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Interview: Louise Robinson, Manager, Corporate Governance at Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets

How did it feel to win The One to Watch at The Chartered Governance Institute UK & Ireland Awards 2020?

It felt amazing to win The One to Watch at the 2020 awards ceremony. It was such a surprise and honour to have been nominated in the first place, and then to be short listed. It really was a massive boost and validated that what I am doing day-to-day is adding value and that my colleagues both internally at Macquarie and in the industry, recognise and appreciate that. Given the circumstances this year and the awards being hosted virtually, it did allow my parents and sister to ‘attend’ even though it was in the early hours of the morning where they were, so it was pretty special to be able to share it with them.

Why did you choose to pursue a career in governance?

My career in governance somewhat landed on my lap. I had come from New Zealand with a career to date in agricultural business banking/lending and was looking to get back into the financial sector. I had been in the UK for two years when I was able to get a role as an executive assistant to the governance, legal, finance and tax teams, within Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets. This enabled me to support the governance team in a more hands-on, governance assistant type role. Governance, as a day-to-day role, really spoke to some of my personality traits and strengths. After having turned down the idea of furthering my studies and career in this space initially, it took a further few years before I started my studies and was fully committed to this path.

How long have you been in your current role and can you talk us through your route into Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets?

I have been with Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets since February 2014, when I first started as an executive assistant. I had been fortunate enough to have great colleagues in the governance, legal, tax and finance teams, who continuously encouraged me to further my responsibilities beyond that of their executive assistant. From the beginning, I started helping with basic company secretary admin tasks, simple Diligent Entities updates and so forth, and it grew from there. I spent some time working with the tax team on the new FATCA and CRS regulations and getting the systems and reporting set up in the early years. This made me realise I was keen to move beyond the role of an executive assistant. The growth was natural – taking on more and more until I was working full time in the governance team and undertaking the qualification scheme studies. Macquarie has always been very supportive of this, and for that I am grateful.

What does your job involve on a day-to-day basis?

Working in Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets is slightly different to your traditional company secretarial role. I still undertake the usual statutory requirements, new company establishment and entity management, working closely with our directors, preparation of board packs, board and investment committee minute taking, management of regulated entities, liquidations, directors and officers insurance, directors duties training and so forth, but I am fortunate enough to also get exposure to the raising of investor capital, formation of fund structures and closing in of investors to fixed term Investment funds, as well as the ongoing transactional work associated with mergers and acquisitions. This later experience has meant I have gained a breadth of experience in different jurisdictions throughout Europe, working closely with law firms and administrators, asset management teams and senior management. From the outset I am involved in entity formation and approvals associated with an acquisition bid, through the approvals process to the ultimate signing of a share purchase agreement and completion of transaction settlements. I work closely with administrators of our fund entities and special purpose vehicles, both ongoing and seeing through transition periods, as appropriate. The job is ever evolving, fast paced and exciting.

What would you consider the main governance challenges currently for the company secretarial industry?

For me, this is a tricky question to answer having had a sheltered career in the industry so far and working in a somewhat niche sector for our profession. From my experience so far, the company secretary is often the round-about in a junction of many different roads – balancing the requirements of many different stakeholders and ensuring deliverables can be achieved and to meet stakeholder demands, statutory or regulatory requirements, external deadlines and other variables outside of your control, all the while maintaining those professional relationships and high quality of work standard. It is very much a balancing act and ensuring the small details are considered as well as the big picture items.

What has been your biggest achievement in your role so far?

I feel like the last year has been one big cumulative achievement. I undertook and completed my CSQS studies in 2.5 years while working full-time. I could not have done this without the support and encouragement of my peers, mentors and boss during this period, especially when leaving work to go to night classes or home to study. Being nominated, shortlisted and winning The One to Watch at the 2020 awards was a great achievement, and my hard work over the last two years was also recognised with my promotion to manager last year. Lastly, working on my first transaction as the lead governance member and successfully assisting the team with the acquisition of Farnborough airport meant that I was finally seeing my years of hard work, studies and learning with colleagues, come to fruition – this was somewhat the beginning of the onward journey. Altogether, this last year has seen me really grow as an individual and gain the confidence I need to continue to succeed in my career.

What advice would you give to those beginning their governance career?

Get stuck in! There are lots of opportunities to take on any number of roles and responsibilities, learning on the job, progressing with the formal studies, working in public, private or charitable sectors, numerous industries, services providers – the list goes on. The work is varied, fast paced and ever changing – great for those who like a challenge and variation in what they do. Many people throughout businesses are always keen to help you where possible as well, so don’t be afraid to talk to them to further your learning and development. I would also say it is never too late to consider a change and head in this direction. I had never heard of the profession prior to working with the team I am in, and it was quite different to what I had done at university and work wise back in New Zealand. However, I am grateful the opportunity befell me. If you are someone considering the move, there are many contacts out there to speak to, to gain further insight to the industry.

Looking forward to 2021, what does the next year hold for you? Are there any particular goals you are hoping to reach?

This coming year will hopefully be another busy one, with more investor capital to spend, transactions to assist with and ever furthering my experience and abilities in my role. I personally will be looking to apply for my Associate membership this year, after a successful trajectory the last few years. I will also soon be appointed as named company secretary on a number of our special purpose vehicles in an investment portfolio that I work on – final recognition for the path I have taken and from the directors for the work I do on the boards. Such is the governance career and industry in which I work that there will always be developments and changes in requirements, policies and the way we do things that I will forever be learning and adapting as I go.

The Chartered Governance Institute UK & Ireland Awards 2020