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Curious disappearance of Macquarie man who earned $39m and then quit

If you want to be like Nick O'Kane, the Macquarie trader who earned $39m last year and $22m the year before that and who has just resigned, you need to a) work a lot, b) work for a place that's open to ideas, and c) find somewhere that will pay you a cut of the profits. 

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O'Kane, who is in his early 50s, is leaving Macquarie after the bank today flagged "substantially lower profits" in its markets business and in particular in the commodities and gas and power business that he built from 2005. He's stepping down on February 27th and, in corporate parlance, is going to “pursue opportunities outside Macquarie.” Macquarie chief executive Shemara Wikramanayake said O'Kane is leaving for, "a range of personal reasons." 

O'Kane will be replaced as global head of commodities and global markets (CGM) by Simon Wright, the current head of the financial markets division, who's been at Macquarie for 35 years and who looks like a safe pair of hands. However, Wright won't join the executive committee until 1 April, leaving a month or so without a senior person from the trading division on the committee.

It all seems a little rushed.  It's not clear whether O'Kane, who'd been on Macquarie's executive committee since the summer of 2017 and who moved from Houston to London when he became global head of CGM, intended to go so suddenly, but he can presumably afford to step away. He may also need the rest: during his long years in Houston he was running 7am meetings at midnight Australian time, and talking to Australian executives after hours.  

O'Kane's sudden departure is all the more surprising given his time spent talking up the bank and its culture.  A frequent fixture on YouTube, he can be found there talking about the importance of good ideas and how great it is that Macquarie enabled him to follow his own vision of building an enormous US energy trading business (that generated A$6bn (US$4bn) of net profits in the year to March 2023). 

Those enormous profits explained O'Kane's enormous pay. In 2019 he praised the bank for a "compensation philosophy" that rewarded people who "generated the outcomes." However, he also noted that Macquarie likes to hold people accountable, which might explain the timing of his departure. 

On a personal basis, O'Kane will now be free to leave London. Four years ago, he said his favourite places were Australia and LA. It's not clear whether the City has grown on him since.

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AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor

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