Written on the 19 August 2016 by Laura Daquino


BLUE Sky Alternative Investments (ASX: BLA) managing director Mark Sowerby is leaving the company he founded on a high note, recording a 57 per cent profit rise.

Ten years after starting the company, Sowerby (pictured) is handing over the reins to Blue Sky Alternative Investments' current chief operating officer Robert Shand.

The news comes as Blue Sky posted a net profit after tax of $16.3 million on the ASX today, from a revenue that increased by $20 million from the prior corresponding period to $63 million.

Sowerby will remain an active adviser to the business and a significant shareholder. He says he is stepping down to spend time with his family and working on social impact projects.

He's leaving Blue Sky in good shape, which today has more than $2 billion in assets under management and has grown its market capitalisation to nearly $600 million since listing on the ASX in 2012.

"As a founder you have a limited life cycle and the challenge is to not go too early or too late," says Sowerby.

"My decision reflects the ongoing growth and performance we see in the business and team, the foundations of a strong balance sheet and investments, and the incredible structural tailwinds in the sector. The last few years we have grown at 50 per cent per annum, and we see no reason for that to slow down.

"The business is in amazing shape. I thought I may as well just enjoy the time with my family, the most important piece. My boys are now 12 and 14 and I really don't want to miss these years."

Sowerby saw who 'the hungry ones' were in the company while he was away last year preparing for his English Channel swim.

"The team has essentially been taking care of the business anyway," he says.

"I didn't know when I would get to this point, but we're now at a point where we have about 5-10 years mapped out for the company and really know who our talented people are in the business and know they really are hungry."

Shand is Brisbane-raised and in his early 30s, around the same age that Sowerby started the business.

"The best time to really dive in is your mid- to late-30s when you still have your energy and enough experience to make a difference," says Sowerby.

"Robert is a great talent with real clarity of thought - he is fantastic at making 100 decisions a day, and that's what we need. He's a natural leader.

"The Blue Sky team has now unquestionably earned the right to take over the business. They are hardworking, intelligent, empathetic and ethical. We have a strong core group and have identified around 20-30 true superstars coming through the business.

"Our staff turnover has been less than 2 per cent for the last three years, testament to our culture. Alternatives attract a different kind of person.

"The Australian funds management industry has $2.6 trillion in funds under management today and this is anticipated to grow to $4.1 trillion over the next five years. By 2021, alternative assets are expected to be the largest investment class in Australia."

Blue Sky chair John Kain says Sowerby has achieved a remarkable feat building the company from the ground up.

"Mark's entrepreneurial vision and drive have shaped the business. To his great credit, Mark has built an extraordinary team with multiple layers of talent and experience, a team which can renew itself and continue to repay our investors' trust through the decades ahead," says Kain.

"Rob's three years as COO give him an unparalleled understanding of what makes our business tick. His leadership, vision and clarity of decision-making qualify him to drive Blue Sky and build on the foundations of our first 10 years."

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