Aware Super nabs top HESTA exec

Sally Collins
Aware Super - Chief Operating Officer
Aware Super
Date: 7 February 2024
Position: Chief Operating Officer
By Elizabeth Fry

The $160 billion superannuation fund has created a broader operations role as part of an executive overhaul and filled the position by hiring from HESTA.

HESTA chief financial officer Sally Collins will take up an expanded chief operating officer role at Aware Super.

She will lead technology and data governance, data strategy, investment operations, strategy, planning and delivery, and transformation, as well as finance, tax, and procurement teams.

The chief financial officer will also report to Collins.

Incidentally, deputy finance chief James Osborn will step into the CFO role once Collins starts in April.

In a release, Aware Super said this alignment of critical, enterprise-supporting functions will enable "transformation at pace" and support the fund's commitment to members through its operating model.

Collins brings extensive experience leading transformational change and execution programs, technology and data analytics uplifts, and the design and execution of organisational strategy.

Before joining HESTA, she held customer-facing and operations executive roles at AXA, Commonwealth Bank and National Australia Bank.

Interestingly, the broader COO role reflects the structure at Victorian Funds Management Corporation, where Collins served as chief operating officer for five years from 2017.

Collins and her chief executive, Lisa Gray, transformed the quasi-sovereign wealth fund across technology, investment expertise, leadership, culture and capability.

There the CFO also reported to her.

So it was quite a big deal.

At Aware Super, Collins will also drive a radical transformation plan.

In other changes, Aware Super chief operating officer Jo Brennan will fill the newly-created role of group executive of member engagement and advice.

Steve Travis will retain his role as group executive of member growth but will also look after the fund's corporate development team which is responsible for fund mergers and merger partners.

Meanwhile, chief of staff Katrina McPhee will head up a new communications and advocacy team.

Finance, strategy, and transformation head Tim Elliot, will depart after 11 years with the fund.

Aware Super chief executive Deanne Stewart thanked Elliot for playing a leading role in launching Aware Super out of a mega-merger between First State Super, VicSuper, StatePlus and WA Super in 2020.

Stewart stressed that restructuring - which comes after the fund completes the last part of an extensive digital transformation program  - would more closely integrate customer advice and support with its operational structure.

"With millions of Australians either already living in retirement or rapidly approaching it, superannuation funds need to better orient themselves towards supporting members in this important life stage," she added.

HESTA chief executive Debby Blakey thanked Collins for her leadership during her time at HESTA.

The chief executive said the super fund is currently recruiting for a new finance chief and will announce the appointment in due course.