NGS Super widens leadership team: Sets ambitious growth targets

By Elizabeth Fry

NGS Super chief executive Natalie Previtera has expanded her leadership team by promoting three more executives to run strategy, investment operations and legal and governance.

The promotions follow last week's appointments which saw chief strategy officer Ben Facer promoted to deputy chief executive appointed and Phillipa Minney chief risk officer and head of corporate services.

NGS Super has appointed Nathan Buttigieg as executive manager, strategy reporting to Facer. Buttigieg is currently head of transformation.

Also, Maryanne Jardine, who has been running investment operations, has been promoted to executive manager of investment operations, reporting to the investment chief Ben Squires.

Finally, Bendan Tynan- Davey has been appointed to head of legal and governance, reporting to Minney.

Says Previtera: "We're elevating talented people in the organisation who contribute not only through their areas of expertise but more broadly, across the fund in terms of strategy execution."

New schools, new members

With the latest appointments, her wider leadership team is now complete and the new chief executive ambitious growth targets.

In fact, the deputy chief executive role was created especially to cope with the expansion of Previtera's role in driving growth, mostly in the independent and education sector.

"We recognise that the opportunity for us to expand not only in existing schools that we serve but in new schools is quite tremendous," she states.

"We've got existing schools, but we also have a whole range of schools that have just been built.

Many of these independent schools are in lower socio-economic areas where public transport infrastructure has not kept pace with the urban spread. So, these schools are popping up to cater to that."

"So, there's a whole lot of work we can do there to grow in that space. We're really looking to lean into that niche, much more heavily."

Under Previtera's leadership, the NGS Super brand is predicting a 20 per cent plus jump in membership within four years - no easy task for the $13 billion industry super fund that covers workers in the independent education and community sectors.

According to Alex Dunnin, executive director of research and compliance at Rainmaker Group, Australia's super fund marketplace is now so concentrated that the biggest 20 hold a whopping 95 per cent of the funds under management.

"The boutique fund NGS Super is just outside this grouping," he says

Dunnin notes that funds in this range have huge challenges when competing with the big superannuation powerhouses.

"And let's not forget that today's big funds were boutiques once themselves too. But what took these powerhouses to the top? Most likely, it was a crystal-clear awareness of their narrative, their leadership, and a rock-solid history of delivering what fund members want from their super fund: repeatable strong investment performance, being good value, easy to deal with, and they didn't drink their own kool-aid.

"If NGS Super can combine this with an X-factor, they might just have what it takes to shake up the superannuation market," he concludes, adding that they need to outpoint UniSuper.

Catering to a female demographic

While recognising that segment of the market that is growing, that is not Previtera's only initiative.

The new chief executive also underlines the importance of personalised products and services for their predominantly female membership.

For instance, making sure that the insurance products are designed to cater for the unique needs of that demographic.

NGS Super insurance offers the ability for members to very simply dial down their level of insurance as well as to increase it for life events (for example having a baby).

"Members can also  continue their cover when they are on unpaid leave, a situation many of our members find themselves in due to caring responsibilities over the course of their careers."

Her investment strategy is equally ambitious. Previtera expects the whole investment portfolio to be carbon neutral, by 2030 earlier than most targets of 2050.

Measures to make the portfolio more carbon-efficient include divestment, investment in low emissions technologies/infrastructure such as renewable energy, and research allocation of capital to carbon-positive investments such as natural capital/carbon capture, utilisation and storage and engagement with companies regarding their emissions reduction path.

Carbon-positive investments are investments that can generate a return as well as negate or remove carbon from the atmosphere.

Accordingly, NGS Super has recently invested in Waratah Super Battery- a solid investment from the "go hard" strategy perspective- and the Adamantem fund which has a decent track record. also recently invested in 2 European EV Charging businesses)

"The fund is making the investments needed to achieve a 2030 carbon neutral aim as genuinely as we can."

The top job

As for her appointment to the top job after acting chief executive for almost a year, Previtera says the job is not as overwhelming as she first thought.

While at first glance her background in governance is the unusual route to the chief executive role she is very clear about what she brings to the table arguing that governance specialists are across all aspects of funds and investment in a very detailed way.

"It's just taking a different view on things sharpening the focus on strategy and execution, Previtera was appointed acting chief executive officer from chief risk and governance officer and was considered a candidate to lead the firm after the retirement of Laura Wright.

Previtera joined the asset owner in 2019 and was appointed its chief risk and governance officer in 2021.

Before arriving at NGS, she spent four years at AMP as a senior manager of trustee governance and two years before that at Suncorp as manager of the office of the superannuation trustee.

She concedes that the process to replace Wright took some time but says it gave her the chance to show what she could do.

"When I was appointed acting chief executive, I decided to treat the job as my own. I think that's the only way you can do it. Otherwise, you're just seat warming."