March 18, 2024

AustralianSuper clears the decks for UK expansion

Australia’s biggest super fund has slashed the headcount in its Melbourne-based global equities team as it prepares to build out a new crew in its rapidly expanding London office.

AustralianSuper’s UK expansion – which has recently seen it commit another A$16 billion of capital to the “attractive” investment destination – will surely put a smile on the face of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, but it hasn’t been good news for the fund’s Melbourne-based global equities team.

At least four people have left the team in the last six months, including Michael Stavropoulos, head of portfolio construction and strategy, and Joseph Wahbah, head of manager research for global equities. Both were made redundant in the last few weeks, partly as a result of AustralianSuper’s desire to reconstitute its global equities team in the UK.

“AustralianSuper appointed Mark Hargraves to lead the fund’s international and private equities teams in August last year from the UK,” an AustralianSuper spokesperson said in response to a request for comment. “The global equities team will continue to have a strong presence in Melbourne but as the fund continues to grow it needs to increasingly look at more global opportunities to generate the best possible returns for members over the long term.

“The Melbourne-based team will continue managing several global strategies. Zia Rahman has been appointed as AustralianSuper head of insights, strategy and implementation (global equities) based in Melbourne.”

AustralianSuper flagged its intention to “build-out” that team in London in a release last week, while CEO Paul Schroder told the AFR that while the fund had initially thought of its office there as an “unlisted direct-markets play”, it had discovered that managing listed assets from London was “very sensible”. An edit to that article clarified that only the leadership of the global equities team had moved to London rather than the entire team.

As mentioned above, that leadership includes Hargraves, whose appointment followed a number of leadership and structural changes at the fund, including the formation of distinct Australian and international and private equity functions – and the departure of then head of equities Justin Pascoe as a result (Stavropoulos filled in as acting head until Hargraves was appointed to the new role).

Apparently having seen the writing on the wall, associate portfolio managers Matthew Moore and Juan Dosio both decamped for Cbus in late 2023. That allegedly triggered some consternation at AustralianSuper about how many of its personnel the construction industry fund was picking up – and a call to Cbus’ head of human resources, though AustralianSuper did not comment on that specific rumour.

The circa $300 billion super fund has made no secret of its offshore ambitions, and already invests around half of its FUM outside Australia. In mid-2023 committed to roughly tripling its international headcount, with around 130 staff in New York, 160 in London, and a “small team” in Beijing. It’s also kept deputy CIO Damian Moloney in its London office.

Lachlan Maddock

Lachlan is editor of Investor Strategy News and has extensive experience covering institutional investment.