It’s a long way from the red soil of Bundaberg to the marble halls of Buckingham Palace, but one Australian farmer’s son is taking his passion for farming all the way to the royal family.
Lex Greensill has been made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his services to the economy as part of Queen Elizabeth’s birthday honours in the United Kingdom.
Raised on his parent’s sugar cane and sweet potato farm in Bundaberg, Mr Greensill studied law by correspondence and worked at a local law firm.
He said during that time he witnessed the pressures his parents, Judy and Lloyd, faced when their small farming business had to deal with large multinational companies.
“The big impression that I had from childhood was the fact that farming can be a tough affair,” he said.
“Probably the single biggest impact on my professional life was the determination that I was going to do what I could to change the way that small companies, like my parents’ farming business, were treated by big companies.”
Banking on London
That determination took Mr Greensill to London, where he developed ideas on how suppliers could access more efficient financing, regardless of their size or location.
After years leading supply chain finance businesses for firms such as Morgan Stanley and Citi, in 2011 he founded Greensill Capital and eventually his own bank, to provide more capital solutions for small business.
Mr Greensill said he was always looking for ways to level the playing field for businesses like his parents’.
“The cool thing about the business that I’ve been able to build is that today we provide financing to about 1.2 million small companies around the world in over 40 countries, including Australia,” he said.
“The truth is all of it started with watching the pain that my parents experienced dealing with wholesalers and with big corporates buying fruit and vegetables from them.”
But his passion for changing the supply chain did not stop at his own business. Mr Greensill has also served as a senior advisor to the UK Prime Minister, and the White House in the United States.
“Hopefully it shows other folks that there is nothing that you can’t do if set your mind to it.
“I’m very humbled by the award but I think it’s important to say that I certainly wouldn’t have made it to that position without the extraordinary support that we have from the teams that work in our businesses.”
Heart still belongs to the farm
As a child Mr Greensill’s father encouraged him and his brothers, Andrew and Peter, to get out of farming, but Mr Greensill said in their own way each of the sons were still in the business.
“Growing up on a farm I think is honestly an honour that not enough people get to have,” he said.
“In a way Dad’s been successful and unsuccessful with us because all three of us have ended up back in farming.
“You can take people out of a farming environment but they’re always looking for ways to get back.”
But he said the perspective he learnt growing up on the farm had been a key part of his success.
“The impetus to go and explore other fields, but the fact that we always wanted to come back to farming, has I think strengthened our business,” he said.
“Obviously I would never have been there without my mum and dad and the experiences that they gave me growing up on the farm in Bundaberg.”
And that farm in Bundaberg, where his family has farmed since 1947, remains the one place he feels truly at home.
“Being on the farm is certainly where my heart is,” he said.
“And just quietly, I actually have some sugar cane growing in my greenhouse in the UK.
“Just to remind me of home.”
Mr Greensill will be invested as a Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth in a ceremony later this year.