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Q&A with Gemma McRann: Expanding Macquarie’s social infrastructure footprint in Ireland

Gemma McRann is a Senior Vice President in Macquarie Capital’s Infrastructure and Energy Capital team based in Dublin. She’s been with the business for five years and during that time has helped deliver projects such as the Silvertown Tunnel PPP under the River Thames, Macquarie Capital’s first investment in the UK senior living sector and investments in the Irish social housing sector.


Gemma leads Macquarie Capital’s Irish investments and is also part of the social and economic infrastructure team which invests across transport and social accommodation sectors including PPPs.

Ahead of this year’s Women in Private Markets event, we caught up with her to discuss the state of infrastructure investment and how she's balancing parenting (having recently returned from parental leave) while helping deliver award-winning infrastructure projects across Europe. 


Can you tell us about your work with Macquarie Capital’s Infrastructure and Energy Capital team?

Over the last five years, I’ve led principal investment and financial advisory processes across the social accommodation, fibre and data centres, transport PPP and offshore transmission sectors. Most recently, my focus has been on principal investment opportunities in the social infrastructure space, including social housing in Ireland and senior living accommodation in the UK. Having recently moved to Dublin, I’m also leading our efforts to expand Macquarie Capital’s Irish presence beyond PPPs and social housing to also include digital infra and the energy transition.


Where do you see emerging need for future investment? What challenges could be faced?

Housing, including social, affordable and specialist housing as well as healthcare and education require significant investment given current demographic trends. Though there is a general shortage of these facilities in the market, planning and permit delays, construction costs and inflation are challenging the delivery of new greenfield infrastructure across Europe.

There is also a substantial need for investment in energy transition infrastructure from renewable generation to storage and energy efficiency."

The revenue models are still emerging for many of these asset classes (e.g. battery storage and energy efficiency schemes at home) which provides a challenge to developing this infrastructure at scale without some degree of regulatory or government support.

The volatility in the political landscape as well as interest rate and inflation pressures are likely to slow some investment in the near-term; however, there is a wall of capital which is ready to be deployed across these asset classes.


You recently helped deliver Brigid Investments, a Macquarie Capital-backed consortium that finances the development of senior living facilities across the UK, and winner of the RESI Awards Deal of the Year. Can you tell us more about this project?

The Brigid funding platform has enabled McCarthy Stone, the UK’s leading retirement living developer, to expand its rental offering at a time when the retirement population is growing, helping meet the under-supply of senior housing in the UK. Rental provides another way for retired tenants to access the benefits of this bespoke type of accommodation in a market traditionally focussed on the for-sale model. McCarthy Stone was the first retirement operator to offer a rental option nationally - removing the burden of having to sell the family home and providing an affordable alternative to outright purchase.


You’ve just returned to work after parental leave? How are you finding it?

It’s going well - the team and my managers have been very supportive. Since my return, I’ve been leading our Irish new business on the ground, which is exciting given the recent work I’ve been doing on the housing market and the strong infra and energy pipeline in Ireland. Macquarie's support for people made it possible to work close to family for help with childcare during the return-to-work phase. This has enabled me to be confident about my return to work, attending client events out of hours and travelling.

It is certainly an adjustment to juggle a career with parenting but having a phased return made the transition easier for me. The flexibility in our team around working from home and scheduling meetings with deal teams also allows me to spend quality time with my daughter every day which is really important for me.


How can we attract more women to the industry?

Our industry needs to continue to focus on increasing the number of female candidates brought to the interview stages for new roles, especially at the entry level and graduate levels. We need to encourage hiring managers to draw out diverse skillsets and perspectives to build stronger teams. Ultimately having more women in the industry will feed a cycle of attracting more women in the future.

In addition to attracting more diverse candidates, we need to pay special attention to retaining women in our industry. In my experience, what is needed to retain women in our industry often changes over time. For example, the initial focus may be on career progression, opportunity and recognition and then is also balanced with flexibility and potentially family-orientated demands. Managers play an important role in supporting an individual’s personal circumstances. Having good role models, both women and men, who demonstrate team culture and healthy balance can really help – for example, we’re seeing more men starting to take a longer parental leave.

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