Hutt Val­ley teacher be­came found­ing chief of the New Zealand Su­per Fund

The Southland Times - - Obituaries - – Rod Myer, The New Daily

‘‘He never mis­took his good for­tune for en­ti­tle­ment. He scoffed at hubris and val­ued hu­mil­ity.’’

Paul Costello Su­per fund chief b Fe­bru­ary 10, 1957 d Novem­ber 5, 2018

Paul Costello, who has died aged 61, knew early that he did not want to fol­low his fam­ily’s farm­ing tra­di­tion – he was at­tracted more to books than an­i­mals. This in­cli­na­tion was height­ened af­ter he broke an arm in a rid­ing ac­ci­dent and spent his re­cu­per­a­tion read­ing, and he went on to be a pioneer of the su­per­an­nu­a­tion fund in­dus­try in both New Zealand and Aus­tralia.

As chief ex­ec­u­tive of the NZ Su­per Fund, he was its first em­ployee when it be­gan life in 2003, with $2.4 bil­lion to in­vest. At the lat­est count, in Novem­ber, it was val­ued at $39.3b, and widely con­sid­ered among the world’s best sov­er­eign wealth funds.

Af­ter three years at the helm of the Su­per Fund, he went on to re­peat the feat with Aus­tralia’s Fu­ture Fund, the na­tional wealth fund seeded by the sale of the gov­ern­ment’s last tranche of shares in Tel­stra. The A$60b fund he started with is now worth $180b.

Shortly af­ter he joined the Fu­ture Fund, the global fi­nan­cial cri­sis threat­ened dis­as­ter for the world econ­omy, and the fund was at the front lines of Aus­tralia’s re­sponse. Lind­say Tan­ner, then Aus­tralia’s fi­nance min­is­ter, says he ap­pre­ci­ated Costello’s sup­port through the pe­riod. ‘‘I found him a class act in ev­ery re­spect. He was a rare com­bi­na­tion of in­tel­lect and de­cency.

‘‘He was very good at ex­plain­ing his strat­egy and mak­ing sure I un­der­stood what was hap­pen­ing.’’

In fact, Costello used the cri­sis to make hay while the sun shone. At the start of the GFC, the Fu­ture Fund was about two-thirds in cash and was able to use this liq­uid­ity to buy dis­tressed as­sets that would turn hand­some prof­its in later years.

Costello was born the el­dest of eight chil­dren of Dave and Colleen Costello, a Can­ter­bury farm­ing fam­ily. Af­ter fin­ish­ing high school, he stud­ied arts and went on to be­come a teacher and, for a time, a tour guide in South Amer­ica, af­ter do­ing a quick course in Span­ish.

On a post­ing at Hutt Val­ley High School, he met and mar­ried fel­low teacher Denise Ryan. Paul ini­tially stayed with teach­ing while Denise trans­ferred to her ca­reer pas­sion of jour­nal­ism.

The cou­ple moved to Syd­ney fol­low­ing Denise’s jour­nal­is­tic path, and Paul taught at Scots Col­lege. Soon he did post­grad­u­ate stud­ies in busi­ness, a move that would soon come to de­fine his life. They moved to Mel­bourne, where Denise joined The Age

while Paul took up a po­si­tion with Su­per­an­nu­a­tion Trust of Aus­tralia, now part of Aus­tralian Su­per, the coun­try’s largest su­per fund.

Costello went on to serve as a mem­ber of the Re­serve Bank of Aus­tralia’s Pay­ments Sys­tem Board and the Qan­tas Su­per­an­nu­a­tion Fund. He also served as the in­de­pen­dent chair of the Queens­land gov­ern­ment in­vest­ment fund QIC’s in­fra­struc­ture in­vest­ment com­mit­tee, as a board mem­ber of in­surance group AIA and the Sal­va­tion Army’s su­per fund.

‘‘Paul was a piv­otal fig­ure in the su­per in­dus­try, and an enor­mous as­set to the Qan­tas Su­per board,’’ its chair­woman Ann Ward said.

In re­cent years, he started to en­joy the fruits of a suc­cess­ful ca­reer, trav­el­ling with Denise ex­ten­sively in South Amer­ica and spend­ing time in France. To­gether they built their dream hol­i­day home in the moun­tains near Wanaka. The move typ­i­fied Costello’s great vi­sion, with Denise chris­ten­ing the block ‘‘Rab­bits and Rocks’’ when they first bought it.

Shortly af­ter the pur­chase, Costello was di­ag­nosed with can­cer, but they pushed for­ward with the project, com­plet­ing it in time for him to en­joy it be­fore his death.

The fi­nal stage of his life was dif­fi­cult, but he ap­proached it with courage and hu­mil­ity, spend­ing time with his fam­ily and tack­ling each part of the jour­ney as it ap­peared. A per­sis­tent cough ev­i­dent from Oc­to­ber 2016 was di­ag­nosed as lung can­cer, which had spread to his brain by Fe­bru­ary 2017.

He fought the ill­ness with ra­di­a­tion, chemo­ther­apy and an ex­pen­sive drug treat­ment, but the ben­e­fits didn’t last. He be­gan an ex­per­i­men­tal new treat­ment in 2018, which had a mirac­u­lous ef­fect, turn­ing his sit­u­a­tion around im­me­di­ately and giv­ing him six more months with his fam­ily.

His me­mo­rial in Mel­bourne was at­tended by 280 peo­ple. Costello’s friend and cor­po­rate gov­er­nance ex­pert Dean Paatsch told mourn­ers: ‘‘He was blessed with a crack­ing sense of grat­i­tude. He’d of­ten won­der aloud to me at just how for­tu­nate he was – with Denise, with his kids, his ca­reer, even dur­ing his ill­ness. He never mis­took his good for­tune for en­ti­tle­ment. He scoffed at hubris and val­ued hu­mil­ity.’’

‘‘He no­ticed im­por­tant things. And he had a world-class bull­shit de­tec­tor.’’

Costello is sur­vived by his wife, chil­dren Harry and Caitlin, his fa­ther Dave, seven sib­lings and part­ners, and 22 nieces and neph­ews.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.