AustralianSuper CEO Silk to step down; to be replaced by former union boss

Ian Silk will step down as AustralianSuper’s chief executive officer and will be replaced by head of risk Paul Schroder, a former union boss, said Australia’s largest pension fund on Tuesday.

Silk, which oversaw AustralianSuper’s growth from managing A$21 billion ($15.75 billion)in workers’ savings to over A$225 billion over the past 15 years, had recently told the board of his intentions, said the pension fund in a statement.

Silk also played a key role in representing Australia’s retirement fund industry at the 2018 Royal Commission inquiry into financial sector misconduct.

Schroder, who has worked as the fund’s chief risk officer since 2019, was unanimously chosen by the board and would take the helm as CEO “later this year”, the fund said without giving more details.

“Paul is exceptionally well placed to lead the Fund in its next phase as it moves towards being a profit-for-member A$500 billion superannuation fund in the next five years, that uses the scale of the organisation to benefit members,” Silk said.

The inquiry found widespread misconduct amongst “for-profit” funds, many of whom acknowledge taking “fees for no service” from members, including from accounts of deceased people.

The scandal led to an avalanche of outflows away from the “for-profit” funds as workers moved to relatively scandal-free “industry” funds, such as AustralianSuper, who are aligned with worker’s unions but open to anyone to join.

That has fuelled the rapid growth of industry funds such as AustralianSuper into giant investors with increasing power to sway corporate policies, launch takeover approaches for Australian companies, and potentially act as activist shareholders.

Before joining AustralianSuper in 2007, Schroder was the National Secretary for the Finance Sector Union of Australia.

($1 = 1.3335 Australian dollars)