Macquarie Group’s first female chief executive says her gender has never been an issue during her 30 years at Australia’s biggest investment bank.

Shemara Wikramanayake is set to replace Nicholas Moore, who will end a 10-year tenure as managing director and chief executive when he steps down in November.

Ms Wikramanayake, currently group head of the Macquarie Asset Management unit, says she hopes her elevation attracts more women to the notoriously male-dominated industry.

“In the 30 years I’ve been here, it’s always been a meritocracy,” she told reporters on Thursday.

“I’ve not found barriers; I find we try to allow the best people to do the best things and we try to also draw the best out of people.

“Having said that … we as an industry are not attracting enough females in terms of allowing them to develop: we need to provide more flexibility.”

Ms Wikramanayake, who has two children, joined Macquarie in 1987 and has worked for the group in six countries and across several business lines.

Even before ascending to the top job, Ms Wikramanayake is one of the country’s highest-paid executives, pulling in $16.7 million in the 2018 financial year.

Her predecessor said he was confident he was leaving the company “in a strong position and in safe hands”.

“I’m confident will continue to flourish under the leadership of Shemara and the broader management team,” Mr Moore said in a statement.

Analysts at investment bank UBS said Mr Moore was leaving Macquarie “well positioned with its five core businesses in good shape and a solid, well-funded balance sheet”.

The announcement was made on Thursday prior to Macquarie’s annual general meeting, at which the firm maintained its outlook for full-year earnings in line with 2017/18, when it made a record $2.56 billion profit.

Macquarie shares were down 2.6 per cent $121.70 at the end of trade, the stock’s biggest one-day drop since February 6 when the Australian share market suffered its biggest single-day decline in more than two years.