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Featured Profile: Matthew Rady
Biggest challenge yet
Having turned his nose up at the idea of working in the super and retirement sector early on, Allianz Retire+ chief executive Matt Rady is now turning his attention to ensuring a higher quality retirement for all. Harrison Worley writes.

Allianz Retire+ chief executive Matt Rady says he doesn't like to sit still for very long.

Which makes sense for the former Macquarie executive. Life at a place like Macquarie is fast, he says, so to not only survive 18 years, but thrive, one would need to be used to constant change.

But Rady is coping with social distancing just fine, he says.

With his children in their late teens, Rady has been able to make the adjustment from office to home smoothly thanks to the firm's early adoption of technologies such as Facebook Workplace.

If anything, he's had more time to get on with the job of changing the way people think about investing in retirement.

Rady, Allianz, PIMCO and his dedicated team believe there is a better way to ensure that retirees live more comfortably in their twilight years.

But it's taken him time to come to that realisation.

Rady admits superannuation and retirement weren't areas he had in mind for the most important portion of his career when he started as an accounting graduate at EY's Adelaide office in 1991, despite the Keating Labor government announcing the introduction of compulsory super in that year's budget.

"Someone asked me at the time whether I wanted to specialise in super and I said, 'You've got to be joking - I couldn't think of anything worse," he laughs.

Little did he know it's where he'd end up years later, following an interesting journey.

Arriving home from a six month grape-picking sojourn in Vienna after his grade 12 studies at Scotch College, where he rubbed shoulders with and lost debates to the likes of future ALP Senate leader Penny Wong, Rady took on an economics degree at the University of Adelaide.

He describes himself as a "marginal student at best", saying he scraped through uni.

"Which is not advice I'd recommend for anyone going through uni - including my own children," he says.

"But I did as little as possible, and was fortunate again - in a way - that I had the opportunity to do an internship at Ernst and Young at the time, and so I had some job security post-uni."

He spent three years at EY, and while he says chartered accounting is a great training ground, he "couldn't get out fast enough".

"I knew from day one that I never wanted to stay as an accountant. I wanted to be involved in business of some description, and as soon as I qualified with my professional year I jumped ship and went to London with my girlfriend at the time, now wife," he says.

Throwing himself into the traditional UK experience of young Aussies, Rady worked as a business analyst at Credit Suisse. He says the time was typified by the Michael Lewis classic, Liar's Poker.

"I just happened to land into this crazy world of bond trading and I knew nothing. I didn't know what a
bond was, I didn't know what an equity was," he says.

He embraced the opportunity wholeheartedly, but found himself feeling flat by the end of his two years.

He returned to Australia, landing at Macquarie just prior to its listing.

Taking a back office role, Rady says his job was to help make the firm more efficient to ensure its suitability as a listed entity.

"I must have done an okay job at that because who I was working for - Mary-Anne Terry - handed me over to her husband, who was working in what was called - at the time - the financial services group," he says.

Turning his attention to Macquarie's cash management trust, Rady began to grasp funds management and retail wealth, which provided him with his first exposure to financial advisers.

When the idea of starting a wrap platform emerged, he was right in the thick of it.

"I was the person in there that basically did that bit of research to kick off Macquarie Wrap and then became a founding member of the team that built that business," he says.

After about six years working on the wrap business, Rady knew it was time for something new.

"I'm always interested in doing some new stuff," he said.

"A lot of people might not do this, but for me it was more about 'I'm going to get bored', or 'I'm probably going to get irritable, doing the same thing for too long.'"

His boss at the time dragged him out of the business, and into Macquarie Global Investments, where he was part of a team responsible for creating the Macquarie Professional Series. Soon, he helped establish Macquarie Agricultural Asset Management, after the firm realised "that agriculture as an asset class was something that should be better than it was".

"We really felt like there was something more to Australia's agriculture than tax effectiveness," he says.

After a bit of research, a business was launched "growing and fattening sheep and cattle".

"As you can tell, we had no idea what to do other than that it was a good idea. So we went and hired some people that did know what they were doing, and then went and raised $1 billion from around the world to invest in Australian farmland," Rady says.

Foundation investors included the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, no less.

Rady refers to Macquarie as "the third school".

"And it was probably the most important, certainly from a business perspective," he says.

According to Rady, the firm gave him both the opportunity to back himself, and "enough rope to hang yourself".

"But if you're onto something, they also gave you enough rope to make it happen," he says.

Reflecting, he says his career journey suggests he is not "a specialist in anything".

"But I do like doing new stuff, and I do like getting stuff done. And I don't sit still for very long," he says.

"So if there's an opportunity to do something where we think there's a really strong social cause or a really strong proposition for investors, well then let's see if we can make it happen."

Like trying to help Australians live a better life in retirement.

Despite the challenges he experienced at Macquarie, or even his time at Iress or online trading solution Stake, Rady says it's clear - Allianz Retire+ is his "biggest challenge yet".

"And I say that because innovating in retirement is bloody hard. And you don't realise just how ingrained the culture of investing really is until you try and change it," he says.

The firm's current mission is to try and change the way people think about retirement, overturning decades and decades of social and cultural expectations.

He says that to get the answers to the most typical retirement questions, like what a super balance really means, he has to change the way people think.

"And that's actually a hard thing to do," he notes.

He says the patience of parent company Allianz is fortunate.

"The reason why it's different for me is it's not only the biggest challenge I think I've accepted in my career so far, but it's the one with the most social purpose," he says.

While things he's done in the past were great, the world's not a different place because they exist, he says.

"But the world can be different, if we get this right. We can make a genuine and fundamental difference to the retirement landscape in Australia if we can get this business right," he says.

"And that's what's exciting to me."

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