Jeffrey Orlowsky

Our people

Veteran Robert Keefe's journey from Navy Chief to accountant

With more than 20 years of experience from serving in the US Navy, Robert Keefe understands the value Veterans can bring to today's workforce. Now a Senior Associate at Macquarie Group, he is putting the values of accountability and integrity to work in his regulatory reporting role.

Robert Keefe boasts an impressive Naval career spanning more than two decades. From flight engineer and mechanic, he rose up the ranks to manage more than 200 military personnel across 13 work centres. He's flown missions all over the world, including Iraq and Afghanistan, and has received numerous achievement medals. He was a Lead Petty Officer through much of his career and by the end of his service he had earned the title of Chief.

As his military career drew to a close in 2013 and his thoughts turned to retiring from the Navy, Robert was faced with the question, 'what next?' He made an important decision to return to study and obtain a college degree from the University of North Florida (UNF).

Robert Keefe with fellow Navy Veterans.


A fresh start

While at school, Robert's dedication and frequent visits to the Military and Veterans Resource Center stood out to school officials. He was selected as the first recipient of the Mowbray Scholarship at UNF and had the opportunity to meet the award's donors, Mary Mowbray and her husband Melvin, a 103-year-old retired Navy Chief.

"The scholarship meant so much to me. It allowed me to fully concentrate on school and dedicate myself to my studies," says Robert.

It was during these visits to the Military and Veterans Resource Center that Robert decided to pursue a career in accounting.

"I figured, people always need accountants and I'm good at math. But guess what? Accounting has little to do with your numerical skills and everything to do with analysis and understanding regulatory and tax laws."

Luckily, this suited Robert perfectly and made use of the skills he honed while serving in the Navy.


From flight engineer to accounting intern

Robert joined the Macquarie internship program in Jacksonville as an Analyst in his junior year of college. After a successful summer internship, he was invited to return to Macquarie as a full-time employee upon graduation.

Robert joined a team tasked with submitting regulatory reporting to the federal government, a role that requires a considerable amount of curiosity and attention to detail.

"In my regulatory filing role, I go beyond checking the boxes. I dive into the analysis. I ask 'what's driving this? Where can we be more successful?' My goal is to add value and have a trickle-down effect which can make all of Macquarie better. Even if it looks good, it can always be made better."

Robert often finds a strong and somewhat unexpected correlation between flight engineering and regulatory reporting.

"You don't often stop to think of the thousands of details that need to be checked to get a plane in the air. Everything needs to be working individually and collectively for humans to go against nature and take flight," Robert says. "This carries over into finance. If we only look at the little details in finance, we will not be successful. We must look at the detail and the whole picture."

It was this can-do attitude that quickly led Robert to successive promotions at Macquarie. Now as a Senior Associate, he understands the importance of his role.

When you have a sense of purpose, that's everything. If a person understands what they are doing and why they are trying to do it, then they are going to care about it."

The skills Robert has built during his time in the military add value to his role and enhance his team.

"Veterans bring with them values held dear at Macquarie – integrity, accountability, and opportunity," says Robert.

He encourages veterans looking to pursue a career post-service to learn how to share honest stories from their careers and explain how those translate to a civilian role.


Supporting Veterans

Recognising the strength Veterans can bring to an organisation and grateful for the scholarship and opportunities he received, Robert approached Anthony Glenn, Head of the Macquarie Jacksonville office, to create a scholarship for UNF active duty military personnel and veterans. This was an easy decision for Anthony and Macquarie.

In 2019, the Macquarie Veterans scholarship was created. The scholarship, in partnership with UNF, provides $USD1,000 per school year, in perpetuity, to military-affiliated recipients pursuing a degree in accounting or finance.

"When you are helping people be better, you are helping the world become better," says Robert about his involvement with the scholarship.

Robert pays it forward in other ways through the ongoing work of the 'Veterans at Macquarie' Employee Network Group. This active group supports a diverse military population with awareness, education, professional development, and community initiatives.

"From the top down, people genuinely care at Macquarie. They are supportive and value individuals not despite but because of who you are."

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