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[Herald Interview] Macquarie capitalizes on reputation

Australian financial group seeks business expansion through public trust

Macquarie, an Australia-based global financial service group, puts a priority on building public trust for sustainable growth in Korea, the top management of the group’s Korean arm said.

“It’s obvious and we know that our reputation is everything to us. Without a reputation we have nothing,” Macquarie Group of Companies Korea chairman John Walker said in an interview with The Korea Herald last Friday. 
John Walker. (Yoon Byung-chan/The Korea Herald)
John Walker. (Yoon Byung-chan/The Korea Herald)

Since its entry into the Korean market in 2000 as a foreign investor in infrastructure projects, Macquarie has expanded its business domain, running 12 financial service businesses, including investment banking and M&A consulting.

One of its key affiliates based in Korea, Macquarie Korea Infrastructure Fund, has invested about 1.1 trillion won ($1.06 billion) in public infrastructure projects, including the Incheon International Airport Expressway and the Seoul-Chuncheon Expressway.

Some infrastructure projects that the Aussie financial group invested in, however, have faced negative public sentiment, being viewed as speculative ventures for excessive profit-taking.

“I know which group the criticism comes from. All we have is our people and our reputation. So we obviously don’t discount any of that at all. We spend lots of time reaching out to those groups, organizations and individuals,” Walker said.

He stressed that Macquarie is not a private equity firm seeking gains from short-term investments.

“We have 12 businesses here. We take (all kinds of management) issues very seriously. We don’t take 10-year, 20-year views on things. We basically look forever because we see ourselves as a diversified financial institution,” he said.

Macquarie has capitalized on winning back the public trust here and the executive is sure of the firm’s continued growth in Korea.

“I think we have a very good reputation in this market (for now). You can’t actually grow a business and operate a successful enterprise unless you do have the public trust,” he said.

“Through all of these we grow, we thrive and we continue to contribute.”

Aside from establishing a charity foundation under Macquarie Korea, Walker has been dusting off his guitars and stationery in a bid to raise money for disaster-hit areas and victims.

Last week, Walker held a launch party for his music album “12 Bridges” to raise money for the Philippine islands ravaged by Typhoon Haiyan.

“Honestly, I think Korea helped me get my music back. If I had stayed in Australia, my guitars would still have covers on them.”

In return for the opportunities and gains he got here, Walker published two children’s books featuring an Asiatic Black Bear, titled “Ura’s Adventure” and “Ura’s Dream.”

“People often say to me, ‘I’d really like to do that,’ but they have so many excuses. I definitely believe you have more than one life. But I want this life to be really full. And I’m fortunate enough to return that capability.”

By Suk Gee-hyun (monicasuk@heraldcorp.com)
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