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Kristian Fok has been with superannuation fund Cbus for five years, but says the last 12 months have been the most “exciting and challenging” of his career there. Fok, the company’s Chief Investment Officer, is helping to lead a major new hiring drive as Cbus reinvents the way it invests.
Cbus concluded a wide-ranging policy review in 2016 and decided to start managing more money in-house for its 755,000 members, most of whom work in Australia’s rapidly growing building and construction industry. “We’ve historically looked after about 8% of our members’ assets internally – via cash and property – but we’re aiming to increase this to 20% over the next few years” says Fok. “Outsourcing too much to external fund managers can be problematic because you’re competing for capacity with other organisations.
The new strategy has been bedding in for the past year, during which time assets under management at Melbourne-based Cbus, one of Australia’s largest super funds, have risen from $34bn to $43bn. “The ongoing expansion of the construction industry in Australia means our membership base is expanding and remains young, so there are very strong cashflows going into the fund. We want to take full advantage of this, so we’re increasing our headcount of investment professionals,” says Fok.
So far Cbus has hired 30 people in Melbourne and Sydney as it implements its new strategy, doubling the size of its investment team to 60. And it wants to recruit another 30 during the current Australian financial year, ending 30 June 2018.
Cbus is expanding the breadth of its internal portfolio, so it’s looking for people with experience across a number of investment products – from equities and fixed income to credit and infrastructure. “Because we’re no longer just focusing on cash and property, we want a wider range of candidates to apply. We’re trying to build a diverse team to provide stronger returns to our members,” says Fok.
He says Cbus will also consider “longer-term, non-traditional opportunities that might not show results overnight”. “As we keep building our team we might look at partnering with other players to invest in affordable housing. We continue to progress with the implementation of our new strategy, we’re currently doing advanced testing of our systems for making international investments.”
You don’t need to be already working at a super fund to get one of these new jobs at Cbus. “We’re hiring from a variety of places, such as large fund managers, start-ups, institutional funds, sell-side equity, high-net-worth banking, and management consulting,” says Fok. “One of the senior analysts we’ve just hired even has a doctorate in immunology.”
Overseas candidates are also welcome to apply. “We’d particularly like to hear from returning Aussies with funds management experience in the US, UK or Asia. We’ve recently recruited someone from NZ Super,” says Fok.
Cbus, one of Australia’s longest established industry funds, is proving attractive to candidates not just because it’s an expanding and well-resourced firm. “Our investment employees like the fact that we have a strong membership focus, with our profits going to our members,” explains Fok. “Our culture is built around improving their retirement outcomes. Having this overriding objective is liberating – it means you’re all working towards one result, not competing with each other to make profits and not trying to attract and retain multiple investors.”
Fok says the values underpinning Cbus’s investments are a drawcard when he’s hiring. “We pride ourselves on responsible, sustainable investing, which must be aligned to our goals. We make money for our members, and at the same time we do good for the country as a whole.”
This philosophy is embodied in Cbus Property, which manages about $2bn in property investments across the commercial and residential sectors. “Our property business has delivered a 24% return in the last year. And we’re proud that it’s also created about 75,000 jobs over the last decade for our members and helped build many highly rated and energy efficient buildings,” says Fok.
The Cbus approach to investing is often “exhilarating and refreshing” for its new recruits, he adds. “A senior portfolio manager who joined us recently from a high-net-worth fund told me how much he’s now enjoying working for everyday Australians rather than managing money for wealthy individuals.”
Many new joiners are also pleasantly surprised by the super fund’s flexible working policies. “Over 40% of our employees take advantage of flexible working, which is a very high proportion for the finance sector,” says Fok. “We encourage it across the board – for both men and women. This really differentiates from other employers.”
Cbus supports staff who develop new investment ideas, says Fok. “Innovation is encouraged here – especially as we implement our new strategy – which is a key motivator for me in my own role. I also like the way our investments make a positive contribution to society. And I’m proud of the people I work with; the calibre of the team we’re building is very strong.”
Fok describes the jobs Cbus is now hiring for as “unique opportunities”. “You can grow your career and establish your track record as we grow our business into exciting new areas and develop an innovative investment strategy,” he says. “And you can work together with other like-minded professionals, all focused on the common goal of helping our members build strong investments for a prosperous retirement.”
To find out more about career opportunities at Cbus, please click here.