief executive Michael Pennisi, said: “Charles is a key part of the success of QSuper’s investment outcomes over the last decade. His breadth of experience across the investment landscape and his understanding of QSuper and what we are endeavouring to achieve make him a natural selection to continue the growth and stability of the Fund.”
The chief executive also said he was pleased to be able to fill the role of managing one of Australia’s largest pool of assets from within the QSuper ranks. “We conducted a comprehensive search both across Australia and internationally, but ultimately the skills we needed were well known to us. Charles has impeccable credentials which is testament to the depth of the investment team created under Brad Holzberger.”
For his part, Holzberger said he was pleased to be succeeded by someone with whom he had worked so closely.
“Charles has always had my confidence and it’s gratifying that a senior member of the team can maintain the stability which has put QSuper in such a strong position.”
QSuper has been managing Queensland public servants’ superannuation for more than a century. It opened its books to the families of existing members in 2011 and became open to the public in 2017.
Its prize assets include an 11 per cent stake in Heathrow Airport in the UK, an acquisition identified and negotiated by Woodhouse and his team.