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Matt Ellis: From Java Engineer to Global Head of Engineering at Macquarie

After 17 years with Macquarie, Matt Ellis is stepping up to become Global Head of Engineering for Macquarie Group. Matt believes his appointment demonstrates Macquarie’s strategic commitment to technology and promoting talent from within the organisation.  

 

Matt Ellis gravitated towards a career in IT thanks to a childhood interest in tinkering with computers. 

“I come from a family of airline pilots, and my family bought a computer to play flight simulator games,” Matt says. “But for me, the computer itself was the best game.”

He began a Bachelor of Information Technology degree at the University of Technology Sydney in 2003 and, six months in, was assigned a work placement with Macquarie on the trading floor. 

“I hadn’t had any exposure to the financial services industry, so it opened a new door, and I loved it,” Matt says. “Applying the theory behind what I was learning at university to the stock market was very exciting.” 

Upon graduating, Matt accepted a role as a Java Engineer, saying the flat structure and Macquarie's commitment to technological innovation drew him to the role. 

“I felt like I could make an impact, and I wasn’t just a wheel in a big machine,” Matt explains. "Macquarie is an innovative organisation and I could see there were so many opportunities in technology.”

 

Spreading his wings

Matt’s first role at Macquarie was hands-on in Java programming, building a trading platform for one of the Equity Markets group’s derivative products. He says he enjoyed the “real time” pace of the work, as well as the fact that the end user was the customer, buying and selling shares.

“I then progressed to Senior Java Developer for Online Applications, leading a ten-person development team digitising customer applications and back-end systems.” 

In 2008, Matt was eager to travel and experience different cultures and perspectives, so he approached his manager to ask about transferring to one of Macquarie’s global offices. He was offered an opportunity to work on a short project for a couple of months in Hong Kong, followed by a two-year contract in London.

However, the Global Financial Crisis struck, and market forces intervened. Matt remained in Macquarie’s Hong Kong office for a year, where he worked as a Senior Java Developer in Equity Derivatives.

In 2009, Matt eventually arrived in the UK, where he started as a C++ developer for derivative trading systems, before moving into emerging markets arbitrage as a Senior .NET Developer. He says Macquarie trusted him to learn new skills so that he could take on roles in different engineering disciplines or business groups.

This led to him being promoted in 2010 to Global Head of Arbitrage Technology, a London-based position that saw him dealing with senior stakeholders and travelling frequently, and which he held for almost five years.

“I was responsible for the budget and tech priorities across a trading floor team spread from London to Hong Kong, Singapore and New York, ensuring the tech was profitable and achieved our outcomes.” 

 

Creating new horizons

In 2014, Matt decided it was time to return home to Sydney.  He spent 18 months as Head of Equity Trading Technology for Australia before moving into a Head of Architecture role in what was then the Macquarie Securities Group. 

Three years later, an old colleague coaxed Matt off the trading floor, inviting him to interview for the position of Head of Architecture in Macquarie Wealth Management. It was a role that would require him to lead a large team of director-level architects, making decisions about using tech to build one of Australia's leading digital banks, the Banking and Financial Services business.

“It was around the time Banking and Financial Services had moved to Agile,” Matt says. “I was new to the team, and I had some observations that I presented to my manager. As a result, I secured the role of Head of Engineering to implement those suggestions.” 

“It was a new role that didn’t previously exist,” Matt explains. “I proposed that we should give engineers a voice, so they were not just a support centre or receiver of requests but instead they would have more input into the strategy.” 

Around this time, Matt moved to Newcastle in regional New South Wales to be closer to family. He says that Macquarie’s embrace of hybrid working allows him to manage his professional and family commitments.

Five years on, Matt’s new role not only led to structural and organisational changes but also helped create what he describes as a different dynamic, influencing strategy and giving a voice to engineers and tech thought leaders in the organisation. 

A highlight for Matt was seeing the seamless move of some of Macquarie’s most important systems to the cloud in 2021.

“Our first priority will always be production, availability and reliability,” Matt says.

 

An expanding role 

In 2022, Matt’s role was expanded to cover all of Macquarie’s global operations. As Global Head of Engineering, he joins the Technology leadership team and will be responsible for over 2,000 engineers across Macquarie Group.

“I have a lot of conversations with engineering leaders across the globe about our priorities,” Matt says. 

“A big part of my role is people and empowering our engineers to deliver high-quality, sustainable outcomes,” Matt says. “We have a mindset of growth and innovation; everyone is working towards a common goal of accelerating the digital enterprise using current and emerging technologies.”

“It’s exciting and it shows engineering is important to Macquarie.” 

Matt is also involved in risk management and compliance, cybersecurity, recruitment and building the team. 

“Entrepreneurialism is in Macquarie’s DNA, and I’ve experienced first-hand the freedom people are offered across its flat structure,” Matt says. “People are given autonomy to go out and discover new opportunities, which is truly Agile”.

 

A different approach to tech

Matt says growth and change is one consistent theme at Macquarie. 

“I feel like I've had multiple careers,” Matt says. “The variety of work keeps me interested, and the new opportunities that keep arising.” 

Matt says that one of the main reasons he was attracted to tech in the first place was because it was constantly changing.

“Working in Agile across the business allows us to quickly implement best in class technologies. We’re constantly evolving and investing in our infrastructure.”

“Right now, we’re involved in harnessing the power of data, and there are big opportunities for Macquarie to leverage,” he explains. 

“The work we’re doing is leading the way, and we know that delivering well- engineered outcomes is key to Macquarie’s growth trajectory.”

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