Managing director and president of Australia’s Future Fund, Mark Burgess leads a dynamic sovereign wealth fund with A$82.4 billion ($85.1 billion) in assets and a reputation for savvy risk management. Launched in May 2006 with just A$18 billion, Future Fund — which kept most of its assets in cash during the financial crisis — went on to build a highly integrated, risk-weighted portfolio of investments. Under the guidance of founding CIO David Neal, it also broke with SWF tradition by challenging its staff to look beyond their particular areas of expertise and think about risk and return across the total portfolio. The result: an innovative organization known for its flexible investment style and its ability to deploy assets throughout diverse sectors and geographies.

That flexibility drew Burgess, previously CEO of Sydney-based investment firm  Treasury Group (and a former vice chairman and CEO for Europe and the Middle East for Credit Suisse Asset Management in London), to join the fund in 2011. Over the past three years, Future Fund has posted an annualized return of 7.9 percent. Burgess, 50, recently spoke to London Bureau Chief Loch Adamson about the fund’s commitment to long-term investing, the challenge of working to an ambitious absolute-return benchmark and the hazards that remain in still-volatile but slowly recovering global markets.

Future Fund Managing Director Mark BurgessWhat is your top priority as Future Fund’s chief executive?