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Q&A with Susana Leith-Smith: Helping shape the direction of Macquarie’s infrastructure portfolio companies

As Head of Capital Markets for Macquarie Asset Management (MAM) in EMEA, Susana supports the origination and structuring of capital market transactions across Macquarie’s portfolio of real assets investments. Since joining the financial services industry in 1999, Susana has held several leadership positions across a range of large institutions.

Susana sits on the Boards of two digital infrastructure companies, both of which are part of MAM’s portfolio, and also serves as a trustee for Womankind Worldwide, a global women’s rights charity.

We sat down with Susana to discuss her multi-faceted role and the positive changes she’s seen in gender diversity in private markets.


Can you tell us about your career and what your role looks like as Head of Capital Markets for MAM in EMEA?

I’ve spent around 23 years in financial services, mostly in leveraged finance origination. My typical day is never typical – I spend time meeting with banks, advisors and institutional lenders, as well as consulting on financing options with the Macquarie team.

On top of this, I’m on the Investment Committee for one of our infrastructure funds, I spend time strategising with the portfolio companies I work with, and I sit on the board at two of those companies.


You wear many hats – what do you like most about your role?

What we do requires deep knowledge and the ability to look at things pragmatically. I like that I’m often required to help solve complex problems. I enjoy unwinding knotty issues that require a lot of stakeholder management and in which I get to influence outcomes.

I also love being able to contribute at Board and committee meetings and help shape what’s possible for their future.

Our essential real assets are relied upon by approximately 290 million people every day1. Knowing that what we’re doing can have a positive outcome in so many ways is very rewarding. I’m learning every day, which is a privilege.”

You serve as a trustee for Womankind Worldwide. Can you tell us more about this role?

Womankind Worldwide is a global non-profit organisation that partners mostly with women’s rights organisations to end violence against women and girls, support women's economic independence and raise women’s voices. I’ve been a trustee for five years and helped found the annual fundraising gala, the most recent one of which had 500 attendees and raised £1.2 million.

I’m very passionate about it and I’m very hands-on. Between me and the other trustees, we set the strategy, the goals, the way we operate, help fundraise, and support the charity to raise its profile.

I’ve loved finding something outside of work to which I can contribute and meet people I wouldn’t normally meet. It’s been an amazing learning experience.


The Women in Private Markets (WIPM) event is celebrating its 10-year anniversary. What have you seen change for women working in private markets over the last decade and throughout your career?

It’s been great to see that there are not only more women, but also more women role models. There are certainly fewer overt biases today, but there are still some unconscious ones.

Women are no less ambitious and no less hungry than anyone else for opportunities, promotions and all the other professional milestones to which people aspire.

The good thing is that people are now much more aware of the biases, more likely to call things out, and more likely to have gender-balanced recruitment practices.


What more can companies do to retain women?

There are plenty of women starting careers in private markets, but it’s important for companies to engage with their female staff and understand how to retain them and what they’re looking for, to ensure everyone is on a level playing field for leadership tracks.

Women should feel empowered in knowing they don’t need external validation and that their voices can add value. Leadership doesn’t come with level, but with the desire to have a leadership shadow and an impact on those around us. This can happen at the earliest stages of our careers – so go in with enthusiasm, bravery, an open mindset to what’s possible, and think early on about your leadership shadow.

  1. As at March 2023.

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