Guy Debelle leaves RBA on a good note

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“I first met Guy as a fresh graduate when he was applying for a job at the Federal Treasury and he was already very impressive,” veteran chief economist Alan Oster told the NAB. “I’ve always found Guy’s comments to be worth listening to – he’s always very caring.”

David Robertson, head of economics and markets research at Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, recalled Dr Debelle’s deep understanding of financial markets and his “wonderful” insights into the economics of climate change. “His successor will need to be strong in those combinations and well equipped for the RBA’s first round of crunch in a decade.”

no fools

Dr. Debelle was well known to RBA colleagues, economists and the bond market for his outspoken and sometimes blunt personality.

Su-Lin Ong, chief economist at RBC Capital Markets, recalls her office being almost entirely taken up with a panel discussion. “The [ex] the Deputy Governor is a commanding presence, but especially in this very small room,” she recalls, adding that she never felt particularly comfortable.

“My main goal was to enter and exit without error!”

Dr. Debelle’s high standards meant that presentations had to be bulletproof.

“You knew that if there were weak spots or a lack of clarity in your work, it wouldn’t come through to him,” said Sean Langcake, senior economist at Oxford’s BIS.

Warren Hogan, economic adviser at Judo Bank, said Dr Debelle had corrected him on several occasions, usually in a public setting.

The former Deputy Governor was also known for his generosity. “It was very kind of him to deliver the annual address in honor of my late father, Professor Warren Hogan,” Mr Hogan said.

The Adelaide native is leaving an impression on the wildest corner of the financial markets: he led a global effort to fix the $6.5 trillion foreign exchange market, after it was allegedly manipulated by banking traders. He chaired an international committee of central banks, investment banks and institutional investors that enshrined the agreed principles in a code of conduct in 2017.

During a lunchtime presentation for the Economic Society in Brisbane, when Paul Brennan, chief economist at Suncorp, asked about currency trading, the former deputy governor replied bluntly: “There are no more people trading currencies, just machines.”

He then launched into a monologue about the dominance of computerized algorithmic trading in the international forex market.

Among Australian economists, David Bassanese of BetaShares has a long history with Andrew Forrest’s new climate warrior. The two Adelaide graduates began their careers at Treasury and reunited in Boston, where they shared a group house with other students.

fear of failing

It was there that Dr. Debelle encouraged Mr. Bassanese, who was studying at Harvard at the time, to enroll in a course at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The class was led by two famous economists, Stanley Fischer and Rudy Dornbusch, with Dr. Debelle as a teaching assistant. “The math ended up being so difficult that I lived in constant fear of failing the course,” Bassanese said. “I feared it would be a professional embarrassment for the rest of my life.”

It turned out that Mr. Bassanese succeeded. “I would never have forgiven her if I hadn’t,” he said, although he never dared to ask if Dr Debelle had a say in the outcome.

Dr. Debelle was a champion in the 800 meters during his high school and university days.

Yarra Capital Management‘s head of macro and strategy, Tim Toohey, recalled being surprised by Dr. Debelle’s particularly warm welcome at a reception.

“I realized that his happiness seemed to be due to the fact that I had just hired the only person at the RBA who consistently beat Guy in the RBA’s internal racing competition.”

His other known passion is music. PinpointMacro’s Michael Blythe was impressed with her ability to turn song titles into meaningful business concepts in speeches.

Tony Morriss, head of Australian economy and rates strategy at Bank of America, took note of a now infamous lyric by punk band The The, which he adopted in the search. Shortly after, they performed at the Sydney Opera House and Mr Morriss took his wife along.

“I told Guy about it when I saw him in a speech, and he said the band should thank him because he must have helped sell a lot of tickets for that show!”

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