Finance Your Super Future Fund pioneering chief executive Paul Costello has died at 61

Future Fund pioneering chief executive Paul Costello has died at 61

Paul Costello.
Future Fund pioneer Paul Costello has died at 61.
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Paul Costello, father, husband and pioneer of the Australasian not-for-profit retirement fund industry has passed away before his time at the age of 61 after struggling with cancer since October 2016.

Born to a farming family in the Canterbury region of New Zealand Paul, grew up among seven brothers and sisters. As the eldest child of Dave and Colleen Costello he was infused by the family culture which valued loyalty, social justice and strong personal values.

After finishing high school, he studied arts and went on to become a teacher and, for a time, a tour guide in South America, after doing a quick course in Spanish.

On a posting at Hutt Valley High School near Wellington he met fellow teacher Denise Ryan who would become his wife of 27 years and the mother of their two children, Harry and Caitlin. Paul initially stayed with teaching while Denise transferred to her career passion of journalism.

The couple moved to Sydney following Denise’s journalistic path and Paul taught at Scots College. Soon he did post graduate studies in business studies, a move that would soon come to define his life. They moved to Melbourne where Denise joined The Age while Paul took up a position with Superannuation Trust of Australia, now part of Australian Super, the country’s largest super fund.

Paul got the call to return to NZ in 2003 to serve as the inaugural CEO on NZ Super, the ground-breaking national wealth fund that brought superannuation to all New Zealanders . As a proud Kiwi, Paul very much relished the challenge of building such an important foundation in the security of his compatriots.

After three years Paul was called upon to serve in another pioneering role in Australia when the Howard government set up the Future Fund, a national wealth fund seeded by the sale of the government’s last tranche of shares in Telstra. As inaugural CEO Paul was charged with setting its financial foundations. He succeeded grandly with the $60 billion fund he started with now worth $180 billion.

Shortly after Paul joined, the Global Financial Crisis threatened disaster for the world economy and the Future Fund was at the front lines of Australia’s response. Then Finance Minister in the Rudd government, Lindsay Tanner, says he appreciated Paul’s support through the period. “I found him a class act in every respect. He was a rare combination of intellect and decency,” Mr Tanner said.

“He was very good at explaining his strategy and making sure I understood what was happening,” Mr Tanner said.

In fact Paul used the crisis to make hay while the sun shone. At the start of the GFC, the Future Fund was about two thirds in cash and was able to use this liquidity to buy distressed assets that would turn handsome profits down the track.

In later years Paul served as a member of the Reserve Bank of Australia’s Payments System Board and the Qantas Superannuation Fund. He served as independent chair of Queensland government investment fund QIC’s infrastructure investment committee, as a board member of insurance group AIA and the Salvation Army’s super fund.

“Paul was a pivotal figure in the super industry, and an enormous asset to the Qantas Super Board,” said Qantas Super chair Ann Ward.

Paul is survived by Denise, Harry, Caitlin, his father Dave, seven siblings and partners and 22 nieces and nephews.