Banking skills support Indigenous businesses

Sydney, 28 July 2014

Acting as a teacher’s aide in a small school north of Cooktown, and mowing, tree pruning and collecting rubbish for a landscaping business in Cairns may not have been part of the role two investment bankers had in mind when they joined Macquarie.

But the inaugural participants in a new Macquarie Capital community partnership - Ben Andrade, from Macquarie Capital’s infrastructure business, and Matt Zwi, from debt capital markets - both came away from recent three-month secondments with profound insights into Indigenous Australian business development.

The Macquarie partnership is with Jawun, an Australian community organisation that collaborates with corporates, government and Indigenous Australians to improve the lives of Indigenous people. Jawun invites corporate secondees to work alongside Indigenous business, enabling skills sharing and a greater understanding of both sectors for all involved.

Ben worked on the Good to Great Schools Australia (GGSA) program in Cairns and spent two days at the 120-student Hope Vale School to gain an understanding of the initiative before working to support GGSA’s planned expansion.

He arrived in June, helping the team with the financial planning and project management of funds received through a government grant to expand the program.

“Knowing so little about welfare reform and Indigenous culture, it was a great introduction for me,” Ben said. “One of the goals of Jawun is to help impart corporate ways of thinking and working so I found the greatest thing I could contribute was asking why something was being done in a particular way. That opened up a conversation about operating efficiencies.”

Eight hours of whipper snipping and edging lawns in 30+ degree heat comprised Matt’s introduction to his secondment.

He worked with Djarragun Enterprises, which provides employment pathways for Indigenous graduates from across Far North Queensland and the Torres Straits (its three enterprises are construction, building services, and landscaping and yard maintenance), as well as the Cape York Group.

Matt said his week working with a Djarragun Enterprises landscaping crew enabled him to get a great feel for the local culture and business. He proceeded to work with the Djarragun Enterprises management team and chairman to develop a three-year business plan, focusing on profitability, new industry and segment growth opportunities and customer analysis. Matt was also involved in pitching for new business and upcoming contract tenders.

“I started as a graduate with Macquarie in 2008 and have worked on a number of M&A and financing deals, but this experience gave me a whole new perspective on what it’s like to work at the coalface of a small business,” Matt said.

“Personally, it was also an eye-opening experience getting to know the young Indigenous crew members and hearing their stories first hand. It’s good to have a bit more perspective on life and a reminder not to take things for granted.”

Robin Bishop, head of Macquarie Capital in Australia and New Zealand, said he was very proud of Macquarie’s support for Jawun.

“It facilitates the placement of high-calibre secondees to support Indigenous-led reform programs and entrepreneurial activity,” he said.

“In turn, the program provides our staff with an opportunity to get out of the office and work directly with Indigenous communities and organisations.”


Image caption: From left: Djarragun Enterprises’ Rance Stafford (CEO) and David Stewart (Chairman), with Foundation Chair Shemara Wikramanayake, Foundation Head Lisa George and Macquarie Capital Jawun secondee Matt Zwi.