Shemara Wikramanayake recognized as Australia’s highest paid CEO

Macquarie Bank’s CEO Shemara Wikramanayake has topped the list as Australia’s highest paid CEO, the first women to achieve such a milestone.

Shemara Wikramanayake whose parents went to live in London from Sri Lanka and then later made Australia their home, has been recognized as not just the most powerful woman in banking in Australia but also the first female boss of Macquarie Bank.

Having joined the Macquarie Bank having worked as a corporate lawyer ; that was some 30 years ago and at the time, the bank had only an office in Sydney.

Shemara’s work for the Bank took her around the world ; she has worked in 09 cities and 06 countries, gathering the kind of know-how and expertise that would poise her for the top job.

She had been traveling and was busy building her career when marriage came in her late thirties.

She married fellow banker Ed Gilmartin who, she says, opted to be the primary caregiver for the family – in an interview for IWD, she recalled how her son when he was small, wanted to be normal ‘like his dad’ and when asked how he will earn, said ‘my wife will work.’.

She recalled how her daughter as a child, walking around in high heels and carrying a brief case, wanting to ‘be the boss.’

It was role modeling with a difference but she says she is happy, given that her children are well adjusted kids – although she did miss being the primary caregiver when they were growing up.

Only 04 women made the top list among 50 highest paid CEOs in Australia with Shemara coming in at the top, with earning exceeding A$ 18 million for the last financial year, according to the Australian Financial Review’s Annual CEO Pay Survey.

So what insights can she give those women climbing the career ladder, hoping for great success and even greater sense of achievement?

“Everyone needs to find the right combination to be empowered and to be able to give their best. ” Shemara says.

She encourages those wanting to achieve success to be able to explore possibilities ; mentioning the time she took time out from the Macquarie Bank to check out ‘ life outside finance’.

But she soon returned to the fold, having missed the ‘social and intellectual stimulation’ of her chosen field of work in banking.

Shemara believes that every individual can achieve their full potential.

Shemara was appointed as CEO of Australia’s biggest homegrown bank in 2018 ; she took over from the outgoing CEO Nicholas Moore. Her appointment made her one of the world’s most powerful women in finance, giving a tremendous boost to the advancement of women in banking.

Shemara joined Macquarie Bank in 1987 and has risen through a stellar career that has seen her appointed as Head of Macquarie Asset Management in 2008 ; she has overseen tremendous growth and has been credited with outstanding success.

With her charming smile and friendly demeanor, she remains truly Sri Lankan at heart. Having grown up in the UK where her parents lived before coming over to Australia, Shemara makes us all proud of her deeply Sri Lankan roots.


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