NZ Super names chief executive

Jo Townsend
NZ Super - Chief Executive Officer
Date: 27 March 2024
Position: Chief Executive Officer
By Elizabeth Fry

One of Australia's most experienced superannuation executives will take the helm of New Zealand's sovereign wealth fund, following Matt Whineray's departure late last year.

Guardians of NZ Superannuation have appointed Jo Townsend as head of the NZ$70 billion NZ Super.

Townsend -  chief executive of Funds SA for eight years - left the $42 billion institutional investor of public sector funds in mid-2023.

She replaces Whineray who resigned from his role at NZ Super last May after 15 years with the super fund and five years in the top job.

As the search continued for a new chief executive, NZ Super investment chief Stephen Gilmore - a former Future Fund executive -  was widely tipped as a frontrunner.

Guardians chair John Williamson noted that Townsend is the first externally appointed chief executive since Adrian Orr in 2007.

"Jo will bring a fresh industry perspective and considerable experience to the Guardians. We believe she is the right person to lead us into the future,' Williamson said,

"We are excited to have Jo join the Guardians' team. She is a highly experienced CEO with a 30-year career in the Australian investment sector.

"Jo is a proven people leader with a track record of developing high-performing teams, attracting talent and building strong stakeholder relationships.

For her part, Townsend said she was "absolutely thrilled" to be joining the Guardians, adding that NZ Super Fund is known and respected globally as a high-performing institutional investor.

"The Guardians' purpose - sustainable investment delivering strong returns for all New Zealanders - sums up the importance of the Fund to the country."

Townsend will relocate to New Zealand and will take up her new role in April 2024; Paula Steed will continue as acting chief executive until then.

The incoming chief executive started her career in the investment management sector, managing fixed-interest portfolios.

Before heading up Funds SA, she held various roles at REST Super, including as general manager of investments and acting chief operating officer.

Earlier in her career, she held investment roles at NGS Super, Retirement Benefits Fund, Value Capital Management and Rothschild Australia Asset Management.

Williamson thanked Steed for her efforts in maintaining momentum on key strategic initiatives.

Global SWF has listed the Kiwi sovereign wealth fund as the best-performing sovereign investor globally over the last ten years.