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Opinion

Macquarie’s new CEO strikes a blow for asset management – and women

The announcement on Thursday that Shemara Wikramanayake will replace Nicholas Moore as CEO of Macquarie Group in November is significant for two reasons.

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The first is that it underlines the fact that Macquarie is now far more of an asset manager than an investment bank.

Wikramanayake has run the asset management unit, with A$495.1 billion under management, for a decade. In the 2018 financial year, Macquarie Asset Management accounted for 33% of group net profit, the biggest of the five constituent businesses at Macquarie; it is now among the top 50 asset managers in the world.

During Wikramanayake’s tenure – she took over the business in 2008, but has been with Macquarie since 1987 – the whole bank has been reinvented, with 70% of profits now coming from what Moore calls annuity-style businesses (asset management, corporate and asset finance, banking) and only 30% from capital markets-facing businesses (Macquarie Capital, commodities and global markets).

That’s how it’s going to stay. Businesses such as asset management are predictable, robust and generate strong and diversified income streams. Her appointment simply cements it.

The other significance is that, even 10 years on from Gail Kelly taking the CEO job at Westpac, women are still rare at the chief executive level in Australian financial services.

Welcome addition

Wikramanayake, a woman of Sri Lankan heritage, is a welcome addition to the top table – and with Macquarie perhaps the country’s ultimate meritocracy, there is nothing token about it.




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