Making money to make change: understanding our Innovative Leader, Audette Exel AO

“She built a career on making millions for the rich, but her true achievement has been using her legal and financial nous to make money for the world’s poorest”. (David Leser, 2012)

Audette Exel is proof that doing good is not just for some professions.

Audette with Sr. Christine - head of the Kiwoko Hospital NICU

Audette with Sr.Christine – Head of the Kiwoko Hospital in Uganda which Audette’s organisation, Adara, supports. Photos courtesy of Adara.

In fact, GLP believes that no matter what you are studying or what you hope to achieve in your career, the prosperity of our societies requires graduates of all professions and disciplines to innovate on their work for a broader social good – and Audette Exel is a sterling example of this.

In the 1980s when she was a university student in Wellington, New Zealand, Audette had already well and truly embraced her activist nature and was taking part in pro-feminist and anti-Apartheid demonstrations. She went on to complete her Law degree at the University of Melbourne and received a sought-after role at Australian law firm, Allens where she specialised in mergers and acquisitions and structured finance.


Audette discovered a passion for skydiving in her youth, she was 16 years old when she made her first jump. Photos courtesy of Adara.

As it turned out – Audette loved finance, and was clearly very talented at it too, so she figured out how to fit in to her master plan. She says that “finance was a piece of knowledge about power and how the world really operates,” she says. “For me, it was about having that knowledge to then effect change.” (Bloomberg, 2013).

In the briefest description of an illustrious career, before establishing Adara, Audette;

  • was Managing Director of the Bermuda Commercial Bank making her one of the youngest women in the world to have run a publicly-traded bank
  • was Chairman of the Bermuda Stock Exchange
  • was on the Board of the Bermuda Monetary Authority, Bermuda’s central financial services regulator, and was Chair of its Investment Committee
  • practised as a lawyer specialising in international finance
  • began her career with Allen, Allen and Hemsley in Sydney before joining the English firm of Linklaters & Paines, in their Hong Kong office, and,
  • was called to the Bars of New South Wales, Australia, England and Wales and Bermuda.

But at 35,  Audette felt it was time to get back to her original mission. After a year of research on non profits and working out just how she could contribute to helping people living in poverty, Adara (then Isis) was conceptualised.

“The answer, she decided, lay in the experience she had gained running a bank”. (Bloomberg, 2013).

It’s what she describes as ‘making money to make change’, and it comes down to one mission. “While Bill Gates and George Soros only began to concentrate on giving after they became billionaires, Exel says she didn’t want to wait until she had amassed a fortune to begin her philanthropy. “It’s the purpose of the business,” she says. “There’s one mission.” (Bloomberg, 2013).

Adara is proof that the power of business can be used to improve the lives of people in poverty.

The Adara businesses are businesses for purpose rather than profit. Their sole objective is to fund Adara Development’s administration and emergency project costs. The Adara businesses have provided millions of dollars in core support costs to Adara Development since inception, allowing 100% of all other donations received to go directly to project-related costs. (Adara).

Adara Logo

So how can you start envisaging how to apply your own unique set of skills, knowledge and experiences to innovate for good?

By coming to hear from the tenacious Audette Exel, our keynote speaker at the Session 2, 2016 Innovative Leaders Series (ILS), and by taking advantage of the post-keynote networking with other GLP students who want to do the same.

The World Economic Forum named her Global Leader of Tomorrow, Forbes named her a “Hero of Philanthropy” in 2014, in 2015 she was inducted into the Australian Businesswomen’s Hall of Fame and in 2016 she was named Australia’s ‘Leading Philanthropist’ by Philanthropy Australia.

On Wednesday, September 28, Audette Exel AO will be speaking to you as GLP’s Innovative Leader; lawyer, international finance expert, philanthropist and innovator of ‘business for purpose’. For more information on Audette Exel AO and her organisation Adara Group, check out the Innovative Leaders Series section of your Session 2, 2016 GLP Guidebook and keep an eye on GLP’s Facebook group and emails.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s