It might be considered unusual in corporate Australia, but the superannuation industry seems to have a lot of chief executives that have served over a decade. Penny Pryor finds out why.
It is unusual for a chief executive officer or managing director in corporate Australia to stay with the same company, or in the same role, for a decade, and those that have remained with high profile companies for even longer than that, are almost a novelty.
But the same cannot be said of the superannuation industry, and particularly the not-for-profit funds. Chief executive of Australian Super, Ian Silk, has been head of the fund since its inception, through the merger of ARF and STA, eight years ago, and was CEO of ARF for 12-years prior to that – all up a total of twenty years (Ian Silk will talk about his reasons for staying with AustralianSuper in an upcoming edition of Industry Moves).
"[having a coach appointed to me] was just one of the best things that anyone has ever done for me.” Andrew Proebstl, legalsuper
Andrew Proebstl (pictured) has been chief executive of legalsuper since 2003.
When he first joined the Legal Industry Superannuation Scheme in 2000 (legalsuper’s predecessor) it was a fund of just $200 million.
“It’s now a fund that manages $2.3 billion and it’s really quite a different organisation that’s grown a lot,” he says.
“[It’s] become a lot more sophisticated in the way that it positions itself in the market place.”
And it’s that constant change, and development, that has kept him challenged.
“While I continue to have the role I had when I first started, the scope of the role and the requirements of the role have really changed an awful lot.”
Anne-Marie Corboy is another CEO who is a stayer. She has been chief executive of HESTA since 1998. Frank Pegan has been CEO of Catholic Super Fund since 2001 and Greg Cantor has been at the head of Australian Catholic Super & Retirement Fund since 1990.
“If you look across the industry, over that period of time you get to know a lot of people, a lot of people move around, but there also are a pocket of people who do continue in their roles,” Proebstl says.
"I've been very fortunate to work with a great board.” Julie Lander, CareSuper
Julie Lander joined CareSuper in 2001 and became CEO one year later.
“The fund has changed enormously in the time I've been here, especially product wise,” she says.
“Twelve years ago we were very ‘one-size-fits-all’ and it was really quite a generic simple product. While we like simplicity, we also realise now that people have different circumstances and they need to be able to tailor their super.”
Like Proebstl it is this constant change and evolution that has kept her interested.
Culture is also key. Even if a role keeps somebody engaged and challenged, if it is not a place they want to be day after day, they are hardly going to stay with that organisation.
“The work environment is a really important part of it,” Proebstl says.
“You do need to be able to relate to people as people.”
Creating a culture that brings out the best in people is important to Proebstl, who also credits the fund’s board for being willing to invest in him after the merger of the NSW and Vic legal funds in 2005.
“The board wanted to appoint a coach for a period of time…it was just one of the best things that anyone has ever done for me,” he says.
Lander points out that working environment is a key responsibility of the CEO themselves.
“The board plays an important role in that culture as well,” she says.
“And I guess the other thing about why I’ve stayed so long is that I've been very fortunate to work with a great board.”
Remuneration levels of superannuation fund CEOs have increased as their responsibilities have risen, but they are probably still a far cry from what is on offer in corporate Australia.
Lander acknowledges that there have been some improvements but this is not a key reason for her continuing in her current role.
Long-serving CEOs of superannuation funds are very passionate about what they can do for members. And maybe it’s this not-for-profit ethos, and sense of community, that is a big reason why there are so many stayers in the superannuation industry.
Figure 1: The top CEO stayers at not-for-profit superannuation funds
Source: Industry Moves