LeadingCompany takes a peak as The Power Index counts down the 10 most powerful people in Australian boardrooms.
Peter Mason has the superannuation accounts of thousands in his hands. He’s become a kingpin of the financial services industry since the merger of AMP and AXA last year. But Mason, outspoken on issues like Asian experience, faces big challenges on the board of David Jones.
When financial services behemoths AMP and AXA sealed their giant-killing $14.6 billion merger in March last year after a bloody Supreme Court battle, Peter Mason emerged as Australia’s preeminent financial services kingpin.
With a hulking $124 billion in funds under management, Mason’s chairmanship of the combined entity is of upmost importance for the millions of Australians who toss in their retirement savings and share portfolios with the expectation of massive returns. While the executive power lies with CEO Craig Dunn, one strategic misstep at board level could wreck hundreds of thousands of super accounts, and with them lives.
Mason, for years arguably the nation’s leading investment banker, slots in at number 10 on The Power Index’s directors list, chiefly for overseeing a burgeoning international conglomerate that last year chalked up an impressive $491 million profit, up from $459 million the year before. But he’s also the incoming chair of struggling retailer David Jones and is on telecommunications colossus Singtel’s board.
He told The Power Index he has spent a large portion of 2012 managing the transition to what is undoubtedly now the “fifth pillar” of the banking system, a market leader in retail super, managed funds and retirement income.
“The real objective was the integration of AXA and AMP and that’s been coming through as the results show very comfortably and that’s a very satisfying thing for all of us … it was a very big task,” he said.
The merger could ultimately become a career highlight for the softly-spoken 66-year-old, who now has another feather in his cap after being elevated to the chair of DJs following the shock resignation of Bob Savage at its annual general meeting on Friday (Savage insists he wasn’t pushed).
While Mason is ranked at just 195 on the Optimus Market Capitalisation Influence Index (which calculates the total ASX market capitalisation of his three ASX boards) and 142 on the MCII boardroom connections list (see a graphical representation below), his influence stretches much wider.
Australian Shareholders’ Association chief Vas Kolesnikoff told The Power Index that while Mason had “slipped under the radar … and that’s a good thing”, there were challenges across AMP and DJs that could cause workflow problems. DJs posted a 40% profit slump this year, from $168.1 million to $101.1 million, as consumer confidence dived. And its online strategy has been stillborn. “He’ll have his work cut out sorting out the mess,” Kolesnikoff said.
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