The Victorian Senator will assist fellow Melburnian, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, implement the Coalition’s response to the banking royal commission and the Productivity Commission’s superannuation report.
Hume’s past suggests she will be a pragmatic policymaker who understands that a well-functioning financial system is vital for the economy and people’s retirement incomes.
Chris Larsen, who poached Hume from NAB to Rothschild in 1999 and later hired her again in 2008 for a brief stint at Deutsche, says she has “a good read on the industry and a lot of history and context.”
“Technically, on asset classes and financial markets, she was terrific,” says Larsen, now chief executive of Ironbark Asset Management. “But she could also transcend the client relationship too.”
Since being elected to the Senate in 2016, Hume has been chair of the Senate economics committee, leading reviews on a diverse range of tax, superannuation, financial regulation, fintech and other economic issues.
Hume believes that free markets generally deliver better results for business and a more prosperous society.
Writing for The Australian Financial Review last year, Hume warned of potential “unintended consequences” from the banking royal commission, including tighter credit restrictions for borrowers.
“Reform in the banking sector may be necessary, but knee-jerk policy responses – both prudential and compliance – are to be avoided,” Hume wrote. “The need for business-friendly policy is urgent in order to secure economic growth and jobs.”
Practical and ideology-free
In superannuation, Hume will be forced to straddle the divisions between some of her Coalition parliamentarians and former colleagues at industry superannuation funds.
Ian Silk, Hume’s former boss at AustralianSuper, says she is “very practically minded” and not hostile like some of her colleagues towards union and employer-aligned industry super funds.
“She has always struck me as a very pragmatic person who is interested in the system working for members, not for the agents and the super funds,” Silk says.
Sunsuper director Georgina Williams, who has known Hume since studying commerce together at Melbourne University in the early 1990s, says the new Assistant Minister is “not shrouded by ideology” and is “very able to cross the divide” between retail and industry funds.
That said, Hume as a Senator appears to have toughened her public rhetoric on the responsibilities of industry superannuation funds.
Some observers interpret her gesticulation as partly a way to shore up her Liberal bona fides among conservative colleagues.
Hume has backed the Coalition’s attempts – rejected by Labor and some industry funds – to ensure there are more independent directors on industry fund boards beyond union and employer representatives.
She has also blasted union-appointed super fund directors for trying to use member capital for “industrial relations stand-over tactics” against companies.
“Given the compulsory nature of superannuation – workers are compelled to relinquish nearly one dollar in every 10 earned – government has a duty of care to get the settings right,” Hume previously wrote for the Financial Review.
Hume is well connected, particularly among the Melbourne business establishment and funds management community.
Catherine Walter, who was chair of Federation Square in Melbourne when Hume was a director, says Hume has “real world experience which is critically important and helpful.”
Businessman Peter Yates, who first met Hume on the board of the Royal Children’s Hospital, said he found her to have great “EQ” and “cut through”.
“She doesn’t waste time, asks the right questions and comes prepared,” Yates says.