New Zealand Super Fund Chief Investment Officer

Why did you want to become the Guardians’ CIO?

The role provides me with the opportunity to work with a very strong team across the full range of investment strategies involving both domestic and international markets, which makes for a really interesting role.

What does your position as the Guardians’ CIO involve?

Our Investments Group covers two strategy teams (focused on which investment exposures we want) and three access point teams (focused on the best way to get those desired exposures) – so my role is to oversee the process by which we allocate investment risk across multiple opportunities, and the means by which we get that exposure – i.e. direct investment, external managers, passive investments etc.

What is the best part of your job?

I’m working in a fund that is large enough to be relevant in global markets but small enough to not be limited in any of our desired investment strategies, with a single purpose and genuine long horizon, based in one of the best places to live in the world, and with a great team – I’m not sure how you’d improve on it.

What are the challenges you face in your role?

We need smart people who can work collaboratively and think in a different way from traditional institutional investors –our challenge is getting hold of those people and keeping really interesting projects in front of them.  With smart, resourceful team members and a very clear governance structure, we can do great things –maintaining both of those are our key challenges.

What is one investment error the Guardians made that you have learnt from?

We’ve been working on speeding up our identification and assessment of new investment opportunities and means of accessing those opportunities quickly. With the rapid moves in international markets in recent years, we’ve seen a few opportunities open up and then close before we could get the positions we’d like: European secondary real estate over the last couple of years is a good example – we identified the opportunity but didn’t have the flexible structures in place to take advantage of that before the opportunity had largely run its course - meaning we missed out on that one.

How does it feel to have the responsibility of managing the country’s superannuation?

It’s a really important job – we work for generations of future taxpayers that either don’t have a vote or are even yet to be born. We take the responsibility of managing taxpayer money very seriously and it adds a genuine sense of purpose to our task of managing the fund.