Graeme Russell: Keep your long-term focus amid the changes

Sally Rose

By

12/10/2017

Media Super boss Graeme Russell identifies “relentless” regulatory change and inflated asset prices as the two greatest challenges facing the fund today.

Russell shared his views ahead of speaking at Investment Magazine’s upcoming Fiduciary Investors Symposium, to be held in Healesville, Victoria, November 13-15, 2017.

The opening session of the symposium will be a fireside chat with three superannuation fund chief investment officers speaking candidly about their investment outlook, asset allocation and operational challenges.

Participating in the conversation alongside Russell, who is Media Super’s chief executive and CIO, will be TCorp’s Stewart Brentnall, and IOOF’s Daniel Farmer.

Together, their funds represent a total of $210 billion in assets under management. Each of the CIOs operates under different investment structure mandates, which influence their investment philosophies and outlooks and the challenges they face in acting as fiduciaries.

Here, Russell tackles three quick questions on those themes.

Investment Magazine: How would you sum up your investment philosophy?

Graeme Russell: Know what you own, invest for the long term and focus on the promise made to members via the 10-year investment objectives for your MySuper and other options.

How has that changed since you took on your first fiduciary role?

The biggest change since I joined the JUST Super trustee board in 1989 has been the sheer volume of money we now have to manage, which presents a much greater challenge for careful asset allocation and then actually getting set in each asset class according to your allocation.

I became chief executive of FIRST Super in June 2008, and obviously the global financial crisis had a major impact on aspects of our investment philosophy. In particular, it highlighted the importance of being sure you really know and understand all the things you’re invested in, and the associated risks. And being sure that you and your board can stay the course on investing with a 10-year horizon, even when markets and asset prices are crashing down around you.

What do you see as the biggest challenge facing you as a fiduciary today?

The uncertainty caused by the ongoing, almost relentless, regulatory change affecting super funds. Constant regulatory change makes taking a long view (from an investment perspective) much more difficult than it should be.

I would say the other big challenge is the increasing competition for a finite universe of assets, which is making it harder to get set in some asset classes at a reasonable price, or at all.

Visit the event website for more information or to register your interest in attending the upcoming Fiduciary Investors Symposium, to be held in Healesville, Victoria, November 13-15, 2017.