Adam Mooney’s big finance knowledge helps deliver microfinance solutions.
Adam Mooney’s teen dreams of becoming a pilot, footballer or teacher have come to nothing – and he couldn’t be happier. The chief executive officer of Good Shepherd Microfinance, which provides affordable loans and savings accounts to some of Australia’s most disadvantaged people, draws tremendous satisfaction from using his finance skills to make a difference in society.
“I fell into accounting and then fell in love with it,” Mooney says.
As an 18-year-old in the mid-1980s, he started out as a mailroom sorter for the now defunct airline Ansett. When Ansett’s finance department offered him the chance to do an accounting degree, he grabbed it. Over the next decade he took on finance roles at Ansett and Merrill Lynch, before a long stint at ANZ where he held senior positions including chief financial officer of the bank’s biggest business unit.
But despite the intellectual stimulation, he was starting to feel restless. “I found myself wanting more,” Mooney recalls.
Then came what he calls his “epiphany”. During a hiatus from ANZ, from 2003 to 2005, he worked with the development agency Concern Worldwide in Cambodia, and helped set up what has become Cambodia’s largest financially sustainable microfinance institution.
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“I really had my eyes opened to the world of microfinance, sitting under a tree in a village and looking clients in the eye and seeing the dignity that results when you say, ‘Yes, I believe in your business plan. Here’s a loan for $300 to buy this printing press or that fishing boat.”
On returning to Australia, Mooney rejoined ANZ and became head of Community Development Finance while completing a Master of Social Science (International Development) at RMIT. He says the course steeled him to take a different career track.
“I suppose that was my heartland – that was where I found myself,” he says.
Leadership roles at the Reconciliation Australia not-for-profit saw Mooney pursue his passion for building stronger relationships between the wider Australian community and Indigenous people. For three years he was director of the organisation’s Reconciliation Action Plans, and for a time he was acting CEO.
Then in 2012 he landed his perfect job, becoming the inaugural CEO of Good Shepherd Microfinance.
The Good Shepherd organisation partners with about 250 groups across Australia to deliver fair and affordable finance to people excluded from mainstream bank loans and savings.
“It is the dream role for me,” says Mooney. “They are people who have dreams and aspirations that go unrequited or ignored. To be part of something that doesn’t judge a person’s past but judges a person’s commitment to their own future is very powerful and gives me great pleasure.”
It’s perhaps not surprising that Mooney has such empathy for others. He describes being raised in a home of “opportunity and hope” by his mother Irene, a nurse, and his father Bill, now a well-known artist, who became a quadriplegic after breaking his neck in a diving accident at the age of 16.
Mooney has outlasted Ansett, and his dreams of being a pilot are now a dim memory. But he wouldn’t trade his diverse accounting career for anything, and he urges today’s young workers to try a range of roles before settling on a career. “Eventually you’ll find out what you really like and where your passions are,” he says.
One piece of advice
Make the effort to identify people’s talents and aspirations in order to draw the best out of them. “Focusing on strengths rather than weaknesses is crucial, not just in the workplace but in the community overall,” says Adam Mooney.
This article is from the July issue of INTHEBLACK