BCCM names its 2023 Honour Roll inductees

25 October 2023

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
BCCM Honour Roll 2023 Ross Higgins, Judith Downes, Steven James, Robert Keogh, Melina Morrison, Stephen Brown, Patricia Karvelas - Photo by Daryl Charles
BCCM Honour Roll 2023 recipients Ross Higgins, Judith Downes, Steven James, Robert Keogh, and Stephen Brown with Melina Morrison and Patricia Karvelas (right) – Photo by Daryl Charles

The honours are being conferred at an event to mark the BCCM’s annual Leaders’ Summit in Brisbane this evening.

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.”

Retiring Teachers Mutual CEO Steve James leaves behind a legacy spanning 44 years, 18 of those spent in the top job.

When Steve joined NSW Teacher’s Credit Union (as it was then known), it was an organisation of 20 staff. Today Teachers Mutual is a $10.8 billion bank with 234,000 members, 630 staff and five brands.

The growth of Teachers Mutual is a testimony to Steve’s dedication and commitment to the values of mutuality, which have underpinned his leadership.

Judith Downes has made a significant contribution as chair of Bank Australia.

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

Judith has played a central role in the development of Bank Australia’s Responsible Banking Policy and
in 2022 played a pivotal role in introducing the bank’s climate action strategy. This includes an ambitious goal to achieve net zero emissions by 2035.

Immediate past CEO of Futurity, Ross Higgins, has contributed more than 40 years to some of Australia’s leading financial services mutuals. After designing and building an education bond for Australian Unity, Ross founded Generation Life in 2002, which went on to become Australia’s leading investment bond issuer.

In 2019, Ross became CEO of Futurity where he continued to innovate with the development of The Family Education Bond. He leaves Futurity as the best capitalised institution in the Friendly Society sector.

Stephen Brown has spent much of his career serving community-focused organisations, both in the profit and not-for-profit 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.

As a director of Bank of us since 2009, including six years as chair, Stephen has played a pivotal role in steering the bank through a transformative period and played a key role in its evolution and success.

Robert Keogh will end a 44-year tenure at Beyond Bank when he steps down as CEO in November. Throughout his career, Robert has maintained a strong commitment to ensuring the sustainability of the mutual banking sector, arguing the case for mergers, particularly in regional areas.

Under Robert’s leadership in 2015, Beyond Bank 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.

“All five recipients possess the sort of leadership qualities that make them most worthy inclusions on the Honour Roll,” Melina said.  “Their vision and dedication to the ideal of a democratically run business serve not just their memberships but the broader communities in which they operate.”

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