The Quiet “Professor” is Macquarie’s Mastermind


The Bloomberg News Service carried a piece yesterday about Macquarie Bank and it is certainly worth reading. 

It doesn’t, however, tell you much about the man who has masterminded the bank’s rise from virtual obscurity to a global financial powerhouse and which recently made an audacious bid to take over the 300 year old London Stock Exchange.

So let me fill in some CV detail of Allan E Moss, who is 57 and has been Chief Executive of Macquarie since August 1993.

According to colleagues, he is quiet, balding and bespectacled –  something of a bumbling professor – tripping over phone wires, spilling cups of coffee and falling off desks.

"He's no Donald Trump," quips one senior executive. But what he lacks in social graces,  Moss more than makes up for in financial nous. With a small top team, it he has been the adrenaline that has driven Macquarie's global expansion.

Educated at the University of Sydney and later at Harvard Business School, his early work was with the Australian Industrial Development Corporation but the bureaucracy didn’t suit Moss and he returned to the world of academia.

Then, nearly 30 years ago, he joined the local fledgling operations of Hill Samuel, the UK merchant bank from which Macquarie has emerged.  He, in fact, led the team responsible for preparing the submission to the Australian Government for the formation of the bank.  After moving up the managerial ladder he became Chief Executive in 1993 – and from then on, there has been no stopping the bank’s march to the top. 

Hardly a day goes by when Macquarie is not making another deal, mainly the acquisition of public utilities, among them a string of airports from Brussels to Rome to Hainan Island, China;  roads and bridges across Australia, Europe, Asia and North America, including the Chicago Skyway, a 7.8 mile elevated highway and the Indiana Tollway. 

The failure to acquire LSE was a rare setback for Moss's global ambitions but nonetheless Macquarie is now Australia's only independent, full-service investment bank operating in 23 countries

Despite its growth in recent years, Macquarie has been able to retain an entrepreneurial, decentralised culture, according to analysts and rivals. Moss is credited with nurturing this, at the expense of his own profile. He and his wife, Irene, who until a year or so ago was commissioner at the ICAC, Australia's anti-corruption watchdog, lead singularly career-focused lives.

With a pay packet of $30 million over the past five years, he is now reputedly one of Australia’s richest men – he has a private stake in the Gold Coast Airport and quite a taste for waterfront property.

But he is generally less conspicuous when it comes to spending it. While his investment banking peers drive sports cars with personalised number plates, Moss drives a regulation-issue Mercedes-Benz. He is almost totally absent from Sydney's furious, money-driven social scene.

His wife, it appears, is his constant companion. He met fellow arts/law student Irene Chee over a photocopier and later they sat next to each other in class. Together they decided to tackle the American Ivy League institution, Harvard; he a master's of business administration, she a master's in tax law.

Three decades on, Allan and Irene Moss spend the first part of the day together, getting in an early morning walk around their waterfront home on Sydney's North Shore, bought in 1999 and which has never had a registered mortgage.

As one friend puts it: "He is ego-less. He doesn't see why he is important, he just sees the bank….he likes people to underestimate him."

Thanks for reading Big Business

David Davis


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