AMP Capital has lost another senior executive as its multi-asset group chief investment officer, Sean Henaghan, rounded off his 15-month sabbatical with a formal resignation last week.
Henaghan, who has washed up in NZ following extensive travels through the Americas, was past due to rejoin the embattled Australian funds management group but has instead opted to pursue other opportunities – in either country.
While he originally intended to return from sabbatical to AMP Capital, Henaghan said, it was the right time to end his almost 15-year career with the $200 billion plus fund manager.
Since June this year AMP Capital has been embroiled in ongoing controversy triggered by revelations of sexual harassment proven against Boe Pahari, who began an ill-fated reign as chief that month, replacing Adam Tindall. In August Pahari was demoted to his old head of infrastructure job with AMP chief, Francesco De Ferrari, doubling as head of the funds group. Several other senior staff, including the chief and head of sales for the NZ business, subsequently resigned AMP Capital.
Henaghan said it was “sad” to watch the chaos unfolding at his, now, old shop but he was keen to return to the investment business in some capacity after realising a long-held dream of traveling with his wife through South America and up the far north Canadian province of Yukon.
“I resigned a couple of days ago,” he said. “If a decent job came up as a CEO or chief investment officer in Australia or NZ I would be interested. But I would also consider serving as an independent member on investment committees – such as with KiwiSaver schemes – or even doing pro-bono work to get back into action.”
And for the immediate future, the Henaghans will be housed in Auckland awaiting the arrival of their first grandchild.
“We’re flatting with one of my oldest friends,” he said.
Of course, his current Auckland digs are a step up from the student accommodation in Dunedin where Henaghan earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Otago.
“I encouraged my kids to study at Otago, too, it’s a great place to get a sense of NZ,” he said.
Despite spending a large part of his career in Australia, first with Watson Wyatt and then AMP Capital, Henaghan’s NZ links go beyond the Dunedin student experience.
Originally from South Africa, he arrived here as a teen, embarking on a post-study career in finance that culminated in holding responsibility for $120 billion of assets under the AMP Capital multi-asset division.
However, the most recent extended stay in NZ was a surprise addition to the agenda, he said – another coronavirus side-effect.
The Henaghans served their two-week COVID quarantine in Wellington, which put a full stop to further travel plans.
“I couldn’t go through quarantine again,” he said: being locked up for two winter weeks in Wellington with the only respite a short daily ‘exercise’ spell in the dark, drafty, dank carpark building would kill the travel-bug in anyone.
Now in Auckland, and warmer (if not drier) weather on the way, Henaghan is keen to reconnect with old industry friends and establish new networks for the next phase of his career.
He said NZ was well-placed to emerge in a stronger economic position from the COVID-19 crisis with its “safe haven” status likely to prove a selling point.
As well, Henaghan said KiwiSaver would underpin the local investment industry, building broader opportunities similar to the trajectory of the now $3 trillion Australian superannuation market.
But in the interim, investment markets look exceptionally treacherous, he said.
“If I was managing money today I would not be taking a lot of risk,” Henaghan said. “And I think you’d have to be actively managing equities – stock selection will matter more – while the value-growth disconnect has to correct at some point. Investors will also have to look outside of listed assets.”
Personally, he has invested in some NZ agricultural assets while his son, like many millennials, has joined the online share-trading trend.
“He’s giving me tips,” Henaghan said. “When you’re kids are giving you stock advice maybe it’s time to get out of equities.”