Q&A with QIC's Brian Delaney on his new role in the US May 2018

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As Brian Delaney prepares to leave Australia for his new lead role in QIC's U.S. office, he speaks to Industry Moves about his excitement for a fresh start and a new set of challenges. In a Q&A brimming with enthusiasm, he tells us why he feels relationship building is the same in any market, offers some sage advice to an industry newcomer, reflects on the value of good leadership, and talks us through his earlier years involving basketball and freshly baked bread.

What initially attracted you to a career in finance?

I guess what really set me up for a lifelong career was the fact that, as a fresh-faced 22-year-old, I entered the superannuation industry at a pivotal moment for the growth of the industry. Prior to 1983, super had been designed for the lucky few, usually in a corporate plan, and not the broad community of workers. I was lucky enough to fall into an industry during a period of fundamental change and that really gave me the momentum to stay and develop my skills.

Do you feel you will need to adjust your relationship-building style to suit the US market?

No, I believe my style will work – for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, the underlying principles of relationship building are the same in any market. Every strong relationship is built around trust – about doing what you said you’d do, and when you said you’d do it. It’s also about understanding other perspectives; building empathy by walking in other people’s shoes. Don’t be transactional – you won’t get anywhere if you just think, “What can I get out of this”. It’s a two-way street in the long-term.

Secondly, I actually like people – that might be strange to say but I find them genuinely interesting. I love meeting new people, getting to really know someone’s whole story, and building lasting relationships. And that’s something that has always made my working life a real pleasure; it’s easy to get out of bed in the morning when each day brings an opportunity to work alongside a whole range of exceptional individuals from different backgrounds. I count myself as very lucky. So, perhaps my accent will be the only challenge.

"Every strong relationship is built around trust – about doing what you said you’d do, and when you said you’d do it."

Can you tell us about the QIC U.S. Shopping Center Fund and why this is a good fit for QIC?

Of course. In short, the QIC U.S. Shopping Center Fund provides direct capital access to a seed portfolio of high-quality U.S. shopping malls. As in our Australian business, QIC is now operating a vertically-integrated retail business in the U.S., with both the asset owner and manager functions in-house. We view the U.S. real estate market, and the retail sector in particular, as a strong investment opportunity and are impressed by the resilience of the U.S. consumer underscored by encouraging retail sales trends. But at a local level, we also have a deep appreciation of the importance of regional shopping centers to their local communities, and we have the capability, and now the control, to transform these U.S. shopping centers into multi-faceted destinations. Our expansion into the U.S. has long been a key pillar in our business strategy. And what is especially compelling for all of us at QIC is the opportunity this expansion presents for our clients – to have the QIC team on both sides of the Pacific share learnings and deliver exceptional investment outcomes.

…and can you share any other business opportunities that are already in the pipeline?

We’re committed to the business model we’ve had in place over the past six years, and the asset classes we play in (from multi-asset and fixed income to private capital, infrastructure and real estate). And I’m pleased to say that, within those asset classes, we have strong opportunities to add value in all those areas. So the future strategy involves building out our capabilities, including originating offshore asset opportunities for Australia-based clients and offering solutions that fit the risk/return profile of our clients’ portfolios.

What are you most looking forward to about moving to the US for this new role?

A fresh start is always exciting, and I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into the challenge of successfully growing a business in the US. Outside of our Australia activities, it is our key strategic priority over the next few years. So I’m looking forward to the challenge of making it work – from articulating our story and building our reputation and profile, to bringing our teams together and creating a strong culture.

My wife and I are excited to experience another country, particularly at this stage of our lives. LA is quite similar to Sydney in many ways – and we love living by the water – but it’ll be great fun living somewhere new full-time. It’s also not completely alien to us, as my uni-age youngest daughter is on a basketball scholarship in Fresno State University, a few hours’ north of LA

….and what will you miss most from your life in Australia?

It’s clichéd, but friends and family for sure. Face-time is fantastic though – technology shortens the distance. And I’m sure we can find a local replacement for our weekly swim at Balmoral and my cycle rides on the North Shore.... Fingers crossed!

There has been much talk of the need for good culture in the finance industry recently. What do you feel is the main ingredient for creating that within a company?

Leadership, without a doubt. The culture of any organisation starts with leadership from the top – both in how they lead, and hold people accountable for their actions. It’s something QIC recognises and spends a lot of time focusing on – both Damien Frawley, our CEO, and the rest of executive management team take it very seriously. We have clearly articulated our standards of excellence for each employee – they know what is expected. It’s vital to lead by example – you need to walk the talk and we must always hold ourselves accountable.

What was your very first job?

I’m not sure if it’s a job that still exists today! When I was a kid, my dad ran a bread business – like a milkman, but delivering bread to people’s houses. So as an energetic 13-year-old, I’d be up before school jumping garden fences to deliver fresh bread door-to-door – all for the princely sum of $1 dollar a week and two free cream buns! I used to get very excited about that, and only had to give it up when school got more serious when I was around 16. It was a great start in terms of developing a good work ethic – and meeting new people!

What advice would you offer to an industry newcomer?

Great question! And something we’re very passionate about at QIC: developing the next generation. We’re really proud of our successful graduate program.

In short, I’d say be passionate about what you do. Make sure you are doing something you genuinely enjoy, because if you do, then you’ll come to work each and every day with enthusiasm and energy. It won’t work if you view it as a chore – it’ll wear you down over time. So do something you’re passionate about, and also put time into your craft; take pride in it. Be the very best you can at what you do before you start looking for something more. That’s something I learnt from sport – put in the hard yards now to really excel at what you do, rather than get too far ahead of yourself.

Can you tell us something about yourself that some people might not already know?

I used to play basketball quite seriously – playing for the Brisbane Bullets back in the 80s. Although I’m proud to say my wife and both my daughters are all far better than me! They’re stars in their own right. I still remain close to the sport, being on the Board of Basketball Australia. But I don’t think that side of me is all that secret – unlike my early bread-delivering career!

I think something that is more personal to me is my strong belief that you should never stop learning – always keep pushing yourself and keep trying new things. For example, I got my motorbike licence at age 40 – never too late to learn! – and it’s why I’m really excited by a new country and a new challenge. Bring it on!

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