AFIC’s Barker calls time af­ter 16 years at helm

The Weekend Australian - - BUSINESS REVIEW -

Ross Barker, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of the na­tion’s big­gest and old­est listed in­vest­ment com­pany, Aus­tralian Foun­da­tion In­vest­ment Co, will step down af­ter 16 years at the helm.

AFIC has a port­fo­lio of mostly Aus­tralian equities, worth nearly $7 bil­lion.

Mr Barker will re­tire as CEO of the in­vest­ment com­pany on De­cem­ber 31, mak­ing way for Mark Free­man, now chief in­vest­ment of­fi­cer at AFIC, who will start on Jan­uary 1. Mr Free­man will also re­place Mr Barker as CEO of Aus­tralian In­vest­ment Com­pany Ser­vices, which pro­vides in­vest­ment and ad­min­is­tra­tion ser­vices to AFIC, and three other listed in­vest­ment com­pa­nies in the sta­ble: Djer­ri­warrh In­vest­ments, Mirra­booka In­vest­ments and AMCIL.

Mr Barker, who in July at­tacked the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s planned bank tax as a poor piece of pol­icy, was ap­pointed as AFIC’s CEO in 2001 and is also chair­man of the Mel­bourne Busi­ness School.

AFIC chair­man Ter­rence Camp­bell said: “Mark is a nat­u­ral suc­ces­sor to Ross Barker. He has a pro­found knowl­edge and depth of ex­pe­ri­ence with in­vest­ment mar­kets and has a strong un­der­stand­ing of the com­pany’s di­rec­tion, poli­cies and pro­cesses.”

As CIO of the in­vest­ment com­pa­nies busi­ness, Mr Free­man is re­spon­si­ble for lead­ing the team man­ag­ing the port­fo­lios, with a com­bined to­tal of more than $8bn in funds un­der man­age­ment.

Be­fore be­com­ing CIO of the four in­vest­ment com­pa­nies in 2007, Mr Free­man was a part­ner with Gold­man Sachs JBWere, ad­vis­ing the in­vest­ment com­pa­nies on their in­vest­ment and deal­ing ac­tiv­i­ties. On Mr Barker’s watch share­hold­ers in AFIC have nearly dou­bled to more than 120,000. In the same pe­riod, the port­fo­lio size as mea­sured by to­tal as­sets has ex­panded from $2.7bn to $6.9bn.

“Ross leaves AFIC and the three other in­vest­ment com­pa­nies in a strong po­si­tion,” Mr Camp­bell said. “The board and man­age­ment ex­tend our warm wishes to Ross in his re­tire­ment and thank him for his en­dur­ing lead­er­ship and sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion through­out his dis­tin­guished 16-year ten­ure at AFIC.”

Mr Free­man will be paid a base salary of $850,000 a year, with an an­nual at-risk in­cen­tive rep­re­sent­ing 50 per cent of that fixed re­mu­ner­a­tion. A long-term in­cen­tive plan is set at 20 per cent of the fixed pay.

AFIC re­cently posted a 7.7 per cent fall in full-year net profit to $245 mil­lion.

Mr Barker is a long-time critic of ex­ces­sive gov­ern­ment red tape and in­ter­fer­ence in in­vest­ment and cap­i­tal mar­kets. In July, he sav­aged the bank tax un­veiled by the gov­ern­ment as part of its May bud­get as an un­jus­ti­fied and poor piece of pol­icy. “The worry is you get these piece­meal ap­proaches to pol­icy — well, let’s have a bank tax here; oh, we might have a min­ing tax, if they are suc­cess­ful; oh, we might have a Google tax, if we want to tax the in­ter­net economy — so just an ad hoc ap­proach,” he told The Aus­tralian at the time.

“And this isn’t re­ally a tax on banks — it’s a tax on bank share­hold­ers be­cause the gov­ern­ment said we don’t want the bor­row­ers or lenders to pay it.

“So it’s not the banks who pay it ul­ti­mately — it’s the share­hold­ers, and ul­ti­mately they are the ones to bear the cost of this,’’ Mr Barker said. “It took us by sur­prise, to­tally, and it’s def­i­nitely poor pol­icy be­cause it doesn’t make sense to us.”

Ross Barker

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