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Dallas 500

Meet the Dallas 500: Alexander Holmes

The chairman and CEO of MoneyGram International talks about his company's position on cryptocurrency, what his toughest daily challenge is, and more.
| |Illustration by Andrea Chavez
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Alex Holmes Illustration by Andrea Chavez

Dallas-based MoneyGram, which announced in 2022 that it is set to be acquired by Madison Dearborn Partners at a $1.8 billion valuation, reported $1.31 billion in revenue in 2022. Led by Alexander Holmes, the company has pioneered cross-border payments and money transfers—and is now exploring ways to further streamline payments through blockchain and crypto, evidenced by its partnership with Stellar Development Foundation.

“The ledger transparency, the simplification of payment flows, and the tech that comes with it is creating a lot of opportunity,” he says. “There’s an infinite amount of regulatory questions. But crypto and blockchain technology are here to stay. And we want to push innovation and new ideas into the marketplace.”

In his extended 2023 Dallas 500 Q&A, Holmes talks more about cryptocurrency, what his toughest daily challenge is, and more.

Birthplace: Connecticut

Education: University of Colorado Boulder (BS-Accounting), University of Colorado Denver (MS-Information Technology)

First Job: “My first job was working after school at a small-town, independently owned pharmacy in Simsbury, Connecticut. The owner was a bit of a grumpy old man, but he was nice enough and I learned a lot. My job was very diverse as I really got to do everything. I worked as a cashier, shelf stocker, pill counter, end of day cleaner, etc. I took deposits to the bank and delivered orders to customers’ homes. It gave me great exposure to what it really takes to run a business and the value of treating customers well. It was a really great job, and I’m so fortunate to have had that experience.”

Best Advice: “You’ve probably heard the phrase, ‘Follow your passion and you’ll never work a day in your life.’ I know I was given that advice at a young age, but over the course of my career, I’ve actually learned that success comes when you pursue your strengths. Not that being passionate is a bad thing (it’s a huge part of enjoying life and all that it has to offer), but I don’t think pursuing your passion is necessarily the key to success.

“Rather, I recommend that you pursue your strengths, but in order to do that, you first must know what they are. This is not always an easy task, especially on your own, but often times it’s the people around us who can see and understand our strengths better than we can. I suggest you start paying attention to the people around you, particularly when those people want to work with you. This means they are willing to align their own personal success to your success or hitch themselves to your wagon as they say. That level of personal investment only happens when someone has identified the nuanced and unique strengths you bring to the table.”

Destinations of Choice: “I have had the privilege to visit more than 70 countries for both work and pleasure, and in that time, I’ve seen some amazing places and want to keep seeing more. I can honestly say that anytime I can visit a country in Africa it’s really special. It’s so diverse and the people are amazing. If I had to recommend a trip, I’d have to say that visiting Cape Town is pretty unreal.”

Nonprofit Cause: “I’ve really enjoyed being on the board of Vogel Alcove. Vogel Alcove is a nonprofit organization with a mission to help young children overcome the lasting and traumatic effects of homelessness. It is our vision that every child in our community has a home, a self-sufficient family, and a foundation for success in school and life.”

Hobby/Passion: “Hunting and fishing with my two boys. There’s nothing better.”

Industry Change: “I’d love for people to really be able to better appreciate the complexities of cross border money movement and the value of our company and service.”

Local Fare: “Flying Fish: I like a lot of their food, but it’s hard to beat a basket of fried shrimp.”

Do-over: “I think you need to take the good with the bad. I’ve made my share of mistakes, but it doesn’t do to dwell. You learn from those moments. I’ve had a pretty amazing life thus far, so I’d leave it at that.”

Fun Fact: “I’m Connecticut born and raised, but growing up my best friend was a kid that had moved from Dallas. I thought he was completely crazy. Cowboy gear and flags. He had it all.”

Go-to Advisors: “My dad, my sister, and Pam Patsley”

Toughest Daily Challenge: “Dealing with the Federal Government.”

First Car: “I learned to drive stick shift in an old red Rabbit Volkswagen. It was a riot. Super fun.”

Proud Moment: “At MoneyGram, we started putting major emphasis on our digital innovation about 5 years ago. By 2020, MoneyGram had already overhauled its IT infrastructure, modernized its APIs, and streamlined its operating model to support the growth of digital. Today, we have built a direct-to-consumer digital channel with an immersive digital experience, including our website and mobile app that now has an impressive 4.8-star review, that rivals many traditional e-commerce brands. This strategy met a tidal wave of online consumer demand as MoneyGram’s digital transactions now represent about 44 percent of our overall money transfer transactions, making the company’s digital channel the fastest-growing component of the business. 

“We’re also leading the evolution of how money moves around the world. MoneyGram was the first company to utilize blockchain technology at scale for cross-border payments, and we are one of the only companies in the industry pursuing strategic and innovative partnerships in the space.”

Pivotal Moment: “My company sent me to live in Amsterdam one month after my then wife and I were married. The irony of it was that we thought they were sending us to France.”

A Better DFW: “Less mosquitoes. I hate mosquitoes.”

Walk-up Song: “‘Thunderstruck’ by AC/DC–because ‘F— yes!'”

Spirit Animal: “In Chinese astrology I am what’s known as a wood tiger. So, we’ll go with tiger.”

Alternate Reality: “In another life, I’m a fishing guide.”

Biggest Risk: “I’m not sure how much of a risk it was, but I left Connecticut and moved to Boulder, Colorado to attend The University of Colorado. Where I am now is 100 percent because of that decision.”

Bucket List: “I’ve been to all 50 states and every continent except for antarctica. So, that’s on my bucket list for sure, but my real dream is to visit every single country. That’s a tall order, but we’ll see how close I can get.”

Key Strategy: “Speak from the heart, delegate, and empower.”

Future Forecast: “Innovation excites me most about the future. I love what we’ve been able to accomplish at MoneyGram in the past decade and yet it feels like we are just getting started. There is so much happening in financial services right now and we are really sitting at the heart of some amazing change.

“Additionally, I’m really excited about our future working with blockchain technology. We believe blockchain has the potential to change how money moves around the world, and digital currencies have the potential to change the way we view money itself. Many predicted that these technologies would pose a threat to traditional financial services, but MoneyGram has decided to play a leading part of that change. Looking ahead, we’re extremely optimistic about the potential for blockchain to help further streamline cross-border payments—helping to continue to decrease costs, increase the speed of transactions and more.”

Author

Ben Swanger

Ben Swanger

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Ben Swanger is the managing editor for D CEO, the business title for D Magazine. Ben manages the Dallas 500, monthly…
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