Featured Profile: Tim Macready
A high conviction career
Growing up in Papua New Guinea, the difficult transition back to life in the developed world opened Christian Super chief investment officer Tim Macready's eyes to the power of investing with purpose. Elizabeth McArthur writes.

When Tim Macready was 12 his parents moved the family to Papua New Guinea so that his father could teach at a bible college.

Macready and his two siblings were educated via distance learning through a school in Dubbo.

Be clear about what you value and what you don't.
Being pre-internet days, the teachers in Dubbo would post the school work to Macready and once he'd completed it he'd post it back.

At 18, Macready returned to Australia to go to university - specifically, to complete an actuarial studies degree at Macquarie University.

When asked what it was like to come back after that time he says: "If you want the really honest answer, I struggled."

While learning to self-motivate while studying distance might have served Macready well for his university studies, what was expected of him socially was suddenly very different.

"I struggled for a couple of years to understand the relational contexts in Western society," Macready says.

"Relationships are so different compared to a tribal society and I found the rampant consumerism and materialism difficult. People still value relationships but on an external level people seemed to value very different things."

It's clear these formative experiences have shaped Macready's view of the world and his convictions in his work.

As the chief investment officer of both Christian Super and Brightlight Impact Advisory, Macready has spent the bulk of his career working in responsible investing and impact investing.

Starting at Christian Super in 2005, in the beginning his job was essentially to design the negative screens so that the fund was not investing in companies that were doing damage to the environment or society.

Macready says: "We got feedback from members that they were happy their super wasn't invested in bad things but they wanted to know what it was invested in that was doing good in the world. So we started looking for what we called at the time 'positive thematic investments'."

Those investments included micro-financing renewable energy projects in 2006 and 2008.

What the fund was doing - although they didn't yet know it - was impact investing.

"That's when I really became exposed to the idea that money could be used for good, not just profit. You could achieve the two simultaneously," Macready says.

Brighlight Impact Advisory is an investment management firm wholly owned by Christian Super which specialises in impact investing.

It was established in 2017, after Christian Super saw an opportunity to leverage its skills in impact.

"We looked at strategic growth opportunities and came to the conclusion that we were best off playing in the part of the market where we were world experts," Macready explains.

"In the institutional investing space there are few organisations that have the impact investing expertise and credibility that Christian Super have. We felt there was an opportunity there."

It operates as a separate organisation to Christian Super, with its own board and governance.

Some of Brightlight's clients include other super funds, including Future Super. Therefore, it needs to be kept separate so that Christian Super is not prioritised over other clients of Brightlight, he explains.

Macready was integral in the establishment of Brightlight and sits across both organisations to ensure the quality of investment strategy is consistent.

There is a suggestion that at some point Macready's role is likely to be split into two.

At the moment, Brightlight has about 12 clients and total funds under management of $250 million. At the same time, Christian Super manages $1.6 billion in retirement savings for its 28,000 members.

Those formative years spent in Papua New Guinea drive Macready's conviction that impact investing can be a force for positive change.

"I don't claim to know the whole world well but I do at least claim to know how big the difference is between the west and other parts of the world," Macready says.

"The time in Papua New Guinea also dispelled any myth that my wealth - relatively speaking - was somehow through my own skill. It was entirely from being born in the right place at the right time. There are people around the world who have similar skills but not similar opportunities and live in various degrees of poverty."

Over his career, Macready says he's noticed quite a number of impact investing professionals have had influential experiences in the developing world.

In tertiary education, Macready chose actuarial studies because it aligned with his skills and he enjoyed the technical aspect of the work, but he never imagined he'd end up with a successful career in finance.

He fell into superannuation when Aon was hiring actuarial students and he needed a job. While he found the work technically enjoyable, "it lacked purpose".

Macready looked into changing gears and becoming an economics teacher - he turned to a mentor for career advice.

It was that mentor who had heard Christian Super was looking for someone to work in the investments team and, knowing Macready's faith and background, suggested he go for it.

Now Macready has been with Christian Super for almost 14 years and it's clear that he's proud of his work and the team.

"We are a profit for member fund so everything we do goes back to adding value for members. I've seen in some not-for-profit organisations that turns into an excuse for mediocrity, we just don't have that at all at Christian Super," Macready says.

"Every person in the team could easily walk into more senior roles at other organisations but we're here for the values and to serve the members."

Macready has put his values and convictions first in his career, and it shows in his confidence when he speaks about the future of Brightlight and of impact investing.

He's confident the impact space is only going to grow, as consumers become better informed and demand more ethical choices.

And there are several examples Macready can point to evidence the impending impact boom - including Schroders recently buying a 51% stake in Blue Orchard.

While the chief investment officer role is obviously demanding, Macready seems to have found a balance that other people in the industry could envy.

He serves at his local church, coaches his son's soccer team and is on boards for not-for-profit organisations he believes in.

Over his career, Macready has received offers to take roles that would pay more, but he hasn't taken them for good reason, he says.

And if he could give anyone advice about aligning their beliefs and their career, he'd say: "Be clear about what you value and what you don't."

"For me, going back to my teenage years in a community that had not a lot of money but a lot of joy, I knew that money was not going to be the driving factor for what I did."

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