Like many other Qantas staff, aviation was in the blood for Mark Thorpe: with his brother a pilot and his sister a flight attendant, dinner time conversations growing up often turned to flying.

But despite the family affiliation and his own interest in aviation, Mark first decided to take a job as an actuarial cadet after school because, well, he liked maths a lot.

Still, the interest in aviation was a constant, and when his brother told him about the Qantas pilot cadet program, Mark decided to make the change.

“It was something that had always been of interest to me, so I thought, what do you have to lose?” he said. “I think it also served me well to have a foundation in another career before going into aviation.”

Indeed, his previous career came in handy when Mark was asked to stand in as an alternate on the Qantas Super Board for the previous Group A Director in 2007. An alternate can be appointed to take a director’s place if they plan to be absent from board or committee meetings for a period of time.

Mark was then elected as the new Group A Director in 2008, representing Qantas Super’s Technical Aircrew members.

Though he had worked regularly with super fund trustees in his role as an actuary, Mark said joining the Board highlighted how quickly the world of super was changing.

“The attention to compliance and good governance had really evolved since I’d last interacted with Trustees,” he explained. “I could quickly see that the Qantas Super Board was run very well, and management was very member-focused.”

Serving on the Investment Committee and as Chair of the Insurance Committee, Mark said the diversity of a Director’s role also highlighted just how much super funds do beyond helping members save for a comfortable retirement.

“It’s been great to be part of a super fund that has helped people, particularly people who’ve become unwell or have lost family members. Having insurance in place to pay benefits to help people who’ve been in difficult circumstances has been something that I’m personally proud of,” Mark said.

Though Mark was scheduled to step down from the Board in mid 2020, having reached the maximum tenure length of 12 years, the Board voted last May to extend his final term for an additional 12 months. It was unanimously agreed that retaining Mark’s deep knowledge and experience would be of tremendous value as the Board worked through the COVID-19 crisis.

As he’d joined the Board just ahead of the global financial crisis (GFC) in 2008, staying on to help to steer the fund through the events of 2020 was a full circle moment of sorts.

“We learned a lot through the GFC, putting policies and procedures in place to help us in the event of another financial crisis,” Mark explained. “I never thought I’d actually see that play out, but I did, and all the measures we implemented really helped us through COVID-19.”

As he prepares to step down in June, Mark said he’s proud of everything the Board has achieved to help members.

“Everything we’ve done, we’ve done as a team.”

Richard Garner was recently elected to take over from Mark as Group A Director. Richard is now a Director designate and will be formally appointed to the Board later this year.

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