CEO of South32, Graham Kerr, answers our questions about his leadership-style ahead of appearing at the International Mining and Resources Conference in Melbourne on Tuesday.

Kerr is speaking after Rio Tinto chief executive Jean-Sebastian Jacques on a panel with Newcrest Mining CEO Sandeep Biswas about aligning business growth with sustainable practices.

Others speakers include Anglo American CEO Mark Cutifani and Fortescue Metals Group CEO Elizabeth Gaines.

Kerr, a 46-year-old West Australian and father of four, spent almost all of his career at BHP, which culminated in him becoming CFO in 2011.

South32, led by Graham Kerr, hit the boards on Monday.
South32, led by Graham Kerr, hit the boards on Monday.

Bloomberg

He led the establishment of South32 and its public listing in three countries after it was spun out of BHP in May 2015.

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World travellers

Kerr grew up in Coolbellup in Perth’s southern suburbs, one street away from his wife Nicole. The couple have been together since they were teenagers.

The family travelled the world with BHP – from the Cannington mine in north-west Queensland and the Ekati diamond mine in Canada on the edge of the Arctic Circle, to London and Vancouver.

A keen footballer and avid Fremantle Dockers fan, Kerr says he still gets in a bit of kayaking and jogging but most of his exposure to sport comes from his children’s matches – he has two boys and two girls aged between 11 and 19 – and has a 95-kilogram St Bernard family dog called Lucy.

Chief executive Graham Kerr is reshaping South32.
Chief executive Graham Kerr is reshaping South32.

David Rowe

Kerr is reshaping the company and in August completed the $US1.4 billion ($1.88 billion) acquisition of zinc, lead and silver company Arizona Mining.

In September, he also finalised the acquisition of a 50 per cent interest in the Eagle Downs metallurgical coal project in Queensland’s Bowen Basin, and this year split South African Energy Coal and began running it as a stand-alone business as he seeks to broaden its ownership.

“We are excited to be adding high-quality development options to our portfolio and will continue to reshape our portfolio as we seek to maximise total shareholder returns,” Kerr told last week’s AGM.

1. How would you describe your leadership style?

Graham Kerr likes chocolate to be shared.
Graham Kerr likes chocolate to be shared.

Trevor Collens

Open, highly engaged and curious.

2. What would you tell your younger self?

It’s a big wide world, seize as many experiences as you can, have fun and back yourself.

3. Most important question when hiring?

The questions that tease out alignment to our values and the personal drive to make a difference.

4. What excites you right now?

The rapidly changing world and how we get the best out of our people.

5. When do your best ideas come?

When engaging with diverse and highly energised teams.

6. What office habits annoy you?

People who don’t share chocolate.

7. What is your exercise regimen/morning ritual?

Rising early and doing any kind of exercise.

8. Favourite holiday spot?

South-west of Western Australia, great wineries and beautiful sunny beaches with the family.

9. Last good book, podcast or film?

Palace of Treason by Jason Matthews

10. How do you unwind?

Watching the Fremantle Dockers [in the AFL] with the family.

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