(Pictured: Michael Block)
by Greg Bright
Michael Block is set to return to Australia, after a two-year stint in Papua New Guinea, as the new CIO of the big Australian Catholic Superannuation Retirement Fund. Welcome back Michael. We’ve missed you. And this is why.
With the retirement from full-time duties of its well-regarded CIO, Anne Whittaker, Michael Block, who has been the CIO of PNG’s Nambawan Superannuation Fund, the country’s biggest pension fund, since April 2013, will take up the reins at Australian Catholics next month. Greg Cantor, the long-standing CEO of the fund, said he was very happy with the appointment: “Michael is a very talented individual and I’m confident he will do a great job for us.”
The ‘Sydney Catholics’, as they are known in the industry, is a $6.3 billion fund, the largest of the many Catholic church-sponsored funds, has had a history of innovative investment strategies and, generally, above-average investment performance compared with its peers.
Block is an outspoken supporter of dynamic asset allocation as the big driver of super fund investment returns. At his previous roles in Australia, heading investments at the former Future Plus and before that NSW WorkCover, he made his name taking successful decisions shifting allocations ahead of significant market corrections.
The significance of the appointment is that it raises interesting questions about the role of trustees and the importance of the position of a CIO at a fund. The Sydney Catholics have made a decision that investment returns are really important and they have selected a CIO to go out and chase those returns.
Other funds (such as my fund, Media Super) have pretty much given up the ghost on investments and are devoting their energies to distribution strategies. But it’s our money! Don’t we all want someone who’s a proper investor in charge of our money?
Big super funds are facing a massive challenge because of the shift to SMSFs. For those of us who were there at the start of it all, with Award Super in 1986, there is not only a sense of nostalgia. There’s also a sense of outrage. Big super funds need to get their mojo back.
I’m thinking of converting, after years as a God-fearing atheist, as my late father did in his dying days. Catholicism is a good religion, as far as religions go, to both live and die by. And the Sydney Catholics super fund is a good fund about to get better.
– Greg Bright