Q&A with retiring Qantas CEO, Jane Perry

Jane Perry is retiring from Qantas Super this month after four years in the top job. As she tells Industry Moves, she had a plan - a good one - and now the time is right to enact it. Jane looks back on her time with the fund and names the highlights and the people she'll miss the most. She also shares some sound advice - "Don't forget to pick the daisies!"

JANE PERRY

Jane Perry is retiring from Qantas Super this month after four years in the top job. As she tells Industry Moves, she had a plan - a good one - and now the time is right to enact it. Jane looks back on her time with the fund and names the highlights and the people she'll miss the most. She also shares some sound advice - "Don't forget to pick the daisies!"

Why is the time right for you to leave Qantas Super?

My husband Bob and I have had a financial plan since 1997, when we started thinking about and planning for, what we wanted to do when we retired. Bob has been retired for some time, so in recent years it's been about making sure the time and situation was right for me.

That's the importance of financial planning - it allows you to set yourself up so you can retire when you want to, and while you're both well and active enough to do the things you want to do. We want to be able to travel, visit the grandchildren and spend time together.

What have been the highlights of your time with the fund?

I arrived at Qantas Super at the height of the Stronger Super changes so we launched straight into the establishment and development of a fit-for-purpose product for our members. It's called Gateway, and is a contemporary, competitive product with a MySuper component.

While implementing Stronger Super, we also took the opportunity to simplify the plan. Qantas Super is very complex, simply by virtue of its evolution over the past 76 years - so simplifying it was no mean task.

We appointed an insurer to provide insurance for members, and for day-to-day management of insurance claims. This was a first for Qantas Super, which previously self-insured.

We improved the suite of services to members - we introduced comprehensive and general financial advice, investment solutions (including industry-leading implementation efficiencies), pop-up information booths, a second opinion medical advice service... the list goes on.

More recently, highlights have included the establishment of a lifecycle product and a default investment structure that works well for our membership. We also launched a retirement and transition-to-retirement product, and as a result, we have a whole-of-life product which offers significant benefits for members.

Another highlight was the decision to undertake, with Qantas Airways Limited, a review of the strategic options for the direction of the plan, and this resulted in a joint data-driven piece of work agreeing a future direction for the next 10 years. It was rich in analysis in relation to member demographics, needs analysis, financial modelling and research of the market, so this was a challenging but enormously valuable activity.

What will you miss?

The people. The fabulous executive office team who truly care about members.

I'll miss the members. One of the great things about being at Qantas Super is that we work at the Qantas campus; we see our members, we fly with our members, we interact with members all the time.

I'll miss our service providers - we've been really lucky to establish relationships with people who share our passion for member outcomes.

And of course, the Qantas Super Board is excellent. The quality of the Board was a key part of my decision to join Qantas Super, and I've thoroughly enjoyed working with them over the past four years.

What are you going to do next?

Travel. We've bought a caravan, so we'll be heading to Tasmania to see the newest member of the family. We're also considering going up through western NSW to Queensland, spending time in the Mungo National Park on the trip. One of the great things about contemplating next year is that we don't have to make the decision until we pack our clothes!

What is one of the best pieces of advice you've ever been given?

Don't forget to pick the daisies. Mistakes happen - they're learning opportunities. Celebrate what you've enjoyed doing, and take the lessons from things that go wrong. While daisies are a very common and, in gardening terms, relatively cheap plant, I like it as an analogy because they grow everywhere.

Who do you most admire and how have they influenced your life/work?

Lots of people for different reasons. I've had tremendous bosses over the years. They've been different from me in terms of personal style but I've had a number of people who have truly encouraged and supported me. The stand-out for me is Les Owen, one of the CEOs at AXA, who challenged me, and gave me the opportunity to work in operations.

I also admire peers in the industry, like Michael Dwyer who I'm honoured to call a friend. He's a tremendous person who's made an invaluable contribution to the industry, and to my professional development.

Anne Ward is an exemplary chairperson, and she has been tremendously encouraging and supportive of me in this role, and of my opportunities as a director.

One of the other people I often talk about was a woman who led the AXA business super call centre team and she gave me the best advice about how to deal with pressure. She was tremendous at managing our customers during service issues, and gave me tips on how to manage myself when I was taking member calls. As a result, I've always seen talking to members as integral to what I do.

Where did you grow up?

Eugowra, which is a small, pretty town between Orange and Forbes in the Lachlan Valley.

What was your very first job?

My first full-time job was as a teacher. Prior to that, I chipped weeds in commercial tomato farms in the Lachlan Valley during university holidays, and taught swimming every January. My uni holidays were spent outdoors in the summer in the country in the dreaded heat. It was very motivational!

Do you have a secret skill/hidden talent?

Once upon a time, I could play the piano but it's such a secret talent, I've forgotten it.

Is there a particular cause or charity that you support?

The Salvation Army. I'm really pleased I can leverage my skills and experience to support an organisation that remains true to its original purpose, helping people who are most in need. I'm very involved in various parts of the Salvos business and plan to continue my involvement. It's tremendously fulfilling.