Clean water and transport links: how finance fits in

Angenika Kunne tells Lucy Mair about the exciting infrastructure projects she's working on at Macquarie

"It wasn't my childhood dream to become an investment banker," admits Angenika Kunne. But she "always found it fascinating how finance influences all the different dynamics in the world", which made her a perfect match for the Infrastructure and Utilities team at Macquarie.

Angenika joined the global financial services firm just over four years ago after gaining an MSc in Finance and Economics from LSE. She's now working on infrastructure investment projects to finance a water plant in Ghana, a tram network in Belgium, and an offshore transmission cable in the UK - and she's travelling regularly to do so. But she's taken some time out of her busy schedule to answer our questions about life as an associate at the firm...

Why did you decide to apply to Macquarie?

I applied to Macquarie because the firm is a leader in infrastructure investment and I was especially interested in working on long-term infrastructure projects with global dynamics. I was also attracted to the firm's culture, which is distinctly Australian but also international.

My interview at Macquarie was very pleasant - I was asked tough questions, but everyone I met was genuinely nice and friendly, which made me want to join the firm.

Can you explain what the Infrastructure and Utilities team does?

Within my part of the Infrastructure and Utilities team, we work mainly on public-private partnership (PPP) or private finance initiative (PFI) projects. These involve private investors funding large-scale public infrastructure developments, and the government then repays them over a number of years when projects are completed.

We're responsible for providing financial advice to clients bidding for the project, talking to the banks to secure the necessary loans, and ensuring the contractors get paid. We also structure the deal to make it attractive to investors and banks, which involves analysing the risks related to the investment, negotiating the best prices, and making sure it will provide the highest returns possible. But infrastructure is a relatively low-risk asset for investors because, as long as the project is completed and available for use, investors will receive returns.

Can you tell us about some of the projects you're working on?

I'm currently working on a project to build a water treatment plant in Ghana. It's a huge development that, when it's built, will deliver enough clean water to deal with the current shortage in the region.

My team and I have also recently won a project to construct a tram network in Antwerp, in Belgium. We're currently closing the deal, so I'm travelling to Benelux every week and it's very hectic at the moment!

What kind of tasks are you responsible for?

There are several work streams on every project and someone on the team takes responsibility for each one. I often work on up to five projects at a time and have a different role in each team, so my work is always varied.

As an associate, I could be responsible for the due diligence, which involves liaising with a technical advisor to understand the risks involved in a project and how they will be managed, taking out the necessary insurance, and seeking legal advice; financial modelling, which means analysing the cash flows - the incoming revenues and outgoing costs; preparing the financing by talking to the banks and making sure we have all the money that's needed to pay the contractors; or leading commercial discussions with investors and contractors and preparing documentation for them.

How big is your team and what's your relationship with senior people like?

There are around 40 people in the London-based Infrastructure and Utilities team, but we work in smaller sub-teams on projects, usually including a managing director, one or two vice-presidents or associates, and a couple of analysts.

On the Antwerp tram network, for example, I'm working with a Dutch colleague who's also an associate and we share the work streams I've mentioned evenly between the two of us. There's a managing director who makes key commercial decisions and we also have two analysts on the team who help with the financial modelling.

I get lots of exposure to senior people, which is something I really appreciate. Some of the managing directors began taking me along to meetings shortly after I joined the firm and I learnt a lot from watching them and asking them questions. Now, they regularly ask how I'm doing and check that I'm happy with my projects.

How has your role progressed since you joined Macquarie?

I've been at the firm for almost four-and-a-half years and my role has progressed a lot during that time as I've developed my financial analysis and business skills. Our projects generally last around two years from start to finish, so I've now seen the full cycle of several projects and can feed that experience into my work.

That said, as an analyst at Macquarie you do more than work on models and pitchbooks - I started working on live transactions, dealing directly with clients and attending meetings very quickly. When you work hard and do a good job, people at Macquarie are appreciative and open to giving you more responsibilities and opportunities.

What's the biggest challenge you've faced?

My job involves a lot of travelling, which is something you have to learn to deal with. Recently, I've been spending three or four days each week in Europe, which can be difficult if I don't know anyone in the city I'm staying in.

But the upside is that you can sit down with clients and discuss something face-to-face and you get a result much more quickly. Travelling also gives me time to catch up on work in my hotel, leaving my weekends free to enjoy when I come back home.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

It's very rewarding because I feel like I'm achieving something - my job isn't just about making money for the sake of it, but also paving the way for projects that have real economic and social benefits, whether that's providing clean water or building a new transport link. It gives you a good feeling.

I also enjoy the fact that my work is varied. It means I can gain exposure to many aspects of Macquarie's work and have developed a broad range of skills in a short period of time.