Macquarie’s employees support a diverse range of causes they feel passionately about, in communities around the world. What they all have common is the support of the Macquarie Group Foundation’s matching program which significantly amplifies their impact.
In this article, we hear from Hannah Bhindi in Sydney who raises funds to help prevent modern slavery; Scott Learoyd in London who’s supported cancer patients through several different initiatives; Sumit Bhatia who chairs a committee dedicated to promoting access and equality in India; and Vanessa Stacey and Amy Fullerton who exemplify an office-wide culture of giving in Houston by engaging colleagues and supporting local community organisations.
One way the Macquarie Group Foundation (the Foundation) uniquely encourages employee-led giving is by not only matching staff individual donations, but also team fundraising efforts. Learn how this has helped Macquarie employees in four offices around the world raise more funds and awareness for causes close to their hearts.
Hannah Bhindi’s passion for helping the victims of modern slavery began well before she joined Macquarie’s Sydney office as a graduate in 2021.
When she was young, her father was involved in an organisation known as Project Futures, a non-profit organisation that helps women and girls impacted by modern slavery, sexual abuse and sex trafficking in Cambodia. As a child, she got to know many of the women and girls rescued by the organisation as friends rather than victims.
“I grew up with these wonderful girls and women coming to our home and I would be jumping with them on the trampoline,” she explains. “I was just a child, and it wasn’t until I got older that I understood their stories, and their inspiring journey from being a victim to becoming an educated and empowered survivor.”
Hannah stayed involved with Project Futures and was appointed to the board, a hands-on role in which she found herself also tasked with raising funds for the organisation. In 2020, while she was still studying, Hannah had the idea to start a casual fundraising walk among her university peers.
“There were about 30 of us all up, and I wanted to find a way to personalise what we were walking for. So, every person who participated was matched with a survivor to sponsor. They were told how old they were, what they had been through, and their dreams and aspirations. I basically tried to build a direct relationship between the walker and survivor to create an emotional connection to the cause."
The strategy proved enormously successful and in 2021, the same year Hannah began working as a graduate in Macquarie’s Digital team - her walk became the Walk for Futures, a now annual event that raises funds for Project Futures. The Foundation encouraged Hannah in her efforts, dollar-matching the money the walkers raised. To date this initiative has raised over $A280,000 in funds for the ‘Acting for women in Distressing Situations’ (AFESIP) shelter in Cambodia – a centre that provides rehabilitation, education and empowerment to victims of human trafficking and domestic abuse.
“These funds are enormously important,” Hannah explains. “Given our relationship with the centre, we have transparency on how the funds are being used to achieve the best outcomes for the women and girls."
“This money goes towards rescuing and rehabilitating girls from brothels and abusive family situations. Given everything they have been through, the girls need significant psychological support to overcome their trauma and become independent. Many of the staff members at AFESIP (about 80 per cent) have a lived experience and, with support from the centre, have gone on to complete university degrees. This enables a deeper connection with the girls as they can relate to the staff and are inspired by their journeys.”
Hannah says that even though there are obvious differences between her role at Macquarie and her volunteer board position for Project Futures, there’s also similarities.
“My team essentially act as internal consultants. We work across the organisation to understand the challenges it faces. We dig deep and find the root causes of problems, and then solve them in a strategic way.”
“The work we do is both highly analytical and creative. But we also need to be practical and customer centric. There is an end-user, and we need to be empathetic to find the right solution for them.”
Hannah says that the Project Future’s success can be seen in the fact that 27 girls from the centre are studying or have graduated from university. “They are really highly sought after by companies in Phnom Penh,” she says.
“Not every girl needs to study at university to be a success. Many may end up going into an apprenticeship, but they have the structure and support in place to live the life they want.”
Hannah also explains that the Foundation’s support has made a big difference. “One of the hardest things for any charity is to be financially stable, and the Macquarie Group Foundation’s dollar matching helps ease this pressure.”
“As an employee, there is a real opportunity to leverage your networks to make a difference, bring your passion with you and Macquarie will encourage it.”
Sumit Bhatia was in a senior finance role at a global investment bank when he decided to take a leap and join Macquarie five years ago as an Associate Director.
“I was attracted by Macquarie’s approach which empowers employees and encourages them to take initiative in every part of their careers,” he explains. “The leadership here has a real appetite for backing people. Even if they fail, there is a culture of learning from it and using it to get ahead. I think this is what's unique about Macquarie.”
Sumit was also taken by the organisation’s commitment to volunteering and a year ago became Chair of Macquarie’s India Community Advisory Committee (ICAC) - a committee formed to actively support the community work and NGO partners in India. Sumit also acts as a senior sponsor for Bosconet NGO, which is working across 28 states in India and supporting various community initiatives. Sumit and his colleagues from across Macquarie together form part of Bosconet Working Group.
“Bosconet is all about empowering youth from underprivileged and migrant backgrounds by helping them into meaningful employment,” Sumit explains. “It does this by offering training and other support.”
“We liked that its reach extends beyond the major cities and into regional areas where there is often not as much opportunity for young people.”
Sumit explains that Macquarie’s employees have taken a hands-on role by mentoring young people, using skills-based volunteering to provide coaching and training on many of the aspects of workplace life that aren’t taught within the education system.
“We have provided sessions on things like interview skills and using Microsoft Excel, as well as on building confidence,” he explains. “All up have given these to around 1,500 youth right across the country. “
“We have also gone into schools for underprivileged children to talk about possibilities and share life lessons through games and storytelling.”
Sumit says another aspect of the working group has been to raise funds for Bosconet and other charities and that the committee actively promoted Foundation Week to get more people involved.
“During Foundation week, we have been organising a ‘Mockstars’ rock concert, and many of our colleagues, as well as children, have performed and participated. It has been a huge success and have been able to raise around $A125,000, including matching from the Foundation, which went to Bosconet.”
“Our employees also raised another $A5,700 for COVID-19 support, as it had a huge impact on people here in India.”
Macquarie staff in India’s raise money for efforts including regular breast cancer awareness and screenings and education of specially-abled children, which again tend to significantly impact the underprivileged and minority groups.
“Supporting our local communities is very much part of the Macquarie ethos,” he explains. “We have a strong culture of volunteering and giving back.
“This helps those around us, but it also helps us grow and mature as people and as leaders - and that’s something that is very much encouraged through the work of the Foundation.”
Scott Learoyd was already very familiar with Macquarie before he joined the London office in 2014.
“I was working in a ship broking company which provided ship management services to Macquarie. I could see it was an environment I wanted to be part of, so when Macquarie decided to bring this process in-house, it was easy to accept a position and I transitioned across.”
The move gave Scott the opportunity to grow within Macquarie, moving from the dry freight desk to metals logistics. He spent some time with oil logistics, before primarily moving back to the metals logistics team, whilst also assisting on the agricultural and uranium desks.
“I’m not exaggerating at all when I say we have the best people and Macquarie looks after its employees,” Scott says. “It is a good environment and a happy place to work. People like it here because they feel challenged, but they also feel supported.”
Scott says that this extends to Macquarie’s support for the community and staff’s specific causes which is something he started to engage with six years ago.
“My close friends had a son named Fraser who was sick in hospital for a year with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I really wanted to do something to help,” he explains. “He was a football fan, so I wrote to every major club in Britain and asked whether they could support Fraser by donating memorabilia.”
“Out of the 92 clubs I contacted, 68 said yes and donated. That in itself was incredible, and it meant that every day he had something to look forward to as it arrived in the mail.”
Scott said that once he had a taste for the difference one person could make, he wasn’t going to stop there. He decided to again use sport to raise awareness and funding for cancer patients - this time by organising a team of colleagues to play as part of the Longest Day golf challenge, raising funds for MacMillan Cancer Support. The Foundation provided matching for his efforts each year, in the process contributing thousands of pounds to his chosen cause.
“We’ve just completed this year’s challenge again. It’s 72-holes of golf, and it starts off as fun but ends up very hard. Everyone has been touched by cancer - whether that’s losing a mum, dad, or family member or friend. I played with the image on my shirt of my best friends' dad who sadly lost his own battle recently.”
Outside of the Foundation’s fundraising support, Scott values both volunteering leave and the flexibility in the workplace that allows him to support a local food bank on a regular basis. This, he says, hasn’t just helped him give back to his community but also to understand it better.
“From the outside, this does not seem like a disadvantaged community. But when you work at a food bank, you understand that everyone’s experience is different, even if you don’t see it at first.”
Vanessa Stacey has been actively involved in her local community for many years and thoroughly enjoys bringing people together in the Houston office to give back. “Colleagues in Houston have always been great at participating in volunteer and fundraising initiatives, and we have a lot of folks here that are heavily involved in the community” says Vanessa.
Vanessa, Senior Vice President on the structured finance desk, and Amy Fullerton, an Associate on the gas desk, are co-chairs of the Houston office’s Community Advisory Committee, a group of active volunteers who meet regularly to coordinate fundraising and volunteering initiatives. Amy has dedicated significant time to volunteering with both the Houston Open and Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, which raises funds for Texas youth and education.
“Houston is a big and a diverse city, but it has a real sense of community,” says Amy. “Through volunteering, I’ve seen how much Houstonians of all backgrounds value their community, and how they bring extraordinary diversity together to bring impact. This ‘diversity with unity’ is something I see in our Houston office as well.”
When it came time to plan for Foundation Week, Macquarie’s annual week-long celebration of fundraising and volunteering initiatives around the world, Amy and Vanessa knew they would need to be creative and flexible as people were returning to work post-COVID but still in a hybrid working arrangement.
After speaking to the Foundation, Vanessa and Amy held two Foundation Week pop-up info sessions in the Houston office to raise awareness among colleagues.
“We considered several community groups to support during Foundation Week. We went through each one and thought about which would resonate with our colleagues the most. We decided to support National Association for Mental Illness (NAMI) Greater Houston, a local organisation dedicated to transforming the lives of those affected by mental illness,” says Amy.
“We chose this organisation because a colleague had direct experience working with this organisation after supporting of a family member. We know many people have been struggling with mental illness and decided we wanted to direct our fundraising efforts to support this important cause,” says Vanessa.
Taking inspiration from Vanessa and Amy’s pop-ups – as well as their own longstanding commitments to community groups – colleagues across the Houston office hosted 11 volunteer and fundraising events during Foundation Week, raising close to $A120,000 including matching from the Foundation, for seven community organisations.
Following Foundation Week, Vanessa organised a pickleball tournament as part of the spring/ summer fundraiser, which raised almost $A9,000 on its own – including matching from the Foundation.
“We were overwhelmed by the response we had to the event,” she explains. “All the places were filled immediately, and we had people emailing us from other Macquarie offices, including New York, to see how they could replicate the event.”
Funds raised for the pickleball tournament were donated to Aids for Victims of Domestic Abuse (AVDA) and the organisation used the funds to host a family fun day for the families they support.
“It was a great day, with inflatable slides, shows and face painting. Everything you’d want to see for kids and families who have been through some challenging times, to be able relax and have some fun,” says Vanessa.
“For me, the best way to improve the world is to start in my own community.”