NZ Super names new head of external investments

The sovereign wealth fund has selected one of its portfolio managers to replace Fiona Mackenzie in a role that includes overseeing some ag and timber holdings.

The New Zealand Superannuation Fund has promoted Del Hart to replace Fiona Mackenzie as its new head of external investments and partnerships.

Hart joined the sovereign wealth fund as portfolio manager for unlisted mandates in September 2011 and most recently served as portfolio manager for external investments and partnerships, a role she held for a little over 18 months.

Hart will now report to chief investment officer Matt Whineray and will sit on the fund’s investment committee.

“The role has responsibility for the NZ Super Fund’s investment mandates with approximately 30 external managers, covering NZ$6.5 billion ($4.5 billion; €3.8 billion) of assets in listed and unlisted markets globally,” the fund said.

While NZ Super, which had an overall portfolio value of NZ$35 billion as of June 30, has stated that it prefers to invest directly – it is actively building the capability of its internal investment team in order to manage its investments “as directly as possible and maximize cost-efficiency,” chief executive Adrian Orr stated in its 2017 annual report – the fund does rely on external managers for investments in areas in which it lacks in-house experience or which are geographically far removed.

Examples include agricultural assets. NZ Super’s agriculture portfolio, which until recently was concentrated in New Zealand dairy, is managed by FarmRight, a dairy farm manager and consultancy. However, in October, NZ Super expanded into Australian beef by acquiring a stake in Palgrove, an Australian beef stud farm, bringing the total number of assets in its rural portfolio to 33 and a total value of NZ$340 million or roughly one percent of its overall portfolio.

NZ Super is also targeting investment opportunities in agriculture through its Investment Hub, an initiative it launched last year that is still a work in progress, with the objective of creating direct investment opportunities in the New Zealand market.

NZ Super’s timber portfolio, which accounts for about six percent of the sovereign wealth fund’s total AUM, is also managed by third parties. Global Forest Partners, a US-based timberland investment advisor, manages timber assets the fund owns in Australia, New Zealand, South America, Asia and Africa, while the Hancock Natural Resource Group, a subsidiary of the John Hancock Life Insurance company, manages NZ Super’s timber assets in the US.

NZ Super’s timber relationships are managed by Neil Woods, portfolio manager for timber and agri, and a member of the NZ Direct team.

“The NZ Direct team also looks after global agriculture and timber, including manager relationships in those sectors,” a spokeswoman for NZ Super explained in an e-mailed response. “With the exception of a global infrastructure mandate with Morrison & Co that is managed by our International Direct team led by Nigel Gormly, Ms. Hart will be responsible for all other NZSF external manager relationships,” the spokeswoman added.

Regarding Mackenzie’s departure, NZ Super’s spokeswoman confirmed that she has left the sovereign wealth fund to join First NZ Capital Securities. According to media reports, Mackenzie will assume the role of head of direct wealth at the brokerage firm in the new year.