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The rise of women 

Dan Purves




Aside from innovation, one of the strongest themes at the 26th Conference of Major Superannuation Funds (CMSF) was women – reflected by the fact that 45 per cent of speakers at the conference were female.

“For me, a particular highlight was the inaugural Mavis Robertson Address that – quite fittingly – saw senator Jenny McAllister call for a stronger gender analysis of policies to ensure women are not economically disadvantaged,” said Tom Garcia, chief executive of the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees.

“Chair of the session, Cate Wood, summed it up perfectly when she said the senator embodied values which Mavis would have admired.”

One of AIST’s top accolades, the Trustee of the Year Award, went to Juliet Brown, the current chair of Statewide and former chair of Local Super.  Outgoing AIST president Angela Emslie congratulated Brown on her achievement, acknowledging her key role in the successful merger of Local Super and Statewide.

“It’s great to be able to recognise her efforts at the Conference of Major Superannuation Funds in her home town of Adelaide,” Emslie said.

Taking the opportunity, Brown thanked the Government of South Australia for encouraging gender diversity on boards.

“The SA Government has a policy of 50 per cent of board members and chairs being female and this policy gave me a great chance,” she said.

As well as handing out awards, Emslie, in her capacity as board member, spoke about the 10 years of the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) initiative. After taking stock of the PRIs accomplishments, she announced it would be running a consultation from May to September of this year to inform its blueprint for the coming decade.

“We are also looking at the principles and mission of the PRI and whether they should be revised,” Emslie said. “There is some talk about whether there needs to be an additional principle which might be focused on the sustainability of the financial system. There’s obviously varying views [on whether] that’s a good idea or not.”

One of Time Magazine’s most influential people in the world in 2015, Mellody Hobson, president of Ariel Investments, delivered the CMSF keynote address and gave insights into education, diversity and paying it forward.

She told delegates that being diverse isn’t just about being inclusive, but about having diversity running through all aspect of a business. She stated that diversity isn’t something that should simply be accommodated, but aspired to.

“Only through diversity of thought in addition to diversity in cultures and background, can truly great things happen,” Hobson said.

A fan of car metaphors, she added investing needs to be more like the Grand Prix.

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    “You can’t win Formula 1 in the first lap; you have to be a very patient driver. No matter how good you are you must be patient with the car, and yet it is a game of speed. That’s actually the thing that is quite fantastic,” Hobson says, contrasting that industry with the business of investment.

    Another high profile speaker, Madeleine Senior, managing director in Australia and New Zealand of Northern Trust, encouraged the leaderships of super funds to embrace the mantra ‘always learn, always teach’.

    A believer in Nelson Mandela’s view that education is the most powerful weapon in the world, Senior said while it is important to have talented teams and succession plans, it is also important to have the type of environment that empowers people to develop, progress and stretch.


    New partnership 

    One of the biggest talking points at the conference was the new non-exclusive partnership between AIST and the First Nations Foundations that aims to support Indigenous superannuation outcomes, primarily through the Big Koori Super Day Out.

    The event, which will be held in Sydney and Melbourne, aims to find lost super for Indigenous people, consolidate accounts, provide bidding nominations – a large issue in this space – and help family members access superannuation of passed family members.

    Garcia said The Big Koori Super Day Out had been a huge success in the past, and that speakers and chairs at AIST events will be thanked with a donation to First Nations Foundation on their behalf.

    “This builds on our ongoing work in the Indigenous super area, including the Indigenous Superannuation Working Group, Indigenous Super Summit and our Reconciliation Action Plan,” Garcia said.

    Anyone interested in finding out more about First Nations Foundation or joining the collaboration can visit the First Nations Foundation website at



    Looking back at CMSF, Garcia commend the many people that volunteer on the conference committee for all of their hard work.

    “The committee is particularly important to ensure that CMSF remains topical, focused and relevant to those in the not-for-profit super industry,” Garcia said.

    “The positive feedback from delegates has already been overwhelming, and we look forward to delivering again at CMSF 2017 at the Gold Coast. I hope you have found CMSF 2016 as a valuable opportunity to learn, develop, improve, connect, and engage with the not-for-profit super industry.”

    If you missed any of the sessions, you can visit the AIST Events YouTube page where you can access a number of sessions at leisure.


    A version of this article will appear in the next print edition of Investment Magazine. Additional features in the magazine include interviews with Kristian Fok, executive manager of investments at Cbus, and Kevin O’Sullivan, chief executive of UniSuper, as well as global developments around fee transparency.