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Featured Profile: Kirstin Hunter
The future is now
Future Super co-founder and managing director Kirstin Hunter knows what she stands for. Her path to working at one of Australia's fastest growing super funds was one driven by a moral compass. Elizabeth McArthur writes.

Future Super must be the envy of many other start-up superannuation funds. The fossil fuel-free fund appears to have gone from strength to strength.

In just three years, Future Super has managed to double its funds under management to almost half a billion.

I always had a corporate day job but would be more motivated by volunteering and pro bono work, by what my skills could actually do for the community.
Kirstin Hunter's role with the fund has expanded in that time too. She started as chief operations officer before being promoted to managing director. Now she's been given the title of co-founder, recognising her work in growing the fund.

And it all comes down to the fact that Hunter is a true believer in Future Super's mission - that capital can make a difference for the better in society. And she's truly passionate about solving the climate change crisis through investment.

"My background is as a lawyer and a management consultant. I always had a corporate day job but would be more motivated by volunteering and pro bono work, by what my skills could actually do for the community," Hunter says.

"Around the time I had my baby it all started falling apart though. I didn't have the time to volunteer and without having that positive work my energy started declining for the corporate work."

Hunter, who had always been politically active and socially aware, found herself thinking about climate change more and more once she had a newborn to care for.

"I started realising that these things were going to happen in her lifetime," Hunter says.

"She was going to be 26 in 2040 when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has forecasted horrific changes in the world."

Hunter started to feel frustrated about the way she was spending her working hours. She went looking specifically for a "corporate day job" that could make a difference and she describes finding Future Super as the perfect match.

Incidentally, this year has seen Hunter's role as a parent collide with her career again, when COVID-19 forced her to work from home and keep her daughter home from school.

Hunter says 2020 has thrown her the hardest challenge of her professional life to date. Something that's been a bit lost to some, she notes, is that not everyone has a home that's conducive to work - especially when there are small children involved.

"It's impossible. You feel like you're failing as an employee and as a parent," she says.

"I think it was one of the hardest periods of my professional career. The markets were tumbling. The government brought out early release of super. I'm trying to manage a team of 45 thrown into the work-from-home environment. And all of that with a six year old under foot, it was like every part of my professional and personal life was on fire."

Earlier in her career, Hunter had some foreshadowing for how tough things can get for parents (particularly mothers) climbing the corporate ladder.

A manager who mentored Hunter at Bain & Company recognised Hunter's potential and advocated for her, and other women at the company, to have more flexibility around the time she had her child. That manager's advocacy resulted in Hunter being part of one of the first ever client-facing job shares for Bain globally.

The advocacy was necessary though, because many women were leaving the company because "part-time wasn't a thing" in the corporate culture. Hunter's mentor didn't want her to become part of that statistic.

While 2020 and COVID-19 will surely continue to surprise, things have settled down a bit for Hunter now and she's pushing ahead with the task at hand.

Her recent promotion to co-founder recognises that in the three and a half years she's been with the fund it has experienced enormous growth, which Hunter was a part of shepherding.

Not only has Future Super doubled its FUM in the last three years, it's also gone from 10 employees to 45.

The mission of the fund has solidified in that time too, with a focus not only on climate change but on equality. Future Super brought in internal policies to address the pay gap and super gap within its own team, including paying part-time team members super at a full-time rate.

Articulating to consumers the mission of Future Super, what makes the fund different and exactly how their money is used to drive change is what Hunter identifies as the key element behind the fund's success.

"We use the power of money to invest, advocate and campaign. And we want to bring that together in a package so that members can get really excited about what their money is doing, excited enough to talk to their friends about super," she says.

Hunter seems to innately tap into the psyche of the young, politically engaged, educated and aware which seems to be Future Super's natural target market.

It might be because she's one of them; Hunter is a former president of the student union at the University of New South Wales.

Her role at the union was so influential that she switched from a medical degree to law, with a focus on corporate governance.

"I didn't enjoy the practice of law as much as I enjoyed the theory," she says.

Working in a financial services job in the city certainly wasn't on Hunter's radar as a student. Ironically, at the time she was supporting herself by working shifts at the Caltex petrol station.

"Some days I'd do a couple of hours before school, get the servo set up for the day and then go to school," Hunter says.

"It was a great job for a kid, actually."

Growing up in Tweed Heads, Hunter had hoped to one day be a GP working in remote areas.

"I've always had a bit of a community mindset," she says.

As such, volunteering was a thread through Hunter's younger years and into her professional life.

Growing up she was a surf life saver and then once she graduated she became dedicated to skills-based volunteering, working with the Aboriginal Trust Fund Repayment Scheme to reimburse people who had wages withheld or whose ancestors had wages withheld.

Later, she worked with food waste charity OzHarvest to help communicate the value of a dollar to donors.

"I would say I was more passionate about causes that politically engaged though. In the arts component of my degree I studied Australian history and the frontier conflicts between European settlers and First Nations people. I've always had a real passion for Aboriginal justice and reconciliation," she says.

But that has evolved into caring about climate change, she says, particularly since her daughter has come into the picture.

"But climate change just incorporates so many different things. First Nations justice is a huge part of taking action on climate," Hunter says.

"Climate change impacts on vulnerable communities more severely and more quickly."

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