MEDA’s new finance chief is used to managing risk, complexity

Wendy Clayson is MEDA’s new chief financial and investment officer

When Wendy Clayson began working at MEDA, she had to keep reminding herself that MEDA is not a big organization, relative to some of the places she has worked.

Clayson, MEDA’s new chief financial officer and chief investment officer, has worked in a number of large organizations that had hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue and thousands of employees.

“I have to keep reminding myself that MEDA is not a large organization, because there’s so much complexity, and I guess I kind of thrive on that complexity.”

Much of the reason MEDA’s operations are so complex relates to the international nature of investments, contracts, and related legalities, she said.

Clayson began working at MEDA on an interim basis in September, following the tragic passing of Orvie Bowman, who died in a cycling accident.

She accepted a permanent appointment to the role, which includes being a member of MEDA’s executive leadership team, in January.

Her career has included stints in senior finance positions in the health care sector, including public and private organizations and a charitable foundation. Prior to joining MEDA, she worked as the chief financial officer at CarePartners, a 4,000-employee strong Ontario-based home health care provider.

Clayson sees her financial oversight role at MEDA as one of managing risks “through having good systems and processes so that there are clear boundaries people can work within.”

“We need to be careful to use the money that has been gifted to us, either through (institutional) donors or the private donors… People are trusting us to use that money to the best of our ability and translate it into creating decent work.”

Having a chief investment officer component to the head finance role is relatively new at MEDA. Clayson sees this responsibility as being of strategic importance, “something that has differentiated MEDA from other players in the sector.”

Clayson travelled to Nairobi, Kenya within her first months at MEDA to work on a project investment design for a major new initiative. 

During that trip, she also met Business Partners International, a MEDA investment partner that invests in small and medium-sized enterprises. That experience provided helpful perspective, she said.

“I was able to sit in their boardroom and hear face-to-face what the struggles are for them to loan money… predominantly it was the female (small business owners) that they are focused on, and really insightful.”

She doesn’t anticipate doing a lot of international travel through her work. The pandemic has both limited the ability of MEDA staff to travel and also helped the organization realize “we can do an awful lot by (the online video platform Microsoft) Teams,” she said.

Volunteer work focused on economically challenged populations has been important to Clayson. She currently chairs the board of the Michael House Pregnancy Centre in addition to regular involvement at Calvary Baptist Church, where she is a member.

She and her husband live in Guelph, Ontario. They are parents of two married sons and have two granddaughters.

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