By Angus Thomson
With a premiership and 290 AFL games under his belt, Josh Kennedy’s on-field talents speak for themselves. But it was his intelligence and warmth off the field that stood out to his future boss on just his second visit to the office.
The then-Swans captain was dipping his toes in some stock analysis work with Wilson Asset Management in 2017 when company chair and Melbourne Demons fan Geoff Wilson quizzed him on what he thought of the fortunes of the rival clubs.
“He said, ‘Geoff, if I were you, I’d go long Swans and I’d short the Demons’,” Wilson recalls. The Swans went on to finish 6th that year and play finals, while the Demons finished 9th.
“He’s got extremely good judgment and, obviously, exceptional leadership skills … he’s got all the right ingredients to excel post-football.”
Kennedy will combine his passions for finance and youth mentorship in an ambassadorial role for Future Generation (FGX), the ASX-listed funds management vehicle set up by Wilson which donates one per cent of its assets each year to charities mainly focused on improving youth mental health.
Kennedy said the traits he has picked up across 13 years as part of the famous Bloods culture and his longstanding interest in personal finance and macroeconomics would stand him in good stead in the investment world.
“The nature of the business is very similar to professional sport, the mindset you have to have and that win-loss record … it doesn’t lie,” he said. “I’ve just been fortunate to have so many amazing role models, and been involved in such an amazing club, that have imparted so much of that wisdom on me.”
Future Generation has donated $65.2 million to youth-focused not-for-profits so far, and recently shifted its focus from funding mental health treatment to prevention, where it has invested in smaller-scale not-profits including ReachOut, anti-bullying organisation Project Rockit and mindfulness app Smiling Mind.
Kennedy first learned about Future Generation through his work with Wilson Asset Management, where he said he saw how the unique model had “benefited the community and in particular, the youth of Australia”.
Future Generation chief executive Caroline Gurney said Kennedy had shown an interest in helping youth at risk and his role would involve engaging with young people, shareholders and the 31 boutique fund managers who manage the company’s assets free of charge.
“For us, having somebody like Josh to go talk to them and go to talk to their shareholders about leadership and financial literacy and investing will be really powerful,” she said.
Kennedy announced his retirement last month but on Thursday pulled the pin on his attempt to overcome hamstring troubles for one last AFL finals campaign.
He said his focus is firmly on helping the youthful Swans deliver another flag for the faithful before starting the role with Future Generation in 2023.
“I’m going to take the time at the end of the season to sit back and reflect, spend time with my family and friends and think about where I can best add value in the years to come,” he said.