BCCM recognises exceptional contributions to Australia’s co-op and mutual sector

The 2023 honour roll inductees are Steve James of Judith Downes, Ross Higgins, Stephen Brown and Robert Keogh

Australia’s Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals (BCCM) has announced five inductees to its 2023 honour roll, which “recognises the outstanding contributions of leaders” in the sector.

CEO Melina Morrison described it as an “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,” she said. “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.”

This year’s  recipients, who all share a background in banking and financial services, are: 

Steve James, retiring CEO, Teachers Mutual Bank
James spent 18 years of his 44 year career at the head of Teachers Mutual Bank, a customer-owned bank with AU$10.8bn in assets, 234,000 members, 630 staff and five brands. When James joined the business, which was then known as NSW Teacher’s Credit Union, it was an organisation of just 20 staff.

Judith Downes, retiring chair, Bank Australia
Since being elected as board chair in 2014, Downes has seen Bank Australia grow into one of the largest co-ops in Australia, tripling its total assets to $10bn. She also played a key role in the development of Bank Australia’s Responsible Banking Policy and its climate action strategy, which includes a goal to achieve net zero emissions by 2035.

Ross Higgins, immediate past CEO, Futurity

Higgins led the mutual education bond issuer Futurity from 2019, leaving it as the best capitalised institution in the Friendly Society sector. In his role as CEO Higgins led the development of The Family Education Bond. Prior to this, Higgins designed and built an education bond for Australian Unity, and founded Generation Life, which went on to become Australia’s leading investment bond issuer.

Stephen Brown, retiring director, Bank of Us

Brown held the role of director at Bank of Us since 2009, including six years as chair. His role as CEO of local community services organisation Launceston City Mission has seen him working with Tasmanians struggling through addiction, homelessness, and financial difficulties.

Robert Keogh, retiring CEO of Beyond Bank
Keogh served as CEO of Beyond Bank for 44 years, where he maintained a focus on ensuring the sustainability of the mutual banking sector by arguing the case for mergers, particularly in regional areas. Beyond Bank became the first bank in Australia to achieve B Corp status under Keogh’s leadership in 2015.

The honours were conferred at the BCCM’s annual Leaders’ Summit on 25 October in Brisbane.

Morrsion added: “All five recipients possess the sort of leadership qualities that make them most worthy inclusions on the Honour Roll. 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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