A global financial services group headquartered in Australia, Macquarie Group Limited is the world’s largest infrastructure asset manager and Australia’s top mergers and acquisitions advisor. Here’s how it grew over time.
From being established as a subsidiary of the UK's Hill Samuel & Co. Limited back in 1969 to becoming a truly global and diversified financial services group with corporate, institutional, government, and retail clients worldwide, Macquarie Group Limited is a force to be reckoned with. And what's more is that it only seems that it's getting started.
The company's four main operating groups include: Banking and Financial Services, Macquarie Asset Management, Commodities and Global Markets, and Macquarie Capital. Plus, it offers a range of versatile products, right from asset management, advisory, investment banking, and corporate banking to consumer banking, wealth management, and private equity, among a host of others.
Here's are a few stats from 2021 that depict the scale and stature of Macquarie Group:
Macquarie Group Limited is the world's largest infrastructure asset manager with assets under management of $737.0 billion. Yes, that's right. Plus, it is also Australia's top mergers and acquisitions advisor and one of the big five banks ruling the Australian financial landscape.
It is driven to create a lasting impact and leaves no stone unturned in empowering people to invest and innovate for the future. Macquarie Group helps its clients navigate change, realize opportunities, and offers short-term support, all the while driving forward activity to address key long-term challenges facing individuals, communities, and countries.
Let's now take a look at the incredible journey of Macquarie Group right from the time it was established to today…
Macquarie is a uniquely diversified business operating in 33 markets around the globe. It has stood out from the competition and made a name for itself by making the most of new opportunities, building expertise in an array of fields ranging from agriculture and energy to commodities and infrastructure, and expanding into new markets and regions.
It all began in December 1969, when Hill Samuel Australia (HSA) – Macquarie's predecessor organization and UK merchant bank – set up a wholly-owned subsidiary, Hill Samuel Australia Limited, in Sydney, Australia. The operations began with just three staff members to provide quality localized advisory and investment banking services to the rapidly-growing Australian market.
After becoming operational in 1970, HSA, under the leadership of Australian businessman, Stan Owens, turned a profit in its very first year of trading. The following year, HSA secured a record $60 million financing for John Lysaght Australia, a manufacturer of corrugated iron. All along, reinforcements were being made in the staff, and the company expanded across Australia by opening new offices in Melbourne in 1972 and Brisbane in 1975.
That's not all. In its very first decade, the company also took a number of business initiatives, including pioneering the foreign currency hedge market in Australia, starting gold bullion trading, and extending coverage to all listed commodities. Hence, it didn't come as a surprise when HSA became one of the first merchant banks to be awarded floor member status at Sydney Futures Exchanges.
With the new opportunities presented due to the financial market deregulation in Australia in the 1980s, HSA began preparations to transform into an independent Australian-based business. Hence, HSA submitted a proposal to change its shareholding structure and establish an Australian-owned and controlled bank, Macquarie Bank Limited. In 1985, HSA obtained the coveted Australian banking license and ushered in a new era of banking.
Continuous growth remained the hallmark of Macquarie. It became Australia's leading bullion trader, started 24-hour foreign exchange trading, initiated stockbroking and corporate leasing, expanded into funds managements, acquired Chemical Australia Ltd in 2988, and opened offices in London and Munich in 1989.
Growth via strategic acquisitions, expansion in new regions, and diversification of products and services portfolio continued in the 1990s. Macquarie bank acquired Boston Australia Ltd in 1990, Security Pacific in 1992, and the investment banking arm of Bankers Trust Australia in 1999. The company opened new offices in New York, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Beijing while also expanding in Australia by starting operations in Perth and the Gold Coast. In addition to this, Macquarie initiated its infrastructure investment business, private banking, and residential mortgage business during the same decade, setting itself up for success in years to come.
In 1996, Macquarie Bank Limited was listed on the Australian Stock Exchange and surpassed the market capitalization of a billion dollars, embarking on the journey to becoming one of Australia's largest and most renowned listed companies down the line.
From identifying a business opportunity in Australia and starting operations with just 3 people to surpassing a billion dollars in market capitalization and going public, Macquarie Group came a long way in its first three decades.
Exemplary leadership, bold risk-taking, being proactive to identify and pounce on opportunities, strategic acquisitions, domestic and international expansion, and diversification by providing an array of services enabled Macquarie to grow remarkably and become a force to be reckoned with.
The 21st Century marked the transition of Macquarie Group from a rapidly growing entity to a force to be reckoned with.
Expansion within Australia and globally coupled with acquisitions and provision of additional quality services as well as strengthening of the existing ones remained the core theme in the following two decades.
At the turn of the century, in 2000, Macquarie opened new offices in Seoul and Tokyo in its quest to expand its footprint in the growing Asian market.
Further bolstering the infrastructure business, Macquarie set up infrastructure investment funds in Europe, Korea, China, India, and the Middle East. At the same time, in 2004, Macquarie Infrastructure Corporation began trading on the New York Stock Exchange as Macquarie Infrastructure Company Trust. Just 3 years later, Macquarie Group Limited was formed as a Non-Operating Holding Company, changing the organizational structure. It paved the way for establishing a bank in the UK in 2008, Macquarie Bank International Limited.
There was a total of 10 acquisitions in 2004-2010, including that of:
In the last decade, 2011-2021, Macquarie has continued to build on its strengths, diversify, expand operations and grow – all without compromising on profitability.
In 2013, Macquarie got the Hong Kong Banking license, giving it the fuel it needed to ramp up its operations in Asia.
Following were the key acquisitions by Macquarie in the period 2011-2021:
In 2019, Macquarie celebrated its 50th anniversary with a $50 million philanthropic commitment. The next with the Covid-19 pandemic ravaging the world, Macquarie rose to the occasion and donated $20 million to help organizations working to provide relief to the people affected.
Today, Macquarie bank stands tall as a global financial services group, consisting of four groups, including Banking and Financial Services, Commodities and Global Markets, Macquarie Asset Management and Macquarie Capital. The company while firmly established, is at a crossroads of a
digital and technological revolution that is rapidly changing banking.
All businesses are unique with their own set of strengths and weaknesses – there's no doubt about that. Macquarie understands what it does best and what works for it, including expansion of operations, diversification of products and services, and growth through tactful acquisitions. Hence, without a shadow of a doubt, it continues to do just that.
In the 21st century, Macquarie grew exponentially on the back of tried and tested strategies. The company made an array of acquisitions, expanded operations in multiple cities, countries, and continents, and diversified the business through clear bifurcation and robust development of services, ensuring it delights its clients worldwide. Safe to say, it worked quite well for the company.
Macquarie has been one of the select-few banks that took the lead to transform digitally. From foreseeing that change will be business as usual, new banking models and competitive forces will arise to the critical role of customer experience, Macquarie saw it all coming. Hence, the bank has been committed to digital transformation from as early as 2013.
Modernizing the infrastructure, launching innovative applications, focusing on delighting the customers, leveraging data, and investing in risk management and simplification are some of the key steps that Macquarie took.
Macquarie Bank launched a suite of mobile banking tools enabling its customers to bank from the palm of their hands. It also offers online banking from anywhere, anytime, and any device. That’s not all. It even gives customers the option to pay via Apple pay and Google pay seamlessly through their phones or wearables. The company understands the importance of going digital in order to stay relevant. This is precisely why it turned to SalesForce to get a better understanding of its customers and handle customer complaints proactively. Plus, it teamed up with Kubernetes and Google to pursue a multi-cloud strategy, leveraging the cloud to automate the data center, reduce provisioning time, better manage significant workloads, and build a set of higher-order services to offer its customers the best digital experience possible to its customers.
The pressing questions, however, remain: Is all of this enough to address the alarming threat posed by digital banks and neo banks? Can Macquarie harness the power of digitization and embrace emerging technologies to build on its success or will it soon lose the battle against the ‘modern’ banks of today that better cater to the evolving needs and preferences of customers?
Macquarie faces intense pressures from the number of new entrants in the market, including neo banks and digital banks that are redefining banking and delighting customers to such as extent that they are abandoning banking with the conventional banks in favor of them. Losing market share and being driven out of business are the main costs of not digitizing.
Sure, it doesn’t help that neo banks and digital banks started early and have a competitive advantage over Macquarie. For instance, Volt Bank was established in 2017, and Up, the first digital bank in Australia, was also founded in the same year. Macquarie has indeed taken a number of steps to digitize but there’s no doubt that the bank has been slow and reactive rather than being proactive and innovative. Now, the stakes are even higher given the wide adoption of digital technologies and new players in the markets, including Volt, Up, Douugh (established in 2016), and archa (established in 2016), 86 400 (established in 2017), Hay (established in 2018), Pelikin (established in 2018), QPay (established in 2018), Revolut (launched in Australia in 2019).
It goes without saying that conventional banks are under siege. They are losing popularity, market share, and customers faster than ever. Digital is the new normal, and customers want simplified mobile-banking, enhanced digital financial products and services, and a seamless experience.
So, what are banks up to? Well, the bigger banks are taking the easy way out by acquiring fintechs, neobanks, and digital banks in their quest to survive and thrive. While this might seem a fine and wise strategy from the outside, it is anything but that. This is because banks are merely avoiding internal digital transformation away and focusing on short-term gains.
Instead of understanding the core issue, acknowledging, addressing, and adapting accordingly, banks are simply acquiring promising fintechs, neobanks, and digital banks. A select-few examples of this include National Australia Bank Limited (NAB) buying out 86 400 and Bendigo and Adelaide Bank planning to take over Feroicia, the parent company of digital bank, Up. In their quest to paint a rosy picture and portray themselves as the banks of the future, the banks have resorted to tactics that will help them avoid the difficult and painful yet necessary digital transformation.
The banking sector around the globe is the most adversely affected by cybercrimes. There were approximately 270 attacks per company in 2021, and cybercrimes cost up to $6 trillion globally. What’s even more alarming is that the banking industry was the major victim both in terms of the number of accounts and losses.
This highlights that banks are lagging behind when it comes to safeguarding against cybercrimes. With threats and risks continuing to increase due to the adoption of digital technologies and cybercrimes becoming more sophisticated in the digital world of today, banks are a sitting target. Plus, it doesn’t help that they haven’t invested in digital transformation and enhanced cyber capabilities.
Macquarie, similar to other major banks, hasn’t put in place effective and efficient systems to detect and thwart cyber-attacks. Yes, it has launched the Authenticator App which has indeed improved security considerably but that’s not enough. The bank needs to do more than this. Surely, it cannot afford to be a soft target by cybercriminals, including the North Korean hackers who targeted Macquarie Bank through a ransomware in 2017. Plus, the bank was also penalized for compromising on regulatory standards in 2021.
Legacy systems are the core platforms that banks use to support their back-end infrastructure to perform basic banking activities, including making new bank accounts, taking deposits, processing transactions, and initializing loans, among other tasks. The issue is that legacy systems are outdated and operating as well as maintaining them is time-consuming and costly. Even a minor task such as opening a bank account can be a hassle due to the legacy systems. From requiring documentation and visits to high processing times, traditional banks are bogged down due to their legacy systems. No wonder customers prefer neo banks and digital banks that can open accounts in a few seconds that, too, online.
Macquarie Bank is held back due to its ineffective, inefficient, and incapable legacy system, which rather than adding value, is posing additional risk and liabilities. At various instances within the past few years, Macquarie’s website, app, online and offline banking system were down due to one reason or another, causing inconvenience to customers and putting the financial system in jeopardy.
There’s no doubt that the gap between the neo banks and digital banks, and traditional banks is widening with each passing day. While the former are offering delightful user experiences as well as personalized products and services, all the while leveraging cloud-based solutions, artificial intelligence, robotics, and data analytics, the latter is stuck in the past, providing the same decades-old products and services that customers have had enough of.
One of the most critical yet least talked about factor that’s missing in conventional banks is the lack of digital culture. It hinders the banks from succeeding in their quest for internal digital transformation. In the majority of traditional banks, its quite evident that the organization, right from the senior management to the staff on the frontlines, are neither aligned with each other nor focused on harnessing the power of technology and digital tools to offer customers a better banking experience.
While the upper management is lacking the knowledge, skillset, and vision to go out-of-the-box to the employees resistant to change, bogged down due to the status, fearful, and comfortable with business as usual, there is an array of reasons why banks have been unable to build a culture of digitization.
Macquarie, too, faces the same issue. The organizational culture is resistant to change, and the governance structure holds the bank back due to the divisions, silos, and bureaucracy. No wonder, Macquarie’s staff is demotivated, and there’s a high turnover.
One thing is certain: Digital is the new normal, and if Macquarie wants to remain relevant and succeed, then it needs to ensure that its staff, right from the executives to those at the frontlines, are on the same page and committed to going the extra mile and do whatever it takes to transform digitally. So far, Macquarie bank is losing the race against digital banks and neo banks. Plus, it has a lot to catch up on.
Gone are the days of queuing up outside the banks to deposit and withdraw funds. Now customers want everything done, including sending, receiving investing their money in assets of their choice with just a click. This is precisely why fintech companies, neo banks, and digital banks are all the rage right now, as they cater to all the requirements of the modern consumers of today.
Mckinsey & Company pinpoints that almost 40% of customers use a fintech platform on a day-to-day basis, and Gartner predicts by 2030, almost 80% of conventional financial firms will be driven out of business. Clearly, going digital and leveraging technology is the need of the hour.
While Macquarie has indeed taken a number of steps to transform digitally, including redesigning its Mobile App, investing in digital infrastructure, and cloud-based solutions – the fact is that it’s not enough. There is still a wide gap between the modern banks of today and Macquarie. From personalized lending and payment services to buy now pay later solutions and advanced analytics, Macquarie is lagging in offering innovative digital products and services on-demand. Thus, customers have no option but to bank elsewhere.
Macquarie bank has everything it needs to review and reform. Capital, resources, experience, and expertise – they are all there for the bank to transform itself and embrace a new digital business model on the back of creative digital solutions, safe and secure banking, and streamlined customer journeys. However, time is against Macquarie bank. Will it be able to adapt, improvise, and win against neo banks and digital banks? Only time will tell.
Macquarie Bank is stuck between a rock and a hard place. Continue to do what it’s doing, and its very existence is threatened due to cut-throat competition by neo banks and digital banks. Change for the better by embracing digital transformation, although worth it, requires some difficult decisions, proactiveness, and time as well as effort.
The fundamental issues holding back Macquarie bank include its legacy banking system, countering sophisticated cyber-attacks, inability to provide innovative digital offerings, and lack of a digital culture. That being said, all these issues can be solved by implementing a digital-first business strategy.
How has Macquarie maintained unbroken profitability in over five decades? How has the company continued to grow exponentially despite the odds stacked against it?
The answer is simple: through a clear-cut vision and well-defined business strategy.
Macquarie is firmly committed to empowering people to innovate and invest for a better future. It believes that by empowering people, they can achieve their shared potential and create a promising future for all.
The company stands for opportunity, accountability, and integrity. These aren’t just words that remain etched on a paper or are hung on walls but rather core principles with which Macquarie conducts business and that guide the company forward, playing a role in every decision and day-to-day business operation.
Balancing opportunity and accountability while operating with integrity is a hallmark of Macquarie’s success and an integral factor in the company’s illustrious record of unbroken profitability.
Macquarie Group has defined a specific roadmap with clear goals to drive the business forward and achieve success.
Here’s what it entails:
Taking a conservative approach to risk, Macquarie has created a sound risk culture and robust risk management framework across all its business operations to better manage risks of all types.
The organization actively invests in building a sound risk culture by setting behavioral expectations of everyone from senior management to staff on the front lines, encouraging management to lead and execute, and monitoring, measuring, and reporting to gauge the effectiveness of the risk culture. From the systems and processes to people and policies, Macquarie has covered every aspect through its risk management framework to identify, measure, monitor, control, report, and mitigate internal and external risks.
For a financial services group as dynamic and diverse as Macquarie, a solid balance sheet is essential. Macquarie understands this and hence, always holds a particular level of capital to support its business through thick and thin and manages its capital base actively in lieu of changing business requirements. In addition to this, Macquarie is focused on growing the deposit base and establishing relationships with players in different funding markets.
Different businesses function differently and, depending on the external and internal conditions, deliver different results. Macquarie has not only safeguarded itself but also poised itself to thrive in all situations thanks to its set of annuity-style and markets-facing businesses that yield results in a wide range of market conditions. Over the span of decades, Macquarie has developed its annuity-style and markets-facing to ensure it provides steady returns to all stakeholders come what may.
To alleviate risks, expand, enhance brand image, and ensure profitability, Macquarie doubles down on diversification. Right from operating a set of businesses in a number of different locations to providing an array of services, including advisory, asset management, banking, and capital solutions, to the government, corporations, and retail clients, Macquarie does it all to diversify. This continues to bode well for the company.
Due to its deep expertise and extensive skillset, Macquarie has, over the years, made a name for itself as a specialist in various sectors, including real estate, renewables, energy, finance, infrastructure, and commodities. Being an authority and a leader in the market helps Macquarie run and grow its business successfully.
Continuous evolution is at the heart of Macquarie. The company not only looks for acquisitions and organic opportunities to expand in businesses adjacent to its areas of expertise but is also always looking for new business ideas and opportunities in different markets, regions, and industries. It has the flexibility to adapt to the portfolio mix, and it pursues growth opportunities with utmost zeal.
The principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion are firmly embedded in Macquarie’s people, practices, and programs. The company remains committed to building a workforce that reflects all aspects of diversity to bring all sorts of ideas, insights, and perspectives. In addition to this, Macquarie goes the extra mile to create an inclusive culture where people are respected for their uniqueness, valued for their contribution, empowered to achieve their potential, and celebrated for their differences. As a truly global organization, Macquarie understands the importance and necessity of cultural diversity and racial equity in the workforce. With people from 68 nationalities, who speak 76 languages, a board consisting of 46% women, and 97% global parental leave return-to-work rate, Macquarie shows that it walks the talk.
Macquarie is focused on creating long-term sustainable value for its stakeholders, and the company has identified eight core areas of focus, including Environmental and social risk management, Climate change, Environmental and social financing, Sustainability in direct operations, Client experience, People and workplace, Business conduct and ethics, and Community. From tackling climate change and investing in renewable energy to ensuring worker safety, respecting human rights, and doing business ethically, Macquarie remains steadfast in its commitment to do right by the people and the planet. The company has even set a net-zero carbon emissions target by 2050, almost 70% of the Macquarie staff occupies a sustainable office, 100 million people use Macquarie managed essential services, and the group has 14 GW green assets undermanagement.
Macquarie has a clear vision and goal of empowering people to invest and innovate for a better future. It stands for opportunity, accountability, and integrity – all three of which guide the company forwards. To help it achieve its optimistic goals, Macquarie has a well-defined strategy in place, consisting of managing risk proactively, maintaining a strong balance sheet, cultivating a favorable business mix, diversifying, leveraging expertise, and pursuing growth opportunities. All of these combined help Macquarie not only survive the trickly landscape of the corporate world but also thrive. All along, Macquarie makes sure it does business in a way that’s right for the people and the planet.
Macquarie Group has grown from a small team of 3 people operating in Sydney, Australia, to a diversified global team of over 17,000 employees working in 33 markets. Throughout its over five decades-long journey, the company has maintained unbroken profitability, continuously expanded, focusing on new opportunities both in terms of geography and products, and strived to innovate as well as invest for a better future. In the process, it has become a truly global financial services firm, the world’s largest infrastructure asset manager, and highly ranked M&A advisor.
Macquarie Group has been exceptional when it comes to identifying opportunities and pouncing on them. Right from the time the company HSA was set up in Australia and acquired the banking license during the deregulation of the financial industry to going international and being on the lookout for promising companies to collaborate with, Macquarie has time and again been ahead of others to seek and act on opportunities. This has helped the company evolve, achieve a competitive advantage, and remain profitable during both market upturns and downturns.
If there’s one thing that has propelled Macquarie to the top, it’s the long list of strategic acquisitions. From 1990 to today, Macquarie Group has continued to acquire companies all around the globe to capture synergies, enter new markets and industries right away, gain market share, expand and diversify, and develop enhanced capabilities that give it a leg up the competitors.
Any business, regardless of its size, history, and outlook, cannot grow without a rock-solid strategy. Period. For Macquarie, it’s about managing risk proactively, building a strong balance sheet, having the right business mix, diversifying, making the most of proven expertise, and pursuing growth opportunities relentlessly. This has served the company quite well and made it a force to be reckoned with.
Times have changed. Today, running a purpose-driven business that aims to do right by the people and the planet is not a choice. All stakeholders, including the customers, demand it. Macquarie is committed to building a better world by empowering people and investing for a better future. Donating for noble causes, ensuring diversity and inclusion, tackling climate change, and promoting green investment are some of the steps the company has taken to make a lasting impact.
Time is of the essence right now. With the rapid adoption of emerging technologies and people worldwide embracing digital, it is time that financial institutions, too, transform digitally. Otherwise, they will be left behind by the innovative digital banks and neo banks that offer ease of use, convenience, attractive digital offerings, and streamlined customer journeys. Macquarie Group has indeed taken a number of steps to remain relevant in the digital age, but there’s room to do more. Creating a digital-first culture, offering safe and secure banking, providing innovative new digital products and services, and reviewing as well as revamping its legacy banking system that’s bogging it down are some of the steps that need to be taken.