News ≫ Macquarie Bank makes Shemara Wikramanayake its first female CEO

Macquarie Bank makes Shemara Wikramanayake its first female CEO

Jul 30, 2018
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The retirement of Mr. Moore and the appointment of Ms. Shemara Wikramanayake will make her the country’s top female executive at a time of intense regulatory and economic headwinds for financial companies. The elevation of Ms. Wikramanayake, who has worked at Macquarie since 1987 and ran its $495 billion asset management arm for more than a decade, marks a new phase for a company known for its record of beating profit expectations.

“It’s always a challenging decision but after 10 years it felt like the time is right,” Mr. Moore said on an analyst call before the bank’s annual meeting. “With Shemara, we have a really outstanding successor.” Macquarie shares fell 2.8 percent to $121.42 (at 1:00 pm AEST) after the bank coupled its announcement of a CEO change with a forecast of flat profit growth in 2019.

The shares have surged 134 percent over the 10 years under Mr. Moore’s leadership as the bank almost continually grew profits and beat forecasts. Ms. Wikramanayake’s unit delivers about a third of its profit, according to Macquarie.

Born to a Sri Lankan father, Ms. Wikramanayake attended school in London, before her family moved to Sydney. She attended Sydney’s prestigious Ascham girl’s school, then went on to study commerce and law at the University of New South Wales. Ms. Wikramanayake received her Bachelor’s Degree & LLB from the University of New South Wales. She joined Macquarie in 1987 and worked at Macquarie Capital for 20 years before being appointed Head of Macquarie Asset Management in 2008. As Head of the Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets business in New York for four years from 2004, she led the establishment of Macquarie’s infrastructure and private equity funds in the US and Canada. Before that, she led Macquarie Capital’s prudential team for four years, reviewing all transactions in which the business took a principal position. She was the bank’s second-highest paid person in the 2018 financial year, its annual report revealed. Furthermore, she earned a total $16.7 million, less only than Mr Moore who took home $18.9 million.

Fairfax Media reported last year that the 56-year-old had never sold a Macquarie share in her 30 years with the company. Ms. Wikramanayake takes the role at the start of what is expected to be a tough phase for financial services companies in Australia.

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