Shooting Straight: Q&A with Statewide's David Holston February 2017


After almost 17 years with JANA Investment Advisors, David Holston is hanging up his executive hat and has joined the board of Statewide Super to chair the investment committee. He tells Industry Moves his thoughts on the greatest challenge facing the Australian super fund industry, shares his learnings from JANA founder, John Nolan, and admits that home isn't always where the heart is.

What was the impetus for you joining the Statewide Super board?

I joined Statewide, as from my knowledge and experience in the industry, I believe it to be an outstanding mid-sized fund which continues to deliver excellent investment and service outcomes for its members. I also regard the internal management teams and the Board of Statewide very highly in terms of focus, governance, cohesion and effectiveness.

…and why was it time to leave JANA?

After 17 years at JANA I had seen the firm develop into the leading asset consulting firm in Australia with a strong emphasis on client outcomes, deep research and development of staff. The next wave of very capable JANA staff were ready to run the business and I was ready to do a few things whilst maintaining an interest in investments, strategy and outcomes for members/investors.

What’s next for you? Are you seeking another executive role or will you concentrate your efforts on board appointments?

At this stage I am focused on making a valued contribution on the Board and as Chair of the Investment Committee at Statewide. I will consider other Board/advisory roles if they come up but I would rather try to make a difference in a couple of roles than to take on a wide range of activities. After a long period in the workforce I do not envisage returning to a full time executive position...there are just so many other things to do.

What do you feel is the biggest challenge for Australian Super Funds in the current economic environment?

I believe that the biggest challenge for Australian Superannuation funds is to keep a focus on the fundamental reason for their existence - to deliver decent returns and to provide options in retirement for their members as opposed to increasing risk to maintain the better than expected post GFC returns attributed to asset price inflation.

What’s the best piece of advice that you have received?

Always do your homework and prepare carefully and thoroughly for all meetings which includes understanding the points of view of others.

What was your very first job?

My first job was as a bricklayers' labourer whilst at university making and carting "mud" and bricks... the brickies sure let you know if quality control was lagging but I did acquire some lifetime skills.

Who has been the biggest influence on your life/career so far?

The biggest influence on my work roles over the last 20 years has been John Nolan, the founder of JANA. John taught me that there are no short cuts to running a very successful business. Always prepare fastidiously, read widely and shoot straight.

What’s something that most people wouldn’t know about you?

Despite living most of my life in the city I am probably a "bushie" at heart. This also means that I also often talk to our horses expecting that they will understand...but then again there is a real life skill in listening and nodding from time to time.

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