We recently had a chat with our outgoing CIO Tim Macready, about his time at Christian Super, his work with impact investing and his upcoming move to Brightlight.
How long have you been with Christian Super?
I joined Christian Super 15 years ago in October 2005.
What was Christian Super like when you started?
We were much, much smaller. When I joined we looked after about $250m on behalf of 11,000 Australians. There were just three of us sitting in a tiny office in the south of Sydney, and almost everything was managed by external parties. Today we have over 28,000 members and we look after $1.7bn in assets on their behalf.
What are some of the biggest changes you have seen at Christian Super?
For me the biggest changes have been in how we support our members and how we manage their money.
When I joined Christian Super all member enquiries were dealt with externally. In 2008 we brought the call centre in house so that we could better serve our members on their journey towards retirement. We wanted to make sure that members would benefit from being able to speak with someone who shares their values. It’s been an immense privilege at times to sit with the member care team and walk with members; even pray with members who are facing difficult circumstances.
Because of that change, we’ve been able to think much more about purposeful retirement. So many of our members spend their working lives giving to their communities – as teachers, pastors, mission workers and in all kinds of other roles. But now we get to encourage our members on a journey towards a retirement that has meaning and bears fruit, as well as providing opportunities for resting in God’s goodness and enjoying him.
The other area is how we invest. When I joined, we had some basic negative screens – we weren’t invested in tobacco, or alcohol or gambling. But that was about it. Like our member care team, it was all outsourced, to a large investment firm. Shortly after I joined, the Board closed the non-ethical options and focussed entirely on ethical, responsible investing that is driven by our faith. Year by year we have expanded the way that our faith is outworked in the investment portfolio – not just by avoiding investing, but by talking to companies to influence change, and by making investments that generate positive outcomes alongside financial returns.
The industry itself has also changed massively. When I joined there were thousands and thousands of super funds – now there are just a couple of hundred. Compliance and regulation has grown a lot over 15 years as the industry has grown and consolidated.
You have been involved in Impact Investing for long time, can you tell us why you’re passionate about this kind of investing?
It excites me to see opportunities to invest in ways that generate good returns and positive social, environmental and even spiritual impact. I think our faith informs every aspect of our lives, and it’s exciting to me that as we seek to invest faithfully, we can do so in ways that reflect our values – just as we might joyfully give in ways that reflect our faith, and spend in ways that reflect our faith. I’m amazed to think that the money that our members have saved for retirement is right now supporting microfinance, clean energy, foster care, education, hospitals, and more – for people in Australia and around the world, including some places that are desperately in need. I think that generosity is a crucial part of following Jesus.
I’m amazed to think that the money that our members have saved for retirement is right now supporting microfinance, clean energy, foster care, education, hospitals, and more.
Tell us a bit about Brightlight
Brightlight works with investors in Australia and around the world to help them invest in values-aligned ways. We launched Brightlight out of Christian Super in 2016 because we realised that other investors kept on coming to us asking for help in developing values-based investment strategies and deploying capital for investment return and positive impact.
Today, Brightlight employs 14 staff and serves clients in Australia, New Zealand and the United States. We have done work for super funds, banks, government departments, not for profit organisations; all around this idea that the way that money is invested matters, and that if we’re thoughtful about investing we can make a positive difference.
What are you looking forward to most about moving to Brightlight?
I’m sad to be leaving a place that I have loved serving at for 15 years. I’m excited about the opportunity to focus even more deeply on investments that achieve a positive impact alongside a good financial return. We’ve done a lot of this at Christian Super, but at Brightlight we will be doing this across a wide range of clients.
What are your hopes for Christian Super?
I’ve been amazed at how God has used Christian Super to encourage people and to show how attractive it is when Christians live out their faith. I think that’s possible in any industry, I’ve just been privileged to witness it in superannuation. I hope that the Fund continues to grow, and to keep exploring what it means to live out our faith in a superannuation, retirement and investment context.
We’ve had opportunities to be a light within the financial services industry. Australians are rightly sceptical about behaviour in financial services. As a fund that is about profit for members, and about being redemptive in our industry, I hope Christian Super keeps shining.
For over a decade now we’ve been one of the leading responsible investment organisations in Australia, and one of the world’s leading impact investors. I hope that Christian Super continues to grow in both of these areas, applying our faith more and more each day.
I also hope that Christian Super continues to grow in modelling faithful stewardship in and through retirement. Many of our members spend their career serving others through churches, schools and all kinds of other organisations. I’m excited by the opportunity to resource our members for a purposeful retirement. The world sells a retirement of leisure, but as Christians we have the opportunity in our retirement years to make a meaningful contribution – perhaps even more so than during our working years – in the lives of our families, communities, churches, friends. So remember that we are stewards.