Q&A with VicSuper’s acting CIO and winner of AIST’s Investment Rising Star Award

VicSuper is pleased to announce that Kevin Wan Lum, acting Chief Investment Officer and Head of Equities and Alternatives, was awarded AIST's Investment Rising Star award at their annual conference in Queensland in September 2016.

The award recognises leadership and innovation through the investment process, as well as contributions made to raising awareness of superannuation.

Wan Lum was originally hired for the role of Head of Equities and Alternatives before recently stepping in as acting CIO following Oscar Fabian’s retirement. Prior to working at VicSuper, Wan Lum was Portfolio Manager (PM), Equities and Property with Ibbotson Associates and before that, PM for Implemented Solutions at QIC. He was also owner and director of Antipodal Capital Management which specialised in investment solutions and multi manager strategies.

Since joining VicSuper, Wan Lum has worked on new product development opportunities and provided significant input into member communications as well as further developing the fund’s strategy for equities and alternatives.

Kevin image

What is your background in super?
I’ve worked in financial services all of my career and aside from a few years in investment banking, I’ve worked mostly in funds management organisations as a portfolio manager, where super funds were clients. My role at VicSuper is the first one directly working for a superannuation fund, though at QIC we managed money on a “whole of fund” basis for clients including super funds.
You are currently acting CIO. How are you finding that experience?
The investment side of being CIO isn’t too different from my previous role as the Head of Equities and Alternatives. The challenging part of being a CIO is balancing the management and leadership aspects with the investment side, given both are equally as important.
What do you believe is currently the biggest challenge for investment teams?

I believe that the two biggest challenges facing investment teams at super funds are:
    1. Information and investment decisions - the access, volume and frequency of information we receive is greater than ever and the challenge we have is distilling this information into meaningful investment decisions that influence outcomes for members.  
    2. Implementation and risk management - the implementation and risk management side for investment teams are the other significant challenges and are almost as important as the initial investment decisions. 
Coming from a background of managing portfolios directly, it’s clear that the cost of poor implementation and poor management of investments, including risk management, can impact negatively on member returns, particularly in a low return and an ever changing regulatory environment.
Are there any upcoming new trends you expect to see in the super investment landscape?
There will be a few clear trends, some of which have already started.

On the investment side, I expect the ongoing insourcing of investment teams with world class investment managers will continue regardless of whether the funds have an outsourced model and/or internal management model. Coupled with this will be the need to evolve the investment governance within funds as investment teams and the overall investment landscape changes. In addition, I think there will be more direct investment and disintermediation by funds across all asset classes.

The latest trend that is starting to emerge is “better” suited products on the pension/post-retirement side for members. Profit-to-member funds like VicSuper can take into account the actual demographics of its member base. We can then use this information in the product development and investment design to meet the needs of members, rather than having a strategy that is one-size fits all, as might be the case with some of the retail funds.

At VicSuper, we identify aged based segments in our member demographic and we recognise that the needs of our members and the risks they face throughout various life stages will differ widely. Clearly, needs will change and some risks will increase significantly for members in retirement. This assessment of members’ risks and needs assists in our product and investment development efforts going forward.
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
I expect to be working at VicSuper generating fantastic returns for our members!
VicSuper is pleased to announce that Kevin Wan Lum, acting Chief Investment Officer and Head of Equities and Alternatives, was awarded AIST's Investment Rising Star award at their annual conference in Queensland in September 2016.

The award recognises leadership and innovation through the investment process, as well as contributions made to raising awareness of superannuation.

Wan Lum was originally hired for the role of Head of Equities and Alternatives before recently stepping in as acting CIO following Oscar Fabian’s retirement. Prior to working at VicSuper, Wan Lum was Portfolio Manager (PM), Equities and Property with Ibbotson Associates and before that, PM for Implemented Solutions at QIC. He was also owner and director of Antipodal Capital Management which specialised in investment solutions and multi manager strategies.

Since joining VicSuper, Wan Lum has worked on new product development opportunities and provided significant input into member communications as well as further developing the fund’s strategy for equities and alternatives.

Kevin image

What is your background in super?
I’ve worked in financial services all of my career and aside from a few years in investment banking, I’ve worked mostly in funds management organisations as a portfolio manager, where super funds were clients. My role at VicSuper is the first one directly working for a superannuation fund, though at QIC we managed money on a “whole of fund” basis for clients including super funds.
You are currently acting CIO. How are you finding that experience?
The investment side of being CIO isn’t too different from my previous role as the Head of Equities and Alternatives. The challenging part of being a CIO is balancing the management and leadership aspects with the investment side, given both are equally as important.
What do you believe is currently the biggest challenge for investment teams?

I believe that the two biggest challenges facing investment teams at super funds are:
    1. Information and investment decisions - the access, volume and frequency of information we receive is greater than ever and the challenge we have is distilling this information into meaningful investment decisions that influence outcomes for members.  
    2. Implementation and risk management - the implementation and risk management side for investment teams are the other significant challenges and are almost as important as the initial investment decisions. 
Coming from a background of managing portfolios directly, it’s clear that the cost of poor implementation and poor management of investments, including risk management, can impact negatively on member returns, particularly in a low return and an ever changing regulatory environment.
Are there any upcoming new trends you expect to see in the super investment landscape?
There will be a few clear trends, some of which have already started.

On the investment side, I expect the ongoing insourcing of investment teams with world class investment managers will continue regardless of whether the funds have an outsourced model and/or internal management model. Coupled with this will be the need to evolve the investment governance within funds as investment teams and the overall investment landscape changes. In addition, I think there will be more direct investment and disintermediation by funds across all asset classes.

The latest trend that is starting to emerge is “better” suited products on the pension/post-retirement side for members. Profit-to-member funds like VicSuper can take into account the actual demographics of its member base. We can then use this information in the product development and investment design to meet the needs of members, rather than having a strategy that is one-size fits all, as might be the case with some of the retail funds.

At VicSuper, we identify aged based segments in our member demographic and we recognise that the needs of our members and the risks they face throughout various life stages will differ widely. Clearly, needs will change and some risks will increase significantly for members in retirement. This assessment of members’ risks and needs assists in our product and investment development efforts going forward.
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
I expect to be working at VicSuper generating fantastic returns for our members!