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The hot Aussie buy-side firms now offering ‘safe’ careers to jaded bankers

Super

Once a decidedly insular sector, superannuation (mandatory retirement savings) in Australia is increasingly attracting local and global candidates from across financial services to fuel its inexorable expansion.

Superannuation firms have been major buy-side players in Australia for more than two decades, largely thanks to legislation requiring employers to pay a proportion (currently 9.5%, but set to rise to 12%) of salaries into a super fund.

Over the last year, however, the Stronger Super government reforms – designed to improve efficiency and foster competition in the industry – have helped bolster hiring.

“The reforms have meant that super funds have had to consider ways to retain and attract members more proactively, through cheaper fees, better returns and improved services,” says Simon Faircloth, a senior manager at recruiters Michael Page Finance in Melbourne. “Generally this can only be achieved by hiring the right talent.”

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All the major corporate and industry-specific super funds in Australia are “actively hiring”, including “almost weekly” advertising for senior roles, says Faircloth.

Recruiters in Melbourne, the city where most of Australia’s superannuation firms are based, identify AustralianSuper, Cbus, HOSTPLUS and Kinetic Super as among the most expansionist institutions.

Meanwhile, the following job functions are most in demand, says Mathew McGilton, director or Kaizen Recruitment in Melbourne:

Investment analysis and portfolio management: “It’s a mandated market and fund flows remain strong. As fund sizes increase, their allocation to all asset classes also increases  – at a senior level, asset-class specialisation is important. Super funds’ investment teams are getting more sophisticated and are internalising their investment teams.”

Relationship management and membership retention: “Funds make money on the amount of members they have. Primarily it’s industry funds that are hiring, aiming to compete and hold market share against retail funds and self-managed funds.”

Marketing: “Especially digital-marketing specialist positions, because all funds are implementing new strategies to engage their members via stronger media platforms.”

Bankers welcome

With strong hiring in the above jobs, super firms can no longer rely on poaching from one another. “There is now a substantial need to hire talent from outside the super sector, largely from major banks and fund managers,” says Faircloth from Michael Page.

Fortunately, professionals from banks and funds are becoming less wary of moving into a traditionally less glamorous part of the finance sector. “Due to the improving profile and ongoing growth of superannuation, and recent insecurity in the banking sector, there’s an increasing interest from banking candidates,” says Faircloth. “They are also attracted because of work-life balance, and the perception of a rewarding role, in which you work only to benefit members of the super fund.”

However, while salaries are “increasingly competitive”, performance-related bonus structures can be minimal or often non-existent, says Faircloth. “This might deter candidates who are seeking short-term monetary gain.”

Marketing and sales candidates from outside the super sector have the best chance of success because they have transferable skills and their roles don’t require a highly technical understanding of superannuation, says McGilton from Kaizen Recruitment. “Financial advisors have also made to move into super funds from banks and wealth management firms.”

“Typically the environment is less sales-focused and KPI-driven than at the banks,” adds McGilton. “Many banking and finance professional see super as a safe haven because it’s mandated for growth and supported by government regulation.”

Super goes (somewhat) global

There is now a “substantial appetite” to hire overseas candidates for front-office investment roles, in particular those centred on international investment strategies, says Faircloth. And super funds aren’t just targeting expat Australians who want to return home. “For these select and normally more senior roles, there is a willingness to attract – and where necessary sponsor the visas of – non-Australian talent,” he adds.

More junior and/or relationships-focused positions tend to be filled by people based in Australia. “And for advice-based super roles, such as financial planners, the requirement for Australian qualifications and experience means they are almost exclusively reserved for domestic talent,” explains Faircloth.

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