Australian Mutuals History was saddened to learn of the passing of Reginald (Reg) Elliott in February of this year at the age of 87. Reg was a significant figure in the Australian credit union movement, being instrumental in the reforms of Project Renewal and implementing important change in the NSW Credit Union League (NSWCUL) in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Reg’s obituary in the Sydney Morning Herald reads in part that, “above all, Reg loved his family – they provided him with everything he wanted. Family meant love, humour, small time chaos, bad jokes, challenges, reading recommendations, ethical discussions. And we always knew where Reg stood in those discussions. Always”. It also says that, “Reg was a sailor, a thoughtful reader, a snappy dresser and a dedicated runner and marathoner with his friend Richo”.

Reg was born and schooled in Parkes in the Central West of NSW (home of the famous telescope and the infamous Elvis Presley festival). He left school as soon as legally possible as it wasn’t his cup of tea.

After leaving school he secured a job with the Bank of Australasia in Parkes. The Bank of Australasia is today the ANZ Bank and Reg stayed with them for 27 years. He told Richard Raxworthy in the oral history interview from 1991 that is in our collection that, “my first job was making the ink, we never had adding machines. I even had a job chopping the wood for 8 fires. It was a different era”.

His stay at the Parkes Branch was only 6 months as he moved to Peak Hill, NSW and as he told Raxworthy, “from then I became a company person. I was on the move for the next 27 years”. His work with ANZ required regular moves around Australia’s capital cities and regional centres.

The work at what was to become ANZ was highly fulfilling to Reg. He told Raxworthy that, “I always enjoyed my career with the bank. I was certainly not a wounded soldier when I left. I thought it was a good job, I was successful at it and I thought very strongly that banks had a very positive role”.

So, why did he leave a company and an industry he was very fond of? He told Raxworthy that, “The rest of the family finally got sick of being nomads and since I’d been a part of building the system designed to create the new ANZ, I had a choice to make, I either had to get off the train in terms of mobility or secede from my ambitions”.

Reg was approached by employment agency Spencer Stuart on behalf of NSWCUL in the late 1970s. He was reluctant to accept the offer of the job with them. While he consented to his family’s wishes regarding leaving his role with ANZ it took him some time to agree to join NSWCUL. In his own words he said:

I think I would have been the most reluctant of employees because mentally I couldn’t contemplate making a move at that time particularly when I was already among the senior executives of ANZ to go to what I regarded as an infant or maybe even a maverick industry. So it was quite a sizable decision and they kept up the pressure on me for some three months and finally a good friend of mine suggested that I should at least come over to Sydney and see these people … I was very impressed with the people I met. They seemed to know what they wanted. They impressed me as having a sense of direction and a sense of determination that they’d be people worth working for.

He became NSWCUL General Manager/CEO in 1978. He joined the Australian Federation of Credit Union Leagues (AFCUL) in 1985 as CEO and oversaw the reforms of Project Renewal which included the development of CUSCAL and their engagement with new information technology and national regulation.

In 1998 CUSCAL presented Reg with a Distinguished Service Award. The awards were presented annually to “honour those individuals who have made tremendous contributions to the success of credit unions”. In CUSCAL’s tribute to Reg they listed the significant goals that CUSCAL and its predecessors realised under his stewardship:

  • In 1984 CUFSAL was formed to provide a national facility for credit unions
  • In 1985 credit unions were the first non-banks to use the banks’ EFTPOS network
  • In 1989 Project Renewal was commissioned
  • In 1992 Australia-wide AFIC legislation was enacted
  • In 1992 CUSCAL and CUFSAL were registered as special service providers
  • In 1993 CUSCAL became a principal in the new Australian Payments Clearing Association.