01/02/2012 - 10:02

Rosario emerges as GESB chief

01/02/2012 - 10:02

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Rosario emerges as GESB chief
MAKING THE MOVE: Howard Rosario says his move to a new role with GESB has been serendipitous. Photo: Grant Currall

THERE is no doubt the superannuation talent pool in Western Australian is pretty small.

Proof of that lies in the appointment as GESB CEO of Howard Rosario, who was until last year the head of the only other major super fund based in Perth, Westscheme, until it merged with big national player AusSuper on June 30.

Mr Rosario this week described his move to the new role as serendipitous. Who would have thought that, after 18 years running the state’s second biggest super fund, the role at WA’s biggest super fund would become vacant just as he found himself looking for a new job?

While it is unclear just how many candidates there were for the position, it is unlikely many locals had experience at the helm of a big super fund, albeit a relatively small one by national standards. At $3.4 billion, Westscheme was only about one quarter of the size of GESB, the state government employees’ superannuation fund.

But Mr Rosario’s background includes more than just running a superannuation fund. The past few years at Westscheme have involved the merger with AusSuper, a change management role that will be useful as GESB confronts its own challenges.

Mr Rosario’s experience with such strategic shifts is not isolated to superannuation. In the late 1980s, before he joined Westscheme, the federal government employed him as CEO of the authority running phosphate mining on Christmas Island.

When it was decided to shut the mine down, Mr Rosario’s role was to oversee that tricky process, as phosphate was the island’s big employer.

The WA government currently has plans to reform public servants’ superannuation, allowing its employees to choose their own super fund.

That move is expected to drastically alter the GESB operation.

That proposed change is vastly different from the privatisation, which almost went ahead in 2008 under the former state Labor government. The process was stopped due to concerns about the cost to taxpayers, a figure later to be estimated at as much as $467 million.

After closing off the privatisation option, the conservative state government made significant changes to the GESB board. In April last year, long-running GESB CEO Michele Dolin left the business and has since joined property developer Peet as chief financial officer.

That created the vacancy Mr Rosario has now filled.

“I know the pool in Perth is small,” Mr Rosario said, acknowledging that he did not expect to be running a major superannuation fund again when he deliberately chose to step away from Westscheme after the merger process was complete.

This decision, he said, was about ensuring there was no perception that he might be acting in anyone’s interests but the members.

“I always thought that if I had been in Sydney or Melbourne I could have had those (CEO) aspirations legitimately,” Mr Rosario said.

Mr Rosario took over GESB this week from acting-CEOs Fabian Ross and Larry Rudman. 

GESB chairman John Langoulant said the GESB CEO role was critical in overseeing the implementation of choice of superannuation fund for public sector employees and the possible move by GESB towards being a greater procurer of superannuation services.

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