When does a Millionaire Factory stop being a Millionaire Factory?

Surely not when it makes an annual profit of $956 million, pays its top 12 executives $59 million and has 15,325 staff who each earned an average $254,486 in the austere post-GFC environment of the past 12 months.

The Reuters coverage of today’s annual result from Macquarie Group claimed that Macquarie “used to be called the Millionaire’s Factory for its generous banker pay”. Having coined the nickname on the Herald Sun back in 1997 and then steadfastly used it through Crikey’s 11-year history, this moniker is not going to be lost without a fight.

There is no other organisation in Australian that produces millionaires like Macquarie.

There would be somewhere north of 500 people who today hold net assets of more than $1 million which have come entirely from their dealings with Australia’s largest investment bank. Indeed, there would be about 50 people who have made more than $10 million from Macquarie over the years and, despite some high-profile recent retirements, that would include more than 20 current executives.

Sure, the days of former CEO Allan Moss scoring a record-high $33 million in one year are long gone. His successor, Nicholas Moore, took an 8% pay cut to $8.7 million this year. But Moore himself is worth more than $100 million. Nick Moore is indeed an appropriate name for this factory foreman.

One of the funny things about Macquarie is the way it tries to perpetuate a culture of faceless bankers. The decision to never publish a picture of a banker in the annual report or any stock exchange announcement has been continued, even after the passing of legendary co-founder and long-time chairman David Clarke a few weeks ago.

Today is the big Macquarie information dump but you won’t find a single picture in these 425 pages released to the ASX at 8.30am this morning: a six-page statutory profit report, seven-page press release, 71-page analyst presentation, 270-page annual report and 88-page management discussion and analysis.

Aside from the avalanche of information and lack of pictures, the most striking thing about today’s dump is the lack of drama or big developments. The net annual profit was down marginally from $1.05 billion to $956 million, with no single division surging ahead or plummeting backwards. And unlike past results, there wasn’t a big share price reaction —  the stock is up 7 cents to $34.97, valuing the group at $12.1 billion.

Macquarie also traditionally likes to raise capital on results day, but with $3 billion more capital than regulators require there was no need this time.

The only out of the ordinary disclosure today was the appointment of veteran professional director and former McKinsey management consultant Diane Grady to the board. She joins Catherine Livingstone and Helen Nugent  — Macquarie joins an exclusive club comprising Pacific Brands, AMP, Westpac and QBE Insurance with three or more female directors.

The biggest change at Macquarie over the past three years has been the move to a traditional corporate governance model with an independent chairman and a majority of independent directors. The four management doyens at Macquarie — Allan Moss, David Clarke, Laurie Cox and Mark Johnson — have all departed over the past three years and would together be worth more than $200 million.

But the entrepreneurial model of fast-moving risk taking within boundaries continues to evolve under Nicholas Moore, who boldly moved into the US market when assets and talent were going cheap during the GFC. Moore copped plenty of criticism for this move but he’s answered them today with a slide that reveals the following regional breakdown of staff and operating income for the six months to March 31:

  • Australia: operating income $2.89 billion from 7386
  • Americas: operating income $2.23 billion from 3723 staff
  • Asia: operating income $1.15 billion from 2834 staff
  • Rest of the world: operating income $1 billion from 1613 staff

In terms of income per staff member, the Americas are out-performing the much-hyped Australian and Asian divisions. Indeed, a record 64% of all income now comes from Macquarie’s sprawling offshore operations, in an elite Australian club with the likes of Westfield, CSL, Billabong, Computershare, QBE and News Corporation which has made it big in the global market.

In terms of other interesting disclosures, Macquarie was keen to stress that it remains the world’s largest management of infrastructure and utility assets which comprise $90 billion of the total funds under management of $310 billion. Sure, the listed externally managed infrastructure model is gone but there’s still a pile of assets being managed away from the public glare of a listed vehicle.

Macquarie will never return to the days of being a $100 stock worth more than $25 billion, but it remains a stand out success in the hugely competitive global investment banking market which regularly generates about $1 billion in annual profits and continues to pump out the millionaires like nothing else in Australia.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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