Chairman, Industry Funds Management
Born in: Weaven grew up in Northcote, in Melbourne's inner-north
Friends: Lindsay Tanner | Steve Bracks
Home Town: Melbourne
Garry Weaven is not your typical financial high-flyer. For a start, he's an ex-trade unionist. He's also a former radical left-winger, having been a member of the Socialist Club during his time at La Trobe University in the early 1970s.
Back then the campus was such a hotbed of Vietnam War protest and activist ideas, even the term "Labor Club" was considered right wing:
"They didn't have a Labor Club back in those days," Weaven tells The Power Index. "They were too idealistic for a Labor Club at La Trobe."
He's also an economics graduate who moved through the ranks of the union movement to become one of the most influential figures in Australia's $1.4 trillion superannuation investment pool.
Weaven's got a major say over the retirement savings of millions of people. As chairman of a multibillion-dollar super empire, he's a big player in the ever-growing super funds network. And that makes him an increasingly powerful individual.
After all, he's got plenty of credibility. Weaven was one of the architects of superannuation, having served time as assistant secretary at the ACTU not long after it signed the accord with the ALP (which kicked off super in the 1980s). Back then he teamed up with secretary Bill Kelty to help build industry super funds for workers. In 1984, only 34% of Australians had super. Today that figure is closer to 80%.
Former Labor Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner says Weaven is an example of how people can "achieve major change" without having to be elected to parliament.
"There are very few former union officials who have contributed as much to the labour movement and the well being of working people over the past three decades as Garry Weaven," Tanner tells The Power Index.
Born and bred in working class Northcote, in Melbourne's inner-north, Weaven followed in his truck-driving father's footsteps and joined the old Municipal Officers Association straight out of university as a researcher, eventually becoming assistant secretary at the ACTU in 1986.
He credits his rapid rise through the unions as being a major factor in where he is today.
"You can develop quite a lot of influence in and authority pretty quickly coming up in the union movement," says Weaven. "There were very few graduates in the ranks of the executive staff of the unions in those days, so you could acquire responsibility fairly rapidly."
But that was only the start of it. Weaven's career took a left turn when he left the ACTU to join Westpac as a financial consultant in 1990, before re-joining the union fray to set up Industry Funds Services in 1994.
That was back in super's early days and IFS was an organisation that provided funds management, banking and legal support to the industry super funds that grew out of the union movement.
IFS eventually became Industry Funds Management, a business owned by the giant industry super funds like MTAA Super, Cbus and HostPlus. Today, IFM invests about $30 billion worth of superannuation on behalf of pension funds, with a focus on "nation building" infrastructure assets like airports, toll ways and energy companies.
While he's retired from his day-to-day duties these days, Weaven still maintains an active role in the business as chairman. A keen Essendon supporter and part-time poet (he's never been published), the sixty-two year-old Weaven lives in Melbourne's CBD and walks to work.
And he says he takes his role as a guardian of people's retirement very seriously, especially in tough periods for investors such as the past few years.
"It's very unfortunate with the global financial crisis, investment returns have been very poor recently," says Weaven. "Longer term returns are much better, but for many people a fair bit of their experience has not been great. So that is a shame."
One of the areas where Weaven sees opportunity for growth is renewable energy. He's been a long-time advocate of superannuation funds using their financial might to invest in businesses that take into account the science of climate change.
This belief led Weaven and IFM to invest in Pacific Hydro, a clean energy company which garnered significant attention when the business purchased it outright for $788 million in 2005.
Weaven is still a director in the company and has been frustrated by the lack of political action on climate change, as well as the reticence of super funds to accept climate science and invest accordingly.
In a speech given earlier this year, Weaven said he believed there was a "lethal core of entrenched vested interests" in Australia and around the world who "choose to frustrate action" instead of choosing to act.
To try and help convince people he's serious, IFM is planning to run a $2 million advertising blitz later this year promoting its investments – including clean energy.
It was reported earlier this year that the ads had led to some disquiet in the union-aligned industry funds movement, especially with the current controversy swirling around the Gillard government's carbon tax legislation.
Weaven says the press was "ill-informed" and that the centrepiece of the ad campaign is to a spruik for all of IFM's infrastructure investments, not just clean energy.
It's not the first time Weaven has sought public support for his business. Back in 2005, when faced with an onslaught from the retail super funds, IFM ran a series of ads pushing the cost benefits of industry funds over their rivals (you might remember them: "her fees are higher, her fees are lower").
Those ads caused a stir at the time, but they worked. Research showed IFM had swung public perception toward the industry funds, at the expense to retail funds.
And even though Weaven has made a few enemies along the way, particularly amongst his rivals in the super sector, he's still got plenty of friends amongst the true believers.
He's maintained his ties with the ALP as well, having served for a three-year period as president of the party's Progressive Business fundraising arm.
Former Victorian Labor premier and current Cbus chairman Steve Bracks is a fan, telling the Australian Financial Review last year that Weaven still has influence with ministers and government departments when it come to super:
"He has quite a bit of influence, quite a bit and he's trotted out from time to time if the government needs him on some of those issues as well."
As for Weaven, he's not ready to improve his golf game just yet ("I struggle badly around a golf course," he says). He still has the zeal to keep growing industry fund infrastructure investments.
And why not, with a rise in the super guarantee on the table and the overall investment pool expected to hit $4 trillion by 2030, it's an area of finance that is only getting bigger.
"It's a huge amount of money," says Weaven. "And it needs to be channeled in ways that maximise returns but also maximise the nation's net benefit."