2023 Honour Roll Inductees

BCCM announces 2023 Honour Roll Inductees

Five outstanding contributors to the co-operative and mutual sector have been added to the BCCM Honour Roll for 2023, with this year’s recipients sharing a background in banking and financial services.

The Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals recognises the exceptional leadership of:

  • Steve James, retiring CEO of Teachers Mutual Bank
  • Judith Downes, retiring Chair, Bank Australia
  • Ross Higgins, immediate past CEO of Futurity
  • Stephen Brown, retiring director of Bank of Us
  • Robert Keogh, retiring CEO of Beyond Bank

The honours were conferred at the BCCM’s annual Leaders’ Summit on Wednesday, 25 October 2023.

The BCCM Honour Roll is a virtual hall of fame recognising outstanding leaders of the co-operative and mutual sector and acknowledging their contributions to their industries.

BCCM CEO Melina Morrison said: “This is our opportunity to recognise outstanding service and dedication to the co-operative and mutual sector.”

“All of our Honour Award recipients this year are shining examples of the compassion, resilience and integrity that are the hallmarks of outstanding leadership across the co-operative and mutual sector. These attributes have guided our leaders as they have tirelessly worked to assist their members through many challenges whether it be fire and flood or, more recently, cost of living pressures.

“This year we welcome five more exceptional people who have translated their passion for co-operatives and mutuals into a lifetime dedication to the sector.”

Read the media release: BCCM names its 2023 Honour Roll inductees

Watch the BCCM Honour Roll past inductees’ video

Watch the 2023 Honour Roll Inductees

Steve James
Steve James

Retiring CEO of Teachers Mutual Bank

It was announced that Steve would be retiring in September after more than 44 years at Teachers Mutual Bank, 18 of them as CEO. That’s quite an innings.

When Steve joined NSW Teacher’s Credit Union (now Teachers Mutual Bank) in 1979 as an Accountant there were 20 staff. In addition to doing the accounting in the morning, in the afternoon he would serve on the counter when the members came in. This foundational experience is what set Steve up for the positive impact he would go on to have for the Bank and the mutual sector.

From his early years of being the only person on ‘the computers’ at the Bank, to leading the Bank through the Global Financial Crisis, Steve has led transitioning the Teachers Credit Union into a bank and becoming a world leader in ethical banking. Today TMB is a $10.8 billion bank with 234,000 members, 630 staff and five brands.

Amongst the innovations he’s led is starting one of the first Rediteller systems in Australia and being one of the first to bring Visa to Australia; being one of the first mutual banks to introduce tap and go cards; introducing robotics to automate processes to enhance member service; launching Hiver – a digital only bank; and leading the way on socially-responsible banking.

One of Steve’s lasting legacies is the growth and development of the staff and people around him. Steve has been a natural collaborator sharing his experience and knowledge with others.

Steve has always taken great pride in leading a mutual bank for the education, emergency services and healthcare sectors, recognising that the Bank’s members – teachers, fireys, nurses – do so much for society and go above and beyond. For nearly 50 years, his belief and dedication and advocacy of mutuality has been unwavering as he has remained committed to a cooperative sector that is structured for the profits to go back to members.

Judith Downes
Judith Downes

Retiring Chair, Bank Australia

Bringing a wealth of expertise as an accomplished business leader Judith has made a significant contribution as the chair of Bank Australia. Prior to Bank Australia Judith held senior executive and non-executive roles in listed and non-listed banking, finance, accounting, funds management, life insurance and property, and has over 25 years’ experience as a company director. Her work included ANZ for 12 years, including as Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer Institutional Division and Group General Manager Finance.

Prior to working as an accountant, Judith was a teacher and taught secondary mathematics.

Under Judith’s guidance, Bank Australia (formerly bankmecu) has grown into one of the largest co-operatives and mutuals in Australia. Since elected as board chair in 2014, Bank Australia has increased its total assets under management to $10b, which represents more than threefold increase.

Judith has been at the forefront of observing the changing landscape of banking and the evolving needs of customers. As digital channels became more popular, she recognised the need to continue to improve the digital experience of their customers by investing in new technology to cater to the record uptake of use through App and internet banking.

Judith was central in the introduction and oversight of Bank Australia’s Responsible Banking Policy, which identifies the industries and sectors that the bank does and does not fund, lend to, or invest in. This policy work underpinned the development of the bank’s clean money brand proposition which has been a major driver of customer and business growth.

In 2022, Judith played a pivotal role in ushering the bank’s climate action strategy. Listening to customers continued concerns about climate change, Bank Australia set out targets to achieve net zero emissions by 2035. This target remains the most ambitious of any bank in Australia.

Ross Higgins Futurity
Ross Higgins

Immediate past CEO of Futurity

Ross has had a distinguished career spanning over 40 years with some of Australia’s major financial services mutuals. Ross’s start in the mutual sector began with his Master of Laws Thesis – the ‘riveting’ title of “Legal Nature and Taxation Implications of Friendly Society Savings and Investment Assurances”. At that time, he was a partner in Higgins Teale Lawyer’s – a firm he founded in 1983.

Over its formative years Ross acted for major Friendly Societies IOOF and Manchester Unity and drafted legislation adopted by the Victorian government as the Friendly Societies Act 1986.

Ross joined Australian Unity in 1999 where he designed and built its Education Bond. His advocacy work paved the way for new legislation that defined Education Bonds into Tax Law and that still governs these products today.

In 2002 Ross founded Generation Life. It was the first Friendly Society licence issued by APRA in over 20 years. He led the building of GenLife to be Australia’s leading Investment Bond issuer. Today, GenLife is the driving force behind the rebirth of Friendly Society issued Investment Bonds – a product many thought was dead and buried.

In 2019, Ross became CEO of Futurity. The centrepiece of his four and half years at Futurity is the new education savings and investment product range. The innovative Family Education Bond broke new ground as the first ever Education Bond allowing multiple Education Beneficiaries with discretionary functions.

By the time he stepped down as CEO on 30 June this year – a transformed and restructured Futurity had a new market leading position and the best capitalised institution in the Friendly Society sector.

Stephen Brown
Stephen Brown

Retiring director of Bank of Us

Having grown up in Tasmania, Stephen has always had a heart for the local community. Stephen’s career has demonstrated his ability to understand all forms of business and the community services sector implementing excellent strategic outcomes for both for profit and not for profit organisations.

His experience in private hospitals and later private health insurance as the CEO of Health Insurance Fund of WA initiated Stephen’s interest in the development of prudent policy, strategy and administration of health services in the private and public health sectors.

As the CEO of Launceston City Mission since March 2012 he has become acutely aware of the situations facing many Tasmanians struggling through addiction, homelessness and financial difficulties. The Launceston City Mission operates significant social enterprise operations that along with government funding and donations provide the financial resources for ongoing community services across Northern Tasmania.

Stephen has been a Director at Bank of us since 2009, serving as Chairman for 6 years from 2014-2020. Stephen has played a pivotal role in steering the bank through a transformative period and growth and his significant contribution has played a key role in its evolution and success

Robert Keogh
Robert Keogh

Retiring CEO, Beyond Bank

Robert joined the bank in 1979. At 28 he became the CEO of CPS Credit Union in the ACT and following the merger with CPS Credit Union SA in 2006, later appointed CEO in 2010. On his retirement in November 2023, Robert’s tenure will have been 44 years and two months.

Robert has maintained a strong commitment to seeing the mutual banking sector in Australia remain strong and able to deliver crucial banking services to all Australians. Part of this commitment has seen him actively involved in mergers – many of these have taken place in regional areas to continue to build upon the good work of these organisations in the community.

Robert was instrumental in establishing the Beyond Bank Australia Foundation in 2007 to help the bank give back to the community. The goal was to focus on some of the most significant challenges faced by individuals in the community. Since 2007, Beyond Bank has contributed more than $29.8 million to programs and community groups across Australia.

Robert has always had a passion for Beyond Bank to be the best bank for the community establishing the bank’s Community Development arm, which has a focus on delivering banking to not-for-profit organisations and their employees. Beyond Bank currently partners with more than 5,000 community organisations across Australia.

Under Robert’s leadership in 2015, Beyond Bank also became the first bank in Australia to achieve B Corp status, making a commitment to meet the highest standards of accountability and transparency, as well as social and environmental performance.