Recorded on 29 October 2020.
Voiceover: Welcome to the Macquarie podcast series.
Tasneem Dudhia: Hello everyone. My name is Tasneem Dudhia. I'm a Senior Manager in Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets, also known as MIRA. I'm really delighted today to host this edition of the Macquarie podcast series because it features Martin Stanley. Martin is the Head of Macquarie Asset Management, he is part of Macquarie Group’s executive committee, and he leads a team of approximately 1,800 people in more than 20 countries, managing over £308 billion of assets on behalf of investors.
Martin, thank you very much for joining us today.
Martin Stanley: Pleasure
Tasneem Dudhia: I want to focus this podcast on talking to you about your career, your thoughts on the future trends in the asset management industry, but also I really want to spend some time discussing the present, given how unexpected the pandemic was. So without further ado, let’s start. My first question to you though, is on asset management. Since becoming group head of MAM in 2018, what have you been most focused on and what do you see as the big opportunities for the group over the next few years?
Martin Stanley: I don't think there's any one thing that we've been exclusively focused on Tas, but there's a whole bunch of stuff that you obviously have to do if you want to be a leading asset manager, and that is obviously what we aspire to be. The key part of that is to make sure that you are keeping your clients at the centre of everything you think about doing; so making sure that you are profitable as an asset manager, your clients are benefiting first and that you're only profitable because your clients are doing well. And I think that's what we've got to continue to focus on as an asset manager if we want to do even better in the future.
Tasneem Dudhia: Okay. So it's really clients at the heart of the business?
Martin Stanley: I think so. We need to make sure that we recognise that we don't have a business unless our clients give us the permission to look after their money for them. And, that's what we do every day. So the type of people that we attract to the businesses that we run of course, are people with that sort of mindset. The fact that they have a huge responsibility because they're looking after other people's money. And the money that they're looking after is quite often money that is used for savings or retirement, pension schemes, et cetera, so it carries with it quite a significant responsibility. So unless you keep that at the forefront of your mind, you're really going to struggle to be successful.
Tasneem Dudhia: Okay. I mentioned in the beginning in the introduction that you manage over 1,800 people within MAM, what have you enjoyed most about becoming the Group Head of MAM?
Martin Stanley: Well, I mean, it's a wonderful business that we have here. It's very diverse, because we're operating across both public markets. And when I say public markets, I mean fixed income, equities and something that we call global solutions, which covers both of those areas of course. And then, the alternatives asset class, which is very diverse. We're obviously known predominantly as being the leader in the infrastructure asset management space, but we also are growing in real estate, private credit, agriculture, and other alternative asset classes. And it's the diversity of the business that is really very exciting. It keeps me interested. It raises a whole series of challenges from day to day, but I think it's a great opportunity for anyone who's in that business to diversify their career path and do things that they might not otherwise get an opportunity to do. So, it's the diversity of people that you meet, it’s the diversity of challenges that you face and it's the diversity of different business opportunities that come up from time to time that makes it so exciting.
Tasneem Dudhia: Before becoming head of MAM, you were head of our Infrastructure and Real Assets business, MIRA, where I currently work, and you were head of MIRA for 10 years. So from what we understand, you spent most of your career investing and managing infrastructure assets. I think for us, and for the people listening today, it will be helpful to understand a little bit about what actually led you in the first place to a career in infrastructure and what you like most about working in infrastructure as well.
Martin Stanley: My background is in energy. So I started my career back in the 80s when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister, and she was seeking to privatise the UK energy industry. I found myself very fortunately involved in an electricity company in the Northwest of England, which was in public ownership at the time. I happened to turn out there as a Graduate Trainee, fresh out of college and I was one of the few people with a commercial degree. It was mostly engineers and it was just very fortunate that I ended up in that company at that particular time, because that period heralded in a whole series of changes that just led to great opportunities for people who just happened to be in the right place.
And I took advantage of that and spent nearly 20 years in the energy industry, both in electricity, power generation, gas and coal, trading, all sorts of things through time, and built out a lot of experience in those areas, some good, some bad. And then I found myself at Macquarie through a whole series of different circumstances, and it was at the time that Macquarie was just establishing itself in Europe back in 2004. They'd done some really interesting things and I stumbled across them as an institution and ended up turning up here when they were starting to think about raising the first infrastructure fund. And again, it wasn't planned. It was just a lucky happenstance really, that I bumped into people who recommended Macquarie as a place to go and I just turned up for a conversation and I got in at the very beginning of the journey. At that time, the circumstances were right for me to join them and I joined them. Initially I thought I was just sort of turning up and joining for a short period of time and it turned out to be a really enjoyable experience and, through a combination of good luck and hard work from the team, we've ended up in the position we're at today and it's just been a fabulous journey really.
That's the brief potted history. It doesn't really play to the standard story of, you know, you have to plan your career and work out where you're going to go, because I sort of stumbled from one thing to the next and ended up maybe making the right choices, some deliberately and some by accident. But I think what it pulls out for me is the importance of good people, talented people from diverse backgrounds working together to solve interesting problems, and that's what we have at Macquarie and that's certainly what we have in the asset management business today. It's not perfect by any means, but it is a wonderfully energetic and diverse business that we have that, you know, hopefully we'll continue to grow from strength to strength if we can continue to maintain the support and enthusiasm of both our staff and our clients.
Tasneem Dudhia: I completely understand that. The theme that we've been seeing, but that's definitely going to stay over the last few years, has been sustainability. It's been on everyone's agenda, even more so recently, and it's across the asset management industry. So it'll be quite good to actually understand what you think about this, in the context of MAM, and what you think our business is doing with regards to sustainability and what we are doing well.
Martin Stanley: Well, I think it's worth sort of defining sustainability a little bit because it has different meanings to different people, and it's got a whole series of different components to it. You know, it's a discussion about moving towards a zero carbon future and how you get there, that's one aspect of it. Another aspect of it is making sure that the investments that you make follow good governance rules. So, you know, are people that are managing the money operating to high standards, are the companies and assets that you're investing in, do they have people that are ethically strong and operating with the right intentions? And then of course, there's the whole aspect of the health and safety and wellbeing of your employees. All of those components are really important because they all go towards the same story of what I would call responsible investing.
And you've got to make sure that this isn't a tick box exercise where you go through and say, I've done this, I've done that, I've done that and therefore I've complied with certain ESG standards. I think it's much more than that. It's about the culture of the organisation. It's about the way in which you operate. It's about the legacy that you leave behind. It's about the impact that you have on the communities, the impact that you have on the staff, the impact that you have on behalf of the clients that you're ultimately investing for. This is a really important part of the way that the asset management industry is evolving today. And, you know, back 20 years ago, even less than 20 years ago, ESG would have certainly been a tick box exercise for many people, today it’s not.
There is an increasing number of investors around the world that won't trust managers to manage their money unless they really do conform to high standards of governance, high standards of environmental performance, high standards of the way in which they look after their staff and the people that they come in contact with. And so it's now turning into a must have, and the levels in which you're having to operate are increasing and increasing over time and it's only going to get tougher, and rightly so. So I think it has to be part of your culture, it has to be part of the DNA, the way you operate, and the whole industry has to step up much more than it is today. There are lots of great efforts around the place, but that we need to do even more.
Tasneem Dudhia: Could you maybe give an example of one of the efforts that you've seen over the last few years that sort of supports, I guess, the argument that we were actually doing as much as we can as regards to sustainability?
Martin Stanley: I don't think we are doing as much as we can, because if we were doing as much as we could, everything would be perfect. And as soon as you start saying, “we are doing as much as we can”, then you’ve sort of, you know, accepted a pretty low standard really. So you've got to keep pushing yourself and keep pushing yourself forward and keep pushing the organisation forward. But, I mean, a good example is in a business like ours, where we indirectly employ, you know, over 200,000 people around the world, health and safety is a real critical issue for the businesses. And, you know, as an investor, we look at health and safety from the perspective of it's a view into an organisation about how well that organisation is run.
So if they have poor health and safety standards and poor health and safety practices, which lead to individuals getting injured on the job, or we have lost time incidents, then that's an indicator that perhaps something else is not right within the organisation. So really focusing on those things and making sure that you're really driving the performance of those businesses, to the extent you can on those sort of metrics, will lead to better standards of performance in some of the more financial metrics of the business. So I think that's an example of where we see sustainability really driving financial performance, as well as performance on a sustainability level as well.
Tasneem Dudhia: Thank you. I'm going to switch direction for a moment. I did say I wanted to talk a little bit about the present, in particular COVID-19. Obviously it's had a huge impact on us all and in many different ways as well. How have you found working from home? Because we've been working from home now for the past eight months or so. So how have you found it Martin?
Martin Stanley: Well, it's, you know, it's got challenges and it's got some benefits. I think the world came to a stop to a certain extent back in March, certainly here in Europe, of course it was a bit earlier in Asia and a little later in the Americas, but from a European point of view, it just sort of stopped in March. We all had to get used to the idea that we were working from home and doing things slightly differently. And I have to say at the beginning, it was a bit of a challenge. It was a bit of a challenge from the point of view that you had to adapt to this new way of working. You had to start talking to people through video conferences as opposed to, you know, face to face.
But actually we got to the point at Macquarie where we had all of our staff working from home at one point, and across the asset management business we still have the bulk of our people working remotely, and it's worked remarkably well. The technology stood up, the way that people have adapted has just been remarkable. We've still managed to do things, we've still managed to keep the level of business activity up. So it's just been terrific. And I think that's a great credit to the people that we have in the business, because they've shown that they've been so adaptable to these, this fundamental change in the way that you have to carry on your work. So I think that's just been wonderful to see.
From a personal point of view, it's just been great not having to spend a lot of time on public transport and travel up and down to London. I live a little bit outside the city, so not having to do that, it's just been great, saved a lot of time. I found myself to be more productive in that sense. Spending more time with the family has been great. I think it's allowed us to do things that we wouldn't otherwise have done.
So I think there's some pluses and minuses with the whole thing, but overall, I think it's been a really interesting period, certainly for me. I would say that across the team, when I look across the 1800 or so people that we have in the asset management business, it's been a bit challenging. And so what's clear is that, you know, there are some people that have found it more difficult than others, and we've had to make adjustments and accommodations to make sure that we can meet the needs on a mental health point of view and also on a practical point of view for people that just find it more difficult to work remotely than others. I think we're learning that one size doesn't fit all for everybody. And I think it's going to be increasingly important that we continue to build upon that as we go into the post COVID world, because I think working remotely has proven to be possible for huge sways of the workforce and hopefully that will continue to be the case going forward.
Tasneem Dudhia: Thank you. I agree with what you're saying, and I do hope as well, some lessons that we learned over this period, you know, we can carry that on into post COVID. It's very easy to get back into how we've always done things, but I think this year was a big shakeup in that way as well, and it only made us more efficient in the long run in any case.
Martin Stanley: I think it has driven productivity, because productivity is a little bit different to efficiency, isn't it, but it's really driven productivity I think, and people have embraced that. But I think it will also be a real push to assist diversity within the workplace because this flexibility of the way in which you carry out your daily tasks allows more of the population to participate in the work environment in certain jobs. And that perhaps hitherto might've been the case. And I think that's a really important thing that COVID has actually given us. And we need to make sure that we build on that and we take advantage of that, because I really do think it is a profound change in the way we work, which will be ultimately really beneficial for companies and individuals into the future.
Tasneem Dudhia: Thank you Martin. My final question for you today, which I can imagine everyone listening wants to know the answer to. For those just starting out their career with Macquarie, what are your tips for success?
Martin Stanley: Well, why don't I ask you a question and turn the tables on you? I mean, you've been very successful in the period that you've been with us. I remember you joining as a Graduate, not so long ago, and you've advanced well through the organisation. You know, tell us about your journey a little bit. What has worked for you and what has not worked for you?
Tasneem Dudhia: Well, you're right. I interned here actually in my second year of university and then I accepted the job offer, started working about two months after I graduated. That was back in 2014.
I initially worked with the Utilities and Networks team. So focusing on assets, such as gas distribution networks and electricity distribution networks, in Western Europe. Great team, we acquired and managed assets worth billions of dollars. It was a super exciting period of my life, I worked really hard. I think that's always a key for success, and sort of the culture of that team allowed me to really enjoy myself. And I think that's also quite key to success anywhere, you have to enjoy what you're doing every single day.
So then it came to a point about a year and a half ago, where I decided that I actually wanted to shift my focus a little bit. So moving to renewable energy and focus a little bit more on emerging markets. So that's what I decided to do, and I think that's another key to, let's say, being successful. It's taking charge of your career, and deciding to move teams, and move where you know, you're slightly more passionate about it; something that interests you a little bit more or an asset class that actually you're quite curious about and you want to understand a little bit. So I think that, I would also you know, potentially encourage people to do. To take charge a little bit and move to sectors they are interested in, and where they do want to go to work every single day and do that work. So hopefully that gives some adequate background to my career.
Martin Stanley: That's brilliant, but you've had three promotions since you've been here. Haven't you?
Tasneem Dudhia: Yeah, that’s right.
Martin Stanley: Three promotions since 2014. So you've, you know, moved up through the organisation well. But I think, coming back to the question you asked me about, you know, in my career, what would I use as tips for how to progress? I think that was the question you asked. I think the answer in many ways is in the answer you gave, which is; when you start out in your career in a place like this, or anywhere actually, you should take advantage of the opportunity to build experience, to get experiences across the business, to build your capabilities as you go up through the business. And the reason for that is that when you get to a senior level, you change from being effectively a specialist to being a generalist.
You need to be a generalist at the senior level, but as you're coming up through the organisation, quite often to progress within your key career you need to be a specialist. So you're being a specialist getting promoted through and then at some point you get to a level where the skill set that you require is generalism rather than specialism. Doing what you're doing and building up experience in different specialist areas, I think is really important because it equips you for a broader career later. And I think a lot of people don't do that. They want to skyrocket through the organisation and get promoted rapidly in their own particular silo and that just narrows down the choices that you have. So I think it's really, really important what you said, that is building experience, taking advantage of those different levels as you move through them, because you're going to need that experience when you get a bit higher up.
Tasneem Dudhia: I guess also the importance of that is, you know, when you work with different teams as well, you get exposure to different sorts of people. And, we're very diverse as it is, but it's better to sort of work with as many people as possible to really understand all sorts of people and how best to work really as well.
Martin Stanley: Absolutely right. And you'll, you know, as you go through your career, I certainly remember this, you have experience of leaders that are just terrible. And then you have experience of leaders who are just fantastic and you know, the more you more of that exposure you get, you can modify your behaviour based upon what's worked and what hasn't worked. So I think getting those diverse experiences is really important. I think it's also really important to push yourself into areas where you feel uncomfortable, because it's through doing that, that you learn more about yourself. You learn about where your strengths are, where your weaknesses are, and you learn to adapt to those different circumstances that you find yourself in. So treating your career journey as a learning experience is also hugely important in my view.
Tasneem Dudhia: No, absolutely. I mean, when I decided to move to the renewables team, I focused a little bit more on emerging markets instead, which is obviously very different to Western Europe. And I think that itself is out of your comfort zone because I just spent the last five years building up contacts in Europe and understanding the market there and then suddenly sort of going into the deep end a little bit, because things do work differently in Sub-Saharan Africa and in India itself. I would say it's been an enjoyable experience, but it's definitely been also pushing myself a little bit out of my comfort zone. The investment committee that we present our ideas to and to invest into that, you know, we have a member of BEIS part of the UK government there as well. So it's also exposing you to different sorts of people in different institutions and stakeholders and trying to actually learn the importance of your assets in a global world, as opposed to just sort of in a Macquarie lens as well.
Martin Stanley: I think that's absolutely right. I mean, it's a bit like, you know, your career is the same as your life in a way. It's a bit like going shopping in a supermarket isle; you've got your trolley in front of you and you're picking up different things from the shelf and each of those are different experiences. So that by the time you get to the end of the aisle, you're fully equipped for the, you know, the week ahead or the year ahead or whatever it is. And so if you think about your career in that sense, I think that's a good sort of way to think about it. And I think you're doing exactly the right thing in capturing those different experiences as you go through your career.
Tasneem Dudhia: Thank you. It does feel like I'm doing the right things, that's nice for you to say.
Martin Stanley: All right.
Tasneem Dudhia: Well, that's been a lovely chat Martin and hopefully very insightful for our listeners today. I think, you know, I could talk to you for hours and hours because you've had such a varied career. And obviously your role at MAM, is inspiring in itself. So thank you very much for your time.
Martin Stanley: Well, thanks Tas. That was most enjoyable! You know, people like me do like to talk about ourselves, so you given me a great opportunity to spend time talking about myself. As we like to say, enough about me, let's talk about me. Anyway, that was great fun. Thank you!
Tasneem Dudhia: Thank you, Martin.
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