After just one year in his role as Head of Environmental, Social and Governance at MoneyMe Financial Group, Alexander Graham has been named Young Executive of the Year at The CEO Magazine’s 2023 Executive of the Year Awards.
From carbon offsetting to modern slavery, gender pay gap and sustainability reporting, Graham has spearheaded the challenge of amending MoneyMe’s constitution to reflect its commitment to addressing the critical ESG challenges that many organizations face today.
While early years of leadership are often accompanied by a fair share of ups and downs, Graham has quickly learned that humility and having an open mind work in his favor to accomplish the task at hand.
“In cases where I recognize that my understanding may be limited due to a lack of experience, I place a strong emphasis on active listening, continuous learning and seeking to understand the complexities of the situation fully,” he tells The CEO Magazine.
Forging a Path
Graham first joined the digital financial service company six years ago as a Credit Analyst. However, it didn’t take long for him to make the right impression to earn the title of ESG Officer and, thereafter, Head of ESG.
He says the winning formula has been putting his hand up to get involved in opportunities and learning along the way. “I was very lucky that I did that and then ended up in a role that has allowed me to have the influence that I’ve had,” Graham says.
He has a string of community service experiences in developing countries under his belt – a testament to his interest in social matters and instigating positive change.
Transferring the lessons learned in disadvantaged communities to the boardroom, Graham made a wholehearted commitment to steer the company towards greater responsibility on multiple fronts.
Having achieved so much in such a short time, Graham is clearly in his element, providing the business with a clear road map for next-level ESG considerations, which include B Corp Certification – the gold standard for sustainability.
To date, some of his biggest milestones include gender pay gap analysis and reporting, championing the improvement of employee benefits and putting a carbon-offsetting initiative into practice.
Graham has also put into motion a charity partnership with Canteen, an Australian national support organization for young people living with cancer. MoneyMe’s financial contribution to the charity to date totals a staggering US$144,000.
He says implementing each of these changes has allowed him to put his mixed bag of skills to the test, particularly diplomatic perseverance. “This endeavor required navigating complex stakeholder relationships and garnering support from the company, the board and shareholders,” he explains.
“I conducted thorough research, gathered data and developed a proposal highlighting the positive long-term value.”
Meeting Resistance with Understanding
While overcoming resistance is essential to ESG buy-in, Graham has been able to lean into flexibility and adopt a collaborative approach, which has enabled him to tap into the collective wisdom of his team.
“I remained open to feedback, adjusted strategies as needed and persevered through the challenges inherent in driving change within a dynamic business environment,” he says.
“Collaborating with teams within MoneyMe, including legal, finance and communications, was vital.”
Reflecting on the last 12 months, Graham says he is most proud of having implemented a Reflect Reconciliation Action Plan, which embeds reconciliation within MoneyMe’s culture and ethos while demonstrating its commitment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Staying abreast of regulatory requirements and global trends in such a fast-paced industry is no easy task, but Graham has risen to the challenge with the support of MoneyMe.
“I think I’m lucky to work for an organization that empowers young people to make change and to back themselves.”
“I think I’m lucky to work for an organization that empowers young people to make change and to back themselves. So, I’ve had a lot of autonomy and a lot of responsibility from early on,” he says.
He believes seeking mentors, attending workshops and building on his vault of knowledge is the key to making well-informed decisions and getting a handle on complex problems.
An entrepreneurial thinker at heart, Graham explains how there really isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to solving the complex problems that cross his path. “Because these are new and complex problems, there aren’t set ways of being, or set ways of knowing, which means there’s not one way to do everything,” he says.
Recognizing the urgency to act means that Graham prioritizes action over perfectionism, which can often hinder the most well-intended individual from having the courage to make a start.
“I think for a lot of organizations it’s maybe not seen as that, but we need to take quick steps, and we need to take big steps, to combat climate change,” he says.
Consequently, his advice to other young leaders in the same boat is: “Take those bold steps, lead the way where you can, and be prepared to get it wrong and to listen, learn and to improve.”
A New Dawn of Leadership
Graham takes his cue for championing purpose-driven leadership from Patagonia Founder Yvon Chouinard, whose bold approach to integrating sustainability into the business framework is a standout quality for him.
“He has shown that businesses can thrive while prioritizing social and environmental responsibility, debunking the myth that profit and sustainability are mutually exclusive,” he says. “He has paved the way for a new generation of entrepreneurs and executives who are committed to making a positive impact on the world.”
“We need to take quick steps, and we need to take big steps, to combat climate change.”
Investigating Graham’s ‘why’ for entering the awards, it’s clear that knowledge-sharing and a supportive business ecosystem is the main drawing card for this young executive.
“Recognizing exceptional executives and sharing their stories inspires aspiring leaders,” he says. “It highlights the qualities, strategies and innovations that have contributed to their success, serving as a source of inspiration and motivation for others to reach their full potential.”
As this year’s Young Executive of the Year winner, he’ll serve as a role model for others who are seeking to become an agent of change within their own organizations.