Ask Nicholas Moore what he will do next after 32 years at Macquarie Group and he describes something that sounds uncannily like a miniature version of Macquarie.
“One of the many great things about Macquarie, obviously, is the people and the new ideas and the new businesses that we develop and work with clients who are developing over the years,” he says.
“I’d like to continue to be exposed to new ideas and people in particular, who have got passions and have got things they want to fulfil, and help them, to the extent that I can.”
Of course, whatever he does it will have to be on top of his existing commitments including the chairman of the Sydney Opera House Trust and Screen Australia, a director of the Centre for Independent Studies and chairman of the University of NSW Business School Advisory Council.
Moore’s idea of a one-man investment house sounds similar to the path followed by his predecessor Allan Moss, who became an active investor in technology start-ups, offshore private companies and industrial property after handing over to Moore in mid-2008.
The GFC transformation
When the handover from Moss to Moore was announced in November 2007 Macquarie shares were riding high and trading at about $80 each. The global financial crisis meant it took three years for Macquarie to regain the $80 a share mark.
Moore’s performance through the GFC defined his 10½ years as chief executive of Macquarie. He led the evolution of the group’s business model from a reliance on volatile markets-facing businesses such as investment banking to a more stable earnings machine with several annuities-style businesses.
He leaves the building on Friday with an impressive financial track record against his name. The total shareholder return since his first day as CEO is 300 per cent. Annuity-style business now dominates the profit and international income is 67 per cent of the total.
Under Moore’s leadership Macquarie made several counter-cyclical acquisitions including Constellation Energy, Delaware Investments, AIG planes, Cargill’s North American power and gas business and the Green Investment Bank, now called Green Investment Group. Macquarie is now the third largest energy trader in the United States.
Moore has immense confidence in his successor, Shemara Wkramanayake, who has worked at Macquarie since 1987. For the past decade Wikramanayake has been running the funds business which now has $550 billion in funds under management.
Moore says working alongside her made him very comfortable with her “intelligence, work ethic, analytical ability and judgment”.
“I am very pleased in terms of the recognition that Shemara has [in financial markets] in terms of her capability, her competence, her knowledge of the business and her ability,” he says.
Moore earns high praise
Wikramanayake says Moore will be remembered for distilling the Macquarie culture into three words – opportunity, accountability and integrity.
“I think he’s also taught me about constantly evolving and challenging what we do,” she says. “I don’t think any individual has made an impact on the organisation the way Nicholas has, moving us into new frontiers. He’s never stopped going forward.”
During his tenure as CEO Moore earned the respect of his peers and of the political class. Both the Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg and shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen were full of praise for Moore during interviews with The Australian Financial Review in the lead-up to this departure as CEO.
Other former politicians to give bouquets were former Coalition government treasurers Peter Costello and Joe Hockey and former Labor premier and foreign minister Bob Carr.
Bowen says Moore has been a valuable sounding board over the years. “He would always have the national interests in mind, he would not just talk his own book,” Bowen says.
Shayne Elliott, chief executive of ANZ Banking Group, says Moore was one of the first people to reach out to him when he was appointed CEO of ANZ.
“We had a cup of tea (green) and he generously shared his thoughts, experiences and learnings from being CEO,” he says. “I found it to be one of the engaging and inspiring talks I had at the time.”
Westpac chief executive Brian Hartzer says Moore “blends a level of market experience, broad perspective and high intellect with humility and curiosity that makes him a great risk manager”.
Chris Knoblanche, who sits on the board of the Opera House Trust with Moore and is a former head of investment banking at Citi, says meetings with Moore when they did business together were always professional but he knew it was all about the business flows between the two banks.
“You were not going to amble in for a cup of tea and talk about the weather,” he says. “We were there to talk business and he wanted to make sure the business was two ways. It was a case of what business are you giving us and what can we do for you.”
Moore plans to spend more time with his family and will continue to pursue his two favourite sports – jogging and swimming. Look out for him in the Macquarie-sponsored Big Swim in January, which involves swimming 2.8km from Palm Beach to Whale Beach in Sydney.
Read Nicholas Moore’s last interview as Macquarie Bank’s CEO in full in The Australian Financial Review Magazine inside Friday’s Financial Review paper and on afr.com.au.