Investment specialists, USA


Nicola Watkinson - General Manager, The Americas

Tel: +1 646 344 8120

Prior to her arrival in the United States in August 2016, Nicola was responsible for developing Trade, Investment and Education links between Australia and South Asia with a team of over 50 staff in 16 offices across India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

After a career in the private sector in the UK and with the Victorian Government in Melbourne, Nicola joined Austrade in 2003. Nicola’s career in Austrade spans Consul General Frankfurt, Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner, West Europe, Global Head of Investment and Senior Investment Commissioner for Europe, Middle East and Africa. She has also worked in North Asian markets with a particular focus on Japan, China and Korea. Nicola has sat on the advisory board of groups such as CSIRO (Australia’s premier research organisation), Industry Capability Network, Australia China Business Council and Australian Business in Europe.

Find out more about investing in Australia.

Chris Knepler - Investment Commissioner, Chicago

Chris Knepler

Tel: +1 312 374 9401

Chris manages Midwest operations for the Australian Trade and Investment Commission and works to deepen and broaden Australia-U.S. economic relationships in the region. Priority sectors include agribusiness and food processing, advanced manufacturing, medical devices and education.

Chris joined Austrade New York in 2003 and has since worked on a variety of strategic projects in the United States, Australia and Brazil. These include leading the Latin American technology team from Sao Paulo and the Australia-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA) export advisor team in Sydney.

Chris has a decade of marketing, strategy and international business development experience in the telecommunications industry, including with Motorola, Ameritech and Deutsche Telecom. He has also been on the management team of two New York City-based, venture-backed technology start-ups. Chris has lived and worked in Hungary, France, Indonesia, Australia and Brazil.

Chris holds a Master of Business Administration (Management of Technology) from the University of California at Berkeley.

Peter McGauran - Consul-General and Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner, Houston

Peter McGauran

Tel: +1 832 962 8432

The Honourable Peter McGauran is Australia’s Consul-General and Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner to Houston, Texas.

Mr McGauran took up the position in January 2018 after a distinguished career in both the public and private sectors in Australia.

Mr McGauran served 25 years in the Australian Parliament between 1984 and 2008 including as a Cabinet Minister and over 10 years as a Minister in several Departments including the portfolios of Agriculture, Industry, Communications and Immigration.

As Minister for Agriculture, Mr McGauran was a strong proponent of free and fair trade and was instrumental in negotiation of the initial stages of Free Trade Agreements with China, Japan and Korea. Mr McGauran also chaired the Cairns Group of agricultural countries, including the United States, at a crucial period and drove commitments to break down artificial barriers to trade.

On his retirement from Federal Parliament, Mr McGauran became CEO of Thoroughbred Breeders Australia representing Australia’s 8,000 thoroughbred horse breeders and later CEO of Racing Australia, the national regulatory authority for racing in Australia. During that time Mr McGauran instituted the most significant animal welfare and integrity reforms in the history of Australian breeding and racing. Immediately prior to taking up his Post in Houston, Mr McGauran was Special Adviser to the CEO of Tabcorp Holdings.

Mr McGauran graduated from Melbourne University with degrees in Law and Arts.

Steve Rank - Trade and Investment Commissioner, New York

Steve Rank

Tel: +1 646 344 8123

Steve Rank is currently Austrade’s Trade and Investment Commissioner based in New York in the United States of America.

Since joining Austrade in 2009, Steve has held a number of roles as a Trade and Investment Commissioner in Germany, Russia and Central Europe and as Trade Commissioner and Consul General in Istanbul, Turkey. Additionally, in Australia he has been Austrade’s State Director for Western Australia and managed trade advisory teams. Prior to joining Austrade, Steve held senior management roles in the economic development agencies for the New South Wales and Tasmanian state governments and has extensive experience in the corporate and commercial banking sector.

He has post graduate qualifications from the University of New South Wales and the University of Technology Sydney, and is a graduate of the University of Sydney.

Nick Nichles - Consul General and Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner, San Francisco

Tel: +1 415 644 3625

Nick joined Austrade in 2012 as General Manager – Marketing, Online and Business Practice. Prior to joining Austrade, he was the CEO of NSW Lotteries Corporation and led the state-owned corporation through privatisation and its eventual sale to Tatts Group. Nick has also held C-level commercial and marketing roles at McDonalds Australia and Foxtel.

Nick is a committee member of The Buttery Foundation, which raises funds for the renowned The Buttery, a not-for-profit rehabilitation clinic.

Nick holds a Bachelor of Business from QUT, a Graduate Diploma of Marketing from UTS, is a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and lectured at UTS’ Graduate School of Business in its MBA program.

Odette Hampton - Deputy Consul General and Trade and Investment Commissioner, San Francisco

Odette Hampton

Tel: +1 415 644 3627

Odette Hampton is the Australian Trade and Investment Commission’s (Austrade) Trade and Investment Commissioner, San Francisco. Odette supports Austrade's work in the West Coast of the United States and co-leads the teams responsible for investment attraction and trade support in digital technologies across the Americas.

Prior to Austrade, Odette was the Head of Financial Services (ANZ) for the UK Department for International Trade (DIT) in Sydney, focused on attracting British investment into Australia and New Zealand across financial and professional services. Odette developed DIT’s fintech campaign in Australia and led the creation and implementation of the Australia-UK Fintech Bridge. Odette has led numerous trade and investment missions, advised hundreds of companies on their global expansion and has expertise in fintech. Following the Brexit referendum Odette advised British companies on their Australian opportunities, supported Ministerial visits, contributed to trade policy and the Australia-UK Free Trade Agreement working group discussions. Odette practiced as a lawyer at Gilbert + Tobin Perth, in the corporate advisory team, preparing advice and conducting due diligence, primarily for tech and mining companies undertaking capital raising’s and IPO’s.

Odette holds a Bachelor of Laws (Honours)/Bachelor of Arts from the University of Notre Dame Australia and studied abroad at The Catholic University of America in Washington DC. Odette has a Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice from the College of Law and was admitted to practice in the Supreme Court of Western Australia.

Joanne Smail - Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner, Washington DC

Joanne Smail

From March 2018 Joanne Smail will serve as Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner with the Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade) in Washington DC. This follows 3 months as Chief Strategy Officer accountable for embedding Austrade’s 2018-2022 strategy throughout the organisation to enable client-centricity and digital transformation.

Joanne joined the Australian Government following a career in the private sector as a strategy and business advisor with Scentre Group (owners and operators of Westfield in Australia and New Zealand) and EY. Joanne has worked with companies in the UK, Asia Pacific and Australia, partnering with them to achieve performance improvement outcomes.

Joanne has a Bachelor of Arts in Communications, a Masters of Business Administration specialising in international business. She has served as a Non-Executive Director for Marist 180 and The Yoga Foundation, not-for-profit organisations both focussed on empowering and enabling vulnerable sectors of our community to create positive change. She is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

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