Greg Stevens had a more varied life in credit unions than most people who make a career in the movement. He worked with the Association of NSW Credit Unions, CUFSAL, CUSCAL, Bananacoast Credit Union, FINCOM, Bankstown City Credit Union and Maleny Credit Union.  He told us all about it when we rang him for a chat recently.

Greg grew up on Sydney’s Northern Beaches in a suburb called Killarney Heights. He held an ambition to be an accountant as a youth and indeed went and studied accountancy at TAFE after finishing school. His subsequent education included a number of financial diplomas and eventually a Masters in Finance. His thesis of 1991 titled, “The Australian Credit Union System”, is in our collection and available for researchers to access.

His career in finance began at the Commercial Banking Company (CBC) in Sydney and it was when he was transferred to CBC’s Treasury Department that he got his first exposure to credit unions. One of CBC’s customers was the Association of NSW Credit Unions and Greg’s relationship with the Association deepened when NAB took over CBC and became the long term corporate banker for the credit union movement.

It was during this period when Greg says that he was “headhunted” by Reg Fowler who ran central banking at the Association of NSW Credit Unions and who was a legend of the Australian credit union movement. About the fateful meeting with Reg Fowler, Greg said:

“He invited me out for lunch, I thought it was just a client/customer lunch. But in the end he offered me a job. He told me more and more detail about how the Association operated in their management of credit unions’ liquidity and I became the Investment Manager in early 1983 at the Association and I was I think the first specialist Treasurer hired in any state association for credit unions.

Reg told me that I was also being groomed as part of the National Finance Facility which the Association was leading for national central banking and that subsequently happened in 1986. That was a company called Credit Union Financial Services Australia Ltd (CUFSAL).”

Of his time with the Association Greg said:

“One of my memories working at the Association in Burwood was that while I didn’t have any involvement with credit unions unless they were on the board of the Association, my passion grew after my first State AGM and there was some really strong leaders at certain credit unions and I was inspired by Ken Miller from NSW Teacher’s Credit Union and Bill Howe from Sydney Water Board Credit Union and Helen McIntyre. They were some of the people in my early days that really inspired me and gave me passion in wanting to learn more about credit unions.”

 In his time with CUFSAL Greg oversaw developments that still have ramifications for the customer owned banking industry today. While at CUFSAL he oversaw the negotiation of a $100 million credit standby facility with NAB on behalf of Australian credit unions. He also told us that he “designed the company’s first state of the art treasury dealing room”. He went on to say that with CUFSAL “he facilitated a credit and interest rate, assets and liabilities gap policy through Standard & Poor’s – the credit rating agency.  That later went on to getting a credit rating for the credit union movement”.

After achieving all he wanted to with CUFSAL and CUSCAL, Greg left in 1994, for a few months sabbatical only to return to the industry as an Administrator with Bananacoast Credit Union (BCU). He left BCU in 1996 in order to join Bankstown City Credit Union and later became CEO. He said he had an “action packed 5 years” at Bankstown and went on to say:

“I took over from an industry icon Alex Genovese (father of Mark Genovese). It had just had a big renovation. It originated as an industrial credit union which originated from the council. We were under new banking legislation. There was a lot things happening. We were one of the pioneers that took on Fiserv. The new banking system from America. That took a lot of our resources.

But also having a huge building renovation that was looking good. It was time to embark on something big and bold that was more directly involved in the community. So, I took up sponsorships with the Bankstown Bruins and the Bankstown Netball Association to get our name more widely known in the community.

Also we had the Olympic Games on, so we had a lot of excess security in the area. There’s a lot of Lebanese in Bankstown and at the time America and Lebanon hadn’t been getting on and we had the American Administration Team staying in Bankstown during the Olympics. So they were interesting times.”

The final stop on Greg Stevens’ credit union career was his 3 ½ years as CEO of Maleny Credit Union on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. Greg describes Maleny Credit Union as a “caring and green community credit union”. Greg noted that, “about 60-65% of our loans were for green purposes”. He enjoyed being a part of the local community there and oversaw some positive change.

While he was CEO of Maleny CU, the credit union introduced the Temenos bank-in-a-Box banking system, revamped the HQ building, introduced new staff uniforms and perhaps most significantly, established MCU Financial Services. MCU Financial Services is a finance broker and a wholly owned subsidiary of Maleny Credit Union. Of MCU Financial Services Greg said:

“When you are small you are limited to what you can do, so by setting up a separate company it meant we weren’t competing with ourselves. So if we couldn’t do a loan we referred it to our mortgage broking firm and we could do bigger loans and we could do specialist nonconforming loans where if people couldn’t pay their debts or had bad debt histories we could roll our bad loans into that market and earn commission. Our broker also generated its own loans. But again we kept it in our fold and if the opportunity came we could refinance some of those loans back into our system”.

The above overview is only a brief glimpse of Greg’s fascinating and to borrow his words, “action packed”, credit union career. Hopefully, in time, Australian Mutuals History will be able to sit down with Greg to more fully unpack his career in a formal oral history interview which we will record for use for researchers now and into the future.