Verena Lim was appointed Macquarie Group’s Asia CEO in 2021, a role she combines with responsibilities as Executive Director of Macquarie Asset Management and Head of Macquarie Asia Infrastructure Fund. She is equally passionate about promoting Macquarie’s growth in Asia as she is in encouraging Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and social impact.
In 2004, Verena Lim completed a three-month internship with Macquarie. It helped her decide that finance was the right career path and opened the door to working part time for Macquarie while she completed her Bachelor of Commerce and Law.
“At that time, Macquarie was front page news due to the unique types of transactions they were doing,” Verena says. “I joined funds management, which was an emerging growth area within the organisation."
Verena enjoyed working with what she describes as the tangible, essential services of infrastructure investments - from airports, road networks and rail services to supplying households with electricity and supporting telecommunications infrastructure. So she remained with the Asset Management group when she joined Macquarie’s Graduate Program in 2006.
Working overseas had always been on Verena’s wish list, but she was surprised when, just a couple of years later, she was offered the opportunity to relocate to Singapore.
“Senior colleagues encouraged me to make the move and supported me with the decision-making process. I’ve been fortunate to receive similar mentoring throughout my career,” Verena says.
“When I first arrived in Singapore in mid 2007, I was one of only a handful working for Macquarie Asset Management,” she explains. “It was a big adjustment. Infrastructure was not a well understood asset class in Asia, and Macquarie was among the first to invest in it.”
The global move paid off, eventually taking her career from Business Analyst to Macquarie Group’s Asia CEO. She is also an Executive Director of Macquarie Asset Management, as well as Head of Macquarie Asia Infrastructure Fund. She also sits on several investment committees and portfolio company boards.
“Singapore is now home for me and my young family,” she says.
Verena describes Asia as the ‘teenager’ of Macquarie's global operations, reflecting the amount of change and development that the region and business is experiencing.
“I think Asia is the most exciting part of the world when it comes to variety and growth,” she says.
Verena also says that asset management’s importance has grown both across Macquarie and across Asia.
“Macquarie has been active here for two decades and, while we have grown a mature portfolio, we're still seeing new markets emerge across all asset classes, with diversification, different transactions and more investors and capital.”
Initially, Verena worked on a global infrastructure yield fund listed in Singapore that was undergoing a strategic shift to refocus on Asian investments. However, this was wound up in 2013, with her team selling assets across Macquarie’s businesses to maximise value for its shareholders.
“It was a very busy time, driven by macro changes and government initiatives,” Verena says.
Since then, Verena says she has had many career highlights, including leading the Taiwan Broadband Communications IPO on the Singapore Stock Exchange. She has also led several petrochemical and oil storage acquisitions in the region and, in 2016, helped establish and lead the regional Asia-Pacific infrastructure fund, Macquarie Asia Pacific Fund 1 (MAIF1), which is now onto its third vintage with MAIF3 and is the largest infrastructure platform in Asia-Pacific.
Verena says another highlight was sitting on the investment committee for Macquarie Asia Infrastructure Fund series.
Wearing several hats means her current role is varied.
“I spend my days reviewing investment opportunities with the teams, looking at how the funds’ strategy is playing out for investors, and assessing fundraising,” Verena explains. “I also deal with operations issues with finance, legal or tax teams and, in my role as Macquarie Group’s Asia CEO, I look at people and culture, risk, cross-collaboration initiatives and other activities across our 14 Asian offices.”
Verena says one constant through her journey with Macquarie has been the culture.
“It’s a flat structure,” Verena explains. “As a junior, you hear what’s happening. It’s transparent and you’re always learning and encouraged to contribute.”
“Even so, it’s hard work shifting from a technical career into a leadership position,” she explains. “It’s still a journey.”
I aim to lead by example, encourage debate and give people the same space and encouragement to develop that I received. It is important to be authentic and genuine."
Verena encourages her team to speak up when they face challenges, saying it’s something that helped her.
“We run real businesses so a lot of things can, and do, go wrong,” she says. “You don’t always have to have all the answers or to strive for perfection. It’s okay to reach out.”
“Innovating and working collaboratively to find solutions are part of Macquarie’s culture,” Verena explains. “I’ve been able to seek help from other teams when I have run into challenges in the past.”
After 17 years, Verena says she remains engaged by the range of opportunities, learning experiences and smart people she works alongside at Macquarie.
“Macquarie was my first job out of university, but it really has been more than just a job,” she says. “I've grown and matured with the organisation over the years, discovering who I am and what I'm good at.”
Verena serves as a member of the Macquarie Group Foundation Committee and Chair of the recently launched Social Impact Investment Advisory Committee.
“We’re reviewing a number of potential social impact investments in the areas of education and employment,” she explains. “Having that ability to make a change and see social impact in the broader community is incredible.”
Verena feels privileged to also chair Macquarie’s Asia Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee and is involved in the Asia Women's Network ensuring other women receive the same career opportunities she's enjoyed.
“We’ve talked about diversity, equity and inclusion for a long time, but I want to reach the next phase and see it in action and represented at all levels,” she says, and highlights Macquarie embracing flexible working as an example of this.
“Macquarie always encouraged flexible working, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced everyone to work from home effectively and has led to hybrid working, which helps with the challenge of balancing work and family life.”
I feel very privileged to be part of Macquarie in Asia. We’re one team. We have a collaborative and solution-minded culture which is driving results for the organisation."