What asylum seekers taught Geoff Martin that investment bankers couldn't
Associate Professor Geoff Martin has worked at the highest levels of business, as well as with people at their most vulnerable – and he learned as much about life from both.
Geoff teaches strategy on our MBA and Executive Education programs, and helps students to improve the viability of social enterprises like the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.
Geoff earned his MBA at Melbourne Business School in 2001 before embarking on a career in international finance that saw him become Vice President of Operational Risk at Credit Suisse in London.
His time at the top made Geoff appreciate the values he learned growing up in a tight-knit town in outback Australia even more dearly than he had before.
"I grew up in a small community in Cobar, New South Wales, where there was a very strong sense of community," he says.
"There was a real sense that we work hard for our families and for the people around us. So I think it was heavily imbued from a young age, that idea that we have a responsibility to our communities, whether it be the immediate or global."
After the GFC, Geoff decided to put his finance and strategy skills towards making the world a better place.
"I often thought about how to appease that social conscience and, having spent time with investment banks and seeing capitalism at its most extreme, it just ate away at me that I needed to give back at some point," he says.
Today, as an Associate Professor of Strategy at the School, Geoff helps MBA students gain hands-on experience by providing consulting services to organisations like the ASRC and Windana Drug and Alcohol Recovery clinic.
"The kind of people you meet are so different to investment bankers – like social workers who spend their days in jails trying to keep youth from spending their whole life in the system. The people they're helping also show you what really matters in life. They help you keep it real," he says.
The consulting services give not-for-profit groups access to business tools and expertise that they would usually struggle to afford, which in turns helps them better serve the community.
"Windana are a clinic for those affected by substance abuse, who provide a reasonably priced alternative to some of the incredibly expensive rehabilitation clinics that are out there," Geoff says.
"The wonderful founders of that organisation were just glowing in terms of the attention to detail and the effort that the students put into understanding their market and doing the financial modelling. It provided them with a structure for their decision-making that they never would have had otherwise."
As for the students, Geoff says the experience shows them just how much of a difference they are able to make in the world.
"I think it makes them aware of how much value they can add in the social enterprise and not-for-profit space very quickly. It builds their esteem and their confidence that everything they've been learning here is incredibly valuable at a practical level."
Much of Geoff's work is made possible by donations from alumni like him, which support student scholarships and the costs of not-for-profit placements.
"The role of support from alumni in what we do is just huge," Geoff says.
"I'd really encourage anyone in the School community to get involved however they can. What we're doing really adds value very directly at the not-for-profit level. But more broadly, we're also enabling and educating the business leaders of tomorrow, which is absolutely critical to the prosperity of Australia and the whole Asia-Pacific region."