"Don’t be afraid to back yourself": Q&A with Cbus' Joe Youssef April 2018


Joseph Youssef's enjoyment of both people and numbers set him on the career path that, in 2013, led him to the doors of Cbus. After five years with the fund and a promotion to COO of investments, we catch up with Joseph to find out more about this newly-created role and the fund's new investment model. He also tells us a little about his formative years and first job, shares his advice for industry newcomers and his biggest lesson learnt from industry veteran and former Cbus executive manager, Trish Donohue.

What initially drew you towards a career in finance?

I’ve always enjoyed dealing with people and numbers. Finance offered me the opportunity to do both. Once I completed my Commerce Degree, I was lucky to get an opportunity with NAB to break into the finance and investment industry.

What are your goals for this newly-created role over the next 12 months?

Cbus is undertaking an exciting part of its journey as it grows with the implementation of the New Investment Model, which is a key strategic initiative. My goal over the next 12 months is to ensure we have the skills, systems and processes in place to support the internalisation strategy.

As part of Cbus’ new investment model, a number of the direct investment strategies will be internalised, can you tell us a little more about this?

We are building our internal capability to invest directly, but in line with our overarching themes of innovative, long-term investment; taking a total portfolio approach to risk and return; and leveraging our expertise of investing in the real economy and built environment. We have already built capacity in global equities and our infrastructure area has recently completed a direct infrastructure investment in WA renewable energy, which is a demonstration of what we are aiming to do to continue to deliver for members. But we are also building out our private debt and small caps teams. Ultimately, it’s all about ensuring the increasing scale of the Fund is delivering the best outcomes for members.

What was one of the greatest lessons that you’ve taken from your former Executive Manager Trish Donohue?

The biggest lesson I learnt from Trish was an unwavering focus on members’ best interests being at the heart of every decision at Cbus. This approach is what attracted me to Cbus in the first instance, but Trish ingrained it in me. It’s now my responsibility to ingrain those values in others as we build the team.

What was your very first job?

I was an analyst at National Custodian Services, Investment Services area, where we were the largest custodian in Australia looking after a number of large super funds, including Cbus. It’s here that I first got to know Cbus, Trish and other investment team members.

Where did you grow up and what was it like?

I was born in Nigeria and up until the age of 8, I lived in Cairo. I have a large extended family, so we were always surrounded by people. I have wonderful childhood memories. Then we came out to Australia, and as a kid I had to learn a whole new language and culture.

Who has had the biggest influence on your career so far?

I won’t name them, because I wouldn’t want to embarrass them or leave someone out, but I have been lucky that a number of people have taken a genuine interest in sponsoring me and my development. I continue to hold those people in high regard and continue seek their mentorship.

"You might have your academic qualifications, but you only really start learning when you walk into a role."

What advice would you offer to an industry newcomer in the investment space?

You might have your academic qualifications, but you only really start learning when you walk into a role. It’s a complex industry that is rapidly changing, you must always look out for opportunities and take up the challenge of operating outside of your comfort zone. Also, don’t be afraid to back yourself.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?

I have a family with three kids, so I find work/life balance paramount. They are reaching high school age now, so it’s an important time in their development. I make time to exercise and I’m a big believer in making time to decompress. It positions you to be more effective in your role.

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