Managing assets like airports, toll roads and wind farms is all in a day’s work for Iryna Podoliak and Andrea Ansaldo at Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets (MIRA).
MIRA is a respected world leader in alternative asset management, benefiting from its position as a division within the wider Macquarie Group, a diversified global financial institution with more than 14,000 employees worldwide.
“MIRA has unparalleled expertise working in infrastructure as an asset class,” says London-based Ukrainian Iryna Podoliak, Senior Analyst, Investor Solutions Group at MIRA. “Joining this company was an obvious choice, as MIRA is the world’s largest infrastructure fund manager. It gave me the opportunity to combine my interest in real assets with my passion for financial markets and solving complex, logical problems.”
Podoliak joined Macquarie through its graduate recruitment programme, which included three weeks of training in New York getting to grips with comprehensive financial modelling and accounting, and gave her the chance to network with colleagues from across the globe.
“The opportunities to work with and learn from senior people in the company are invaluable. But we are not just steered in a particular direction of how things need to be done,” says Podoliak. “The working culture at Macquarie is very entrepreneurial, and everyone is encouraged to take opportunity and speak up about their ideas for business development. Less experienced team members are taken seriously and get to work on important projects and explore new markets from day one.”
Management is also very understanding of the time it takes to build and progress with new projects, she adds. “They take the long-term view on MIRA funds and look at the assets from the owner’s perspective. This means that you can develop long lasting relationships with investors and the portfolio company management teams, as well as helping some of the world’s largest pension funds achieve a diversified allocation and improved returns for the pension money they manage.”
This view is supported by Podoliak’s colleague Andrea Ansaldo, an Analyst from Italy who also works in the London office covering Central, Eastern and Southern Europe for MIRA. “You’re given the opportunity to do your own thinking and planning, while being part of a winning team delivering for investors. It’s a really stimulating environment for those passionate about corporate finance and infrastructure industries such as energy and transport.”
There are also plenty of opportunities for training and development. As well as accounting workshops, there are regular “lunch and learn” events where members of MIRA teams, external academics and consultants come to the office to talk about infrastructure-specific topics, such as the practicalities of transaction management, raising a fund, and the legal aspects of renewable energy deals.
“In addition, Macquarie has comprehensive online and classroom training, ranging from developing your personal brand, to delivering successful presentations and improving negotiation skills,” says Podoliak. “The biggest challenge is making time for everything.”
To help on this front, Macquarie has made strong advances in flexible working. This means more than just investing in mobile apps and tools, but changing the habits of how people work. Employees’ performance is measured on their achievements and contribution to the business, rather than the amount of time spent in the office.
As long as clients have a seamless experience, employees can work flexibly or outside the office, depending on their personal needs. “This means I have a better work-life balance and can work from home whenever my life circumstances require that,” says Podoliak.
MIRA is also big on diversity. Podoliak and Ansaldo are themselves examples of this. “There are over 100 people working in the London office coming from both industry and finance backgrounds and speaking about 25 different languages,” says Podoliak. “It’s great to learn from each other, develop a solid understanding of different cultures and ways of working, and share experiences.”
Ansaldo agrees, laughing that there is a strong Australian influence at Macquarie, which is headquartered in Sydney. “It’s a relaxed culture. We work hard, but the people are very friendly and so the atmosphere is enjoyable.”
Being a global organisation with clients and investments in many different countries and sectors, there are also plenty of opportunities to travel and work in other markets. Podoliak speaks about a number of countries and cities she’s been to in her three years at the firm, including conferences in Auckland and Barcelona, a portfolio site visit in Madrid, and fundraising roadshows in Germany and Luxembourg.
“Experiencing other cultures is great, but Macquarie is also about the inspiring people and projects I get to work on,” says Podoliak. “For example, I was involved in the launch and fundraising of Macquarie European Infrastructure Fund 5 (MEIF5) with €4bn of investor commitments, and, since 2016, I’ve been also working on asset management of one of MIRA-managed assets in Sweden.”
Both Podoliak and Ansaldo agree that the learning curve is steep at MIRA and hard work and being a good team player is required to succeed, but the benefits, rewards, networking opportunities, career progression and variety (in terms of sector experience and job responsibilities) are unlimited. Plus, there’s the chance to socialise and learn fun new skills. “New joiners are all excited about our karaoke nights out,” jokes Podoliak.
As for their future plans, both are keen to keep growing and own the development of their careers at Macquarie. The future looks bright - they might also improve their karaoke skills too.