Aware Super aims to grow property operations with Michelle McNally to lead the way

Michelle McNally, chief executive officer of Aware Real Estate.

Michelle McNally, chief executive officer of Aware Real Estate.

Aware Super has flagged big ambitions to grow its local property operations by tapping a new chief to run its property operations as the fund heads towards $250bn.

The lofty mark is not so far away for the country’s third largest super fund and is expected to hit the target in 2025.

Getting to this level will be aided by it setting up Aware Real Estate, which will be run by property veteran Michelle McNally.

Ms McNally has joined from ISPT, where she held senior executive roles, after jobs including general manager of property for Australia Post and senior positions at JLL.

Aware Real Estate will oversee the fund’s directly-owned local build-to-rent, industrial and office holdings. The move is part of a suite of measures the fund is pursuing so it can get more efficiencies and stronger returns for its 1.1 million members.

Aware already has a $1.5bn property portfolio of local industrial, office and residential assets. These include build-to-rent developments – including essential worker affordable housing – in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Canberra, and industrial sites in western Sydney.

Aware Super deputy chief investment officer Damien Webb said the incoming executive was the ideal leader for the new platform.

“Aware Real Estate is a fantastic platform for us because it is a platform we can grow,” he said. “We’re seeking to change the way we interact with the property market and other markets as well.”

Aware has 8-9 per cent of its assets allocated to unlisted property, split between managers and direct investments.

The new structure will give Aware more control over investments, how they are structured and how it exits them. The platform is being set up in partnership with private equity real estate house Altis, which will service the Australia-focused platform.

The cooling market could present opportunities.

“The mega trends around inflation and interest rates are turning,” Mr Webb said. “There should be more opportunities for really well funded, highly regraded sponsors like ourselves, who have lots of capital and deploy as a very long term investor.”

Ms McNally said that Aware would be more market facing and deal with more intermediaries. She added that Aware provided “patient capital” which could work “really well” alongside major companies and other organisations.

Most recently at ISPT, Ms McNally was general manager, investor solutions, market strategy and engagement, overseeing $20bn in funds under management. Her other roles at ISPT included general manager of the group’s $8bn Australian office portfolio.

At Australia Post, Ms McNally oversaw 1.8 million square metres of logistics, retail and office assets occupied by the postal authority.

Ms McNally‘s 25 years in property locally and overseas also includes several roles at ISPT, including general manager of ISPT’s $8bn Australian office portfolio, and general manager of investor solutions, market strategy and engagement across ISPT’s business, with $20bn funds under management.

Her experience spans various property sectors, markets and business settings, including a recent role as general manager of property for Australia Post, where she was responsible for one of Australia’s largest occupier portfolios, with more than 1.8 million square metres of logistics, retail and office assets.

Ms McNally is a director at Women’s Property Initiative, a community housing provider of long-term housing for women and children at risk of homelessness, and has served on various industry peak body committees and through her work with Ten Women Melbourne.