Apart from being a greatly respected and influential leader in the superannuation industry, Michael Dwyer is clearly someone who inspires many and engenders a great deal of warmth and admiration from both within and outside the industry.
Dwyer is the CEO of First State Super, as well as a director of ASFA, chairman of their Education and Professional Accreditation Review Committee, and a former chairman of the ASFA NSW State Executive. Since his appointment in 2004, Dwyer has taken First State Super from 450,000 members and $9 billion in funds under management to $95 billion on behalf of 800,000 members and clients. Under his leadership the fund has achieved many historic milestones, including public offer status in 2006 and the merger with Health Super.
Dwyer was also inaugural chairman of FEAL (Fund Executive Association Limited) where he is currently a director.
Denis Carroll, former CEO AvSuper and a co-founding director of FEAL, believes Dwyer’s integrity, honesty and sincerity are beyond reproach and said that “I don’t think I’ve ever worked with anyone that is as purely driven with the best of intent as Michael Dwyer”.
In October 2012, Dwyer was appointed by the Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation to the Super Stream Advisory Council. He is also a director of the Sydney Financial Forum.
Dwyer received outstanding industry service awards from Selecting Super in 2008 and the ASFA Distinguished Service Award in 2012. He also received FEAL’s prestigious Fund Executive of the Year Award in 2012 which recognises outstanding leadership, innovation and achievement by a superannuation fund executive.
In 2011, Dwyer led the team that successfully completed the superannuation industry’s largest-ever merger between First State Super and Victorian-based fund Health Super.
Colleague and friend Ian Silk, CEO AustralianSuper, saw the merger as an example of Dwyer’s ability to identify an opportunity and seize it on behalf of members. “The normal challenges of a merger were accentuated by the fact that the two funds were in different States. The success of the merger for members of the funds is testament to Michael’s people and management skills,” Silk said.
Dwyer’s previous roles include general manager and fund secretary at Asset Super, where he worked for more than ten years, and four years as marketing manager for the NSW State Authorities Superannuation Board.
Unsurprisingly, his contribution to the superannuation industry has been acknowledged formally on many occasions; however his work and influence are far reaching.
In 2011, Dwyer was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for services to superannuation and his work with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency’s national partner in Australia. He was then appointed as chairman of Australia for UNHCR in 2018 after having been a board director for the organisation since its establishment in 2000.
After first seeing the UNHCR’s work done on the ground in East Timor in 2002, Dwyer was determined to improve the lives of the world’s most vulnerable people and become an influential advocate for refugees. Recently he accompanied a business delegation to Turkey and Lebanon to meet with Syrian refugees and observe how Australian donations are helping UNHCR deliver protection and humanitarian relief. He has been instrumental in rallying support for UNHCR from the investment and financial sectors, such as working to gain corporate support for the annual World Refugee Day Breakfast which has raised over $1.6m over the years to assist programs such as livelihoods training, malaria prevention, reducing rates of infant mortality and improving health outcomes for newborns.
In September this year Dwyer joined world leaders at the United Nations Headquarters in New York supporting Dr Bronwyn King’s launch of The Tobacco Free Finance Pledge, calling on other major global financial organisations—to join First State Super and other founding signatories—to sign the pledge and to divest tobacco from their investment portfolios.
First State Super was the first major Australian fund to divest from tobacco in 2012. More than just an Australian issue, Dwyer sees this as a human story where “we, as a global community, across all sectors have recognised that it is time to take action on an issue that kills millions of people each year.”
With over 30 years’ experience in financial services, Dwyer has been widely recognised for his strength in leadership and his impact across the superannuation industry.
David Elia, CEO Hostplus, director ASFA and former director FEAL, said he genuinely believes Dwyer’s leadership has been among the most visible and influential in promoting and growing the superannuation sector. And, while achieving consistently impressive results for his fund members over many years, it is his resolute focus on the broader vision and best interests for the superannuation industry that made him an outstanding professional, mentor and thought leader.
“Michael is an exemplary bearer of integrity and is highly respected as a thought leader and role model to his staff, the members he represents and our industry,” Elia said.
Jane Perry, chair of FEAL and former CEO Qantas Super describes Dwyer as an “authentic leader” who “genuinely puts members first and is passionate about upholding the highest standards for our industry”.
Having first met Dywer in the days when she worked as a service provider to First State Super and then having been fellow directors of ASFA, FEAL and SFF, they are now good friends. Perry says that “Michael has touched the lives of so many people in our industry; he is held in the highest regard.”
Mentor and diversity champion
A keen advocate of flexible arrangements to help women in the workforce, Robyn Petrou, CEO Energy Super, has known Michael for over 20 years and says his incredible empathy and support for working women sets him aside from others. Speaking from firsthand experience, she said she was grateful for the “the non-conventional and flexible work hours afforded to her after the birth of her triplets, 15 years ago when she worked at Asset Super.
“He still sends them a birthday message each year!“ she said.
Michael Dwyer’s friends and colleagues, unanimously convey the impression that he is a person of integrity where words like respect, good manners and excellent character are widely used. Renowned for his calm and thoughtful approach, his support, industry experience and wisdom are widely valued
Howard Rosario, former CEO Westscheme & GESB, former FEAL chair credits Dwyer’s strong commitment to Christian values that underpins whatever he does. Rosario, who first met Michael Dwyer in the mid-1990s when Dwyer was the CEO of Asset Super, said he looked on with admiration as Dwyer transitioned to First State Super and led it to its current eminence. “To me, Michael epitomises Servant Leadership. He respects everyone he works with and treats them with dignity to bring out the best in them with clear expectations of their accountability, so that together they build highly competent and capable institutions to serve the best interests of members.”
Don Luke, former CEO SunSuper concurs, describing Dwyer as “A strong and effective leader and also incredibly humble.”
“Michael is a lovely mix of creatively with a willingness to work together and embrace new ideas from others,” he said.
Fellow of ASFA
Dwyer became a Fellow of ASFA in 2002. As well as being a director of ASFA and a member of various board committees, over the years he has been a member of the ASFA Policy Committee, the Member Services Committee, ASFA Conference Committees and Keynote Advisory Groups and has been a chair of the NSW Executive Committee. He has also been highly involved with ASFA Learning activities and has been chair of the ASFA Education and Professional Accreditation Review Committee.
During the time of his involvement with the NSW Executive Committee, the monthly lunches are widely remembered as “fantastic vibrant events” where Dwyer, being “extremely well connected”, was able to organise an array of inspirational high profile speakers.
Former ASFA chair, Lorraine Berends, remembers these times fondly, when she worked with Dwyer. She describes him as a ‘go-to person’. “When you want something done, you go to Michael Dwyer.” From the days of working with him at the outset of FEAL when she first moved to Sydney, and also at Australia for UNHCR, they remain firm friends and still enjoy regular conversations which, she laughs, are mostly about their grandchildren these days.
Highly valued for his contribution to the superannuation industry, it is clear that Michael Dwyer has many friends. Many of them however wonder how he is able to juggle so many professional commitments and stakeholder engagements: yet still always makes time for individual relationships. In appreciation for his loyalty and commitment to the industry, ASFA would like to thank Michael and joins his friends and colleagues in wishing him all the best for a wonderful retirement.
Wishing Michael all the best for a wonderful retirement from First State Super
I have been known to say that he is almost too good. He is almost faultless! It makes one very humble to know someone like Michael. He is the real deal.
For those aspiring to succeed in the superannuation industry, Michael has set the benchmark at the highest level.
Denis Carroll, former CEO AvSuper, a co-founding director of FEAL
Michael is one of the most authentic leaders I know. He genuinely puts members first and is passionate about upholding the highest standards for our industry. Michael has touched the lives of so many people in our industry; he is held in the highest regard. I wish Michael the very best in the next phase of his journey.
Jane Perry, chair of FEAL, former ASFA director, and former CEO Qantas Super
He is a great friend as well as an inspiring colleague. I wish him and Janelle well on their next journey.
Robyn Petrou (fellow of ASFA), CEO Energy Super, protégée, former colleague ASSET Super
It is a privilege to know him and to be the heart-warmed recipient of the cheery “My friend!” accompanied by his merry smile and the Irish twinkle in his eye.
Howard Rosario (fellow of ASFA), former CEO Westscheme & GESB, former FEAL chair
Michael is an exemplary bearer of integrity and is highly respected as a thought leader and role model to his staff, the members he represents and our industry. I know of no one more deserving of being recognised for such outstanding service to our industry.
David Elia (fellow of ASFA), CEO Hostplus, director ASFA, former director FEAL
Michael has always been able to achieve things across a huge spectrum. I think in part this is because he can craft arrangements to achieve that cliched term of a ‘win-win’ outcome.
Ian Silk, CEO AustralianSuper, and former ASFA director
When talking about Michael Dwyer, it’s difficult to know where to start. I’ve enjoyed being part of the journey. There’ll be so many wonderful legacies after he retires.
Lorraine Berends (fellow of ASFA), former ASFA chair, and life member
Michael has always thought that super funds were abut more than just investment. It was more about helping members, about the teaching and advice, the learning and the education side of helping people on their journey to retirement.
Don Luke, former CEO SunSuper