The Future Fund has decided an internal promotion is the best outcome of its global search for a new chief investment officer, promoting Ben Samild to the CIO role.
Samild is a ten-year veteran of the Australian sovereign fund and takes charge of a 90-strong investment team overseeing a A$250.5 billion ($163.4 billion) investment portfolio as of end-March 2023.
He takes over the CIO responsibilities from Future Fund CEO Raphael Arndt, who has been acting in the role since the resignation of Sue Brake in June 2022.
Brake had been the CIO since December 2020, having first joined the Future Fund as deputy CIO for portfolio strategy in June 2019. She has since worked as a member of the investment and risk advisory panel for the Monetary Authority of Singapore, according to her LinkedIn profile.
At the time, Future Fund said it intended to use Brake’s departure as an opportunity to restructure its investment team to better meet the challenges of the evolving macro environment.
The new structure aimed to optimise governance, people and technology with three deputy CIO roles. Wendy Norris became deputy CIO, change and innovation; Samild took on the role of deputy CIO, portfolio construction; and Alicia Gregory joined the senior leadership team as deputy CIO, Private Markets, all reporting to Arndt until the CIO position was filled.
However, Norris resigned from Future Fund in May this year, after 13 years, to become chief executive at wood fibre company. She had been responsible for over A$60 billion of direct investments that include forest and timberlands.
Although a comprehensive global search for a new CIO was undertaken, in accordance with Australian government processes, an internal CIO appointment became more likely after both Brake and Norris had left, to ensure continuity.
Norris told an AsianInvestor forum last year that the fund planned to add 50 people to its existing team in the next few years, in an effort to optimise its internal decision-making process.
Management believes focusing on the development of internal talent is the best way to maintain consistency in the investment process, which it calls “one team, one portfolio”.
NEW INVESTMENT ORDER
Of his promotion, Samild said. “Having spent a significant amount of time leading the research and strategic orientation on the impact of contemporary global challenges to the investment environment, I am very excited to be able to steward the portfolio at this critical juncture.”
As deputy CIO for portfolio strategy in 2021 and then portfolio construction from 2022, Samild was involved in reviewing investment strategy in light of the ‘New Investment Order’ position paper that set out the Future Fund’s thinking on the changing global environment.
He joined the Future Fund in 2013 as a director of debt and alternatives, having spent four years as head of investment strategy for LUCRF Super. In 2018 he was appointed head of alternatives, helping to oversee a significant expansion of the Future Fund’s allocation to this asset class.
Arndt said Samild was an outstanding leader. “Ben has significantly contributed to the direction and performance of the portfolio and has driven our whole portfolio investment approach.”
Following Samild’s promotion, Hugh Murray, head of overlays, has been appointed acting deputy CIO for portfolio construction. Alicia Gregory remains deputy CIO for private markets.
Commenting on the Future Fund appointment, Diego López, managing director of consultancy Global SWF noted that sovereign funds have different approaches to hiring for senior positions, and that this tends to have regional variations.
“Many SWFs do not have a single CIO but a CIO per asset class,” he told AsianInvestor.
“Examples would be Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, Singapore’s GIC, UAE’s Mubadala Investment Company, Norges Bank Investment Management and Qatar Investment Authority.”
López added that Middle Eastern funds such as Emirates Investment Authority and Investment Corporation of Dubai are likely to hire a CIO if the person is an expat, or, as in the case of Kuwait Investment Authority, to groom locals to become CIOs.
“Similarly, Asian funds may promote long-tenure professionals to CIO, as has happened with Temasek, Korea Investment Corporation and China Investment Corporation."
The fight for talent is much fiercer among Canadian Pension Funds, said López, “so many CIOs come from peer institutions."
Internal appointments are not uncommon in such institutions, as had been seen when Arndt succeeded former Future Fund CEO David Neal when he left to join IFM. The same approach has been adopted at the NZ Super Fund, where former CEO Adrian Orr was succeeded by his CIO Matt Whineray in 2018.
A similar succession may occur at NZ Super later this year, when Whineray steps down as CEO. Current CIO Stephen Gilmore is a prime candidate to succeed him, but he told AsianInvestor he is not sure he wants the job.
“The challenge for a CIO is letting go of the investment side. I need to work out if I’m willing to let that go.”
Whineray made the adjustment to CEO, and others have done the same, but not without some real soul searching beforehand. Gilmore worked with Arndt at the Future Fund and said the switch for Arndt was equally a dilemma because he loves the investment side: “It’s hard to let go.”
Also read: NZ Super CIO mulls over potential CEO role