Lex Greensill Australias during his days in the packing shed on the Qunaba farm. Picture: Paul Beutel
Lex Greensill Australias during his days in the packing shed on the Qunaba farm. Picture: Paul Beutel

Two gongs for humble billionaire

He's the boy from Bundaberg who is now a billionaire financier living in the UK.

But a humble Lex Greensill jetted back in to Queensland this week on his private aircraft to receive not one, but two gongs recognising his extraordinary journey from a sugarcane farmer to globetrotting powerbroker providing counsel to world leaders.

The 42-year-old whiz was named one of seven Queensland Entrepreneurs of the Year by the bean counters at EY at a function on Wednesday night, with the winners set to go on and compete for the national crown in October.

Whoever emerges on top will then go on to battle it out for the world title in Monte Carlo in June next year.

Lex Greensill
Lex Greensill

Then, the following evening, Greensill joined a crowd of about 300 at the Brisbane convention centre, where he was feted as QUT's "outstanding alumnus of the year''.

A 2002 graduate of the law school, he got involved in start-ups and banking before launching his Greensill Capital in London just eight years ago. Today it's valued at $5 billion.

The company specialises in "supply chain finance'' that sees it acting as a go-between for companies and their suppliers.

Under the model, companies use cash from third parties such as Greensill to pay suppliers early.

The end result is that suppliers get quicker access to the money they are owed and companies have more time to pay.

KEEPING IT REAL

Greensill now claims to be one of the world's biggest issuer of bonds and has provided more than $60 billion in working capital finance to about eight million customers across 165 countries.

With offices in Sydney, New York, Chicago, Miami, Frankfurt, Johannesburg, Singapore and more, the company has helped fund everything from mobile phones to hydro-electric power stations.

Greensill, who also runs a bank in Germany, is so well-regarded that he acted as an adviser for former Prime Minister David Cameron and was consulted by ex-president Barack Obama.

At the same time, he has managed to raise a few eyebrows with some of his opaque deals in the lightly-regulated sector, which flourished after the GFC.

But Greensill struck a very modest note at the QUT event, saying how he hopes to reach one billion "battlers'' eventually with his payments scheme.

He related how his career has been animated by seeing how tough it was for farmers in regional Queensland to secure finance and that he returns home often.

Indeed, Greensill said he tries to "maintain perspective by keeping it real''.

By way of example he recounted how he was recently meeting with a bank boss in Tokyo and 18 hours later was behind the wheel of a sugarcane harvester back in Bundaberg.

His two brothers still operate the family's agribusiness, which started in 1945 and has grown to more than 2000 ha. In addition to sugarcane, they also grow watermelons and sweet potatoes.

"At all times my feet are still on the red soil ground of Bundaberg ... farming teaches you humility and that keeps it real,'' he said.

"My only claim to fame is that I'm the only boy from Bundaberg ever to have an office at number 10 Downing Street.''

EMPIRE BUILDING

Not surprisingly, after winning all those accolades in Brisbane, Greensill zipped up to Bundaberg, where he is engaged in a little bit of empire building.

With a new office in town, he's aiming to become a major player in the Australian bond market.

"The Glass House"

There's also family to catch up with and they've got a pretty sweet spot to do just that.

Greensill just splashed out $4.1 million to buy "The Glass House,'' a three-level beachfront spread at Bargara that set a record as the region's most expensive home sale.