Gary Eggert – A Credit Union Leader

Ben Woods, Assistant Archivist, Australian Mutuals History

Eggert PH 2006

We’re always looking for interesting characters that have had significant impacts on the credit union and mutual banking sectors and whose stories we can share. A good friend of Australian Mutuals History mentioned to us that a man named Gary Eggert has led more credit unions than any other person. He is the record holder. With that we endeavoured to get in touch with Gary to ask him about his credit union story …

I began by asking Gary if it was indeed true that he had led more credit unions (as General Manager or CEO) than any other person. He confirmed that was indeed the case. In his time Gary Eggert was General Manager/CEO of 9 credit unions. These included Transport Credit Union, Power Credit Union, Select Credit Union, Access (NSW) Credit Union, NRMA Credit Union and Broadway Credit Union. The story he told of the demise of Broadway Credit Union was a fascinating and unique one. Gary recounted that “the members of Broadway Credit Union voted to liquidate the organisation instead of merging with a stronger credit union. Along with their savings, departing members pocketed a $20, 0000 dividend”. As Gary said, it was a shame as Broadway Credit Union once had many members and had a solid history.

Mr Eggert was born in Tamworth NSW and went to Tamworth High School. He always wanted to be a banker and joined the Rural Bank where he worked for 16 years. He was frustrated at being unable to advance his career (due to the bank bureaucracy at the time not allowing staff to transfer to another branch) and qualified as an accountant. Upon qualification he was advised that with his love of banking and people he would be “bored stiff” as an accountant and told he’d be happier staying in banking.

Gary Eggert got a job as a management consultant for the Association of NSW Credit Unions (ANSWCU) in 1981. He worked with ANSWCU until 1984 when he became General Manager of the Transport Credit Union. He left that role in 1991 to take the reins at Power Credit Union. His career also included being a faculty member of ICUDA’s (Institute of Credit Union Directors Australia) Development Program.

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Transport Employees Credit Union Management Team ca. 1980. From left, Bob Jordan, Marion Andrews, Gary Eggert & Peter Wise [from Collection]
Unsurprisingly, Gary said the highlight of his credit union career was being a CEO. He said that there was nothing like being at the pointy end of decision making. He also said that looking after members and staff was very rewarding. He enjoyed the people aspect of credit union work right through his career.

Gary Eggert had many good things to say about the credit union industry but he wanted to say that he thought they had collectively got a few things wrong over the years. He thought that “personal loans were always a great strength of credit unions but after deregulation in the 1980s, they had lost sight of the importance of this area and let smaller private operators dominate much to the industry’s disadvantage”. He also thought that the industry should have maintained a “co-operative focus” regarding computing systems and software. He thought the introduction of the Fiserv system was particularly divisive.

Along with our recent conversation with Mr Eggert, this piece drew information from the oral history interview he did with Richard Raxworthy in 1990 (held in our oral history collection).

We thank Mr Eggert for talking with us about his credit union experiences.

Memories and Recollections: Remembering the early days of the credit union movement

Amanda Barber, Senior Archivist, Australian Mutuals History

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In 2002, the Australian Credit Union Historical Co-operative (our predecessor) produced a publication called Memories and Recollections.

The book was the culmination of a project to gather the impressions of early members of credit unions, to find out what prompted them to join and learn their views about the work of the credit union (see our earlier blog on the publication).

The publication contains too many voices and views to repeat in this blog, but a small selection of some of the contributions are reproduced here to show the efforts made by ordinary people to start credit unions and the value placed on those credit unions by members. Truly, from little things big things grow…

Driving Change …

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Improving the Banking Experience …

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Making a Difference …

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Helping Each Other…

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“Talking Transrail”

 

Ben Woods, Assistant Archivist, Australian Mutuals History

Transrail Credit Union started as Motor Transport Employees Savings and Loans Co-operative Limited way back in 1953. After absorbing a number of other credit unions, what was then Transport Credit Union Limited merged with Railways Staff Credit Union to form Transrail Credit Union in 1991. What was Transrail Credit Union is now Endeavour Mutual Bank.

In the year 2000, Transrail Credit Union produced a promotional video called “Talking Transrail”. It was distributed on VHS video tape and we have just had our copy digitised for preservation and access. The video features Transrail Credit Union staff and members talking about their experiences. We have reproduced it for you here.

 

A Mutual Friend – Maitland Mutual Building Society

Ben Woods, Assistant Archivist, Australian Mutuals History

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Maitland Mutual Building Society logo, 1990

An early seed for the creation of the Maitland Mutual Building Society was planted in the Maitland Mercury newspaper on 16th July, 1863. The editorial of that day stated:

“A good field for the operation of a building society is to be found in Maitland; the population of the town and district is of such a character as to furnish both investing shareholders and borrowers; in order to ascertain the probable amount of co-operation from both classes which a society would be likely, if formed, to secure at the outset all that is wanting is that the project should be brought before the public by men whose names would command confidence”.

The people of Maitland evidently were influenced by this call to action as it wasn’t long after this, on 13th August 1863, that a public meeting was held at Morpeth Court House to discuss the matter. At the meeting John Whytlaw (Manager of the Morpeth Branch of the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney) was elected Chairman of what was known from October 1863 as The Hunter Building & Investment Society.

The Hunter Building & Investment Society was a terminating building society. Terminating building societies were once very common in Australia. These were temporary ventures where members pooled their funds in the hope of securing their individual homes and when that goal was achieved for each of the members the building society was wound up. A number of those involved in the formation of The Hunter Building & Investment Society sought to create a permanent building society for the region.

This desire to create a permanent building society was largely the result of the land boom in the region which saw financial institutions based in Sydney make use of the situation. As noted in Tom Morgan’s book Mutually yours: the first 100 years of Maitland Mutual Building Society local businessmen “saw no material advantage to the district from the flow of capital out of the town for investment in Sydney, in a multitude of land subdivisions and building projects”. And so, the Maitland Permanent Building Investment and Loan Society was created and the Rules of the Society adopted on October 22, 1888.

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The Rules of the building society as adopted on October 22, 1888. From Mutually Yours: the first 100 years of Maitland Mutual Building Society

As of March 1, 2019, the long since named Maitland Mutual Building Society began trading as The Mutual Bank. The Mutual Bank CEO Geoff Seccombe addressed the issue in a recent edition of Mutual News, “With only two building societies remaining within Australia we feel that awareness of the building society brand is no longer relevant to the community of today. Members will continue to have access to the existing range of products and services, the same friendly staff and all the same rights and privileges that they currently enjoy as a member. The Mutual Bank will continue to be member owned and member focused”.

Furthermore, in the Winter 2019 issue of Mutual News, it was announced that The Mutual Bank were proposing dispensing with the legal name “Maitland Mutual Building Society Limited” in favour of “Maitland Mutual Limited”. Chairman, Trevor Robinson, had this to say on the subject, “It is important we retain ‘Maitland’ in our legal name, if the proposed change is approved. Although The Mutual Bank has expanded well beyond the Maitland municipal area, we are proud to be a Maitland based financial institution for more than 130 years.”

The 131st year of The Mutual Bank has certainly been one for the ‘highlights reel’ – may it continue to prosper.

Maitland Mutual Building Society AR 2006

REFERENCES

Morgan, Tom (William Thomas) (1990). Mutually yours: the first 100 years of Maitland Mutual Building Society. Maitland Mutual Building Society Limited, Maitland, N.S.W

“Mutual News” (Summer 2019, Winter 2019). Maitland Mutual Building Society Limited, Maitland, N.S.W.

Why Archives Matter

Ben Woods, Assistant Archivist & Amanda Barber, Senior Archivist, Australian Mutuals History 

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Image courtesy of Samuel Zeller & Upslash

A little while back we published a blog piece explaining that even in 2019 a completely digitised and web accessible archives, consisting of recent ‘born digital’ records and analogue material rendered digital is not feasible (see here). That led us to thinking that it might be worthwhile to share with our readers reasons why archives matter in the broader scheme of things.

UNESCO (United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation) thinks archives are so vital that in 2011 it officially endorsed and adopted the Universal Declaration of Archives established by the International Council on Archives (ICA). In part, the statement preceding the Universal Declaration of Archives declares:

“Archives are a unique and irreplaceable heritage passed from one generation to another … They play an essential role in the development of societies by safeguarding and contributing to individual and community memory” (see the entire Universal Declaration of Archives here)

In 2007, the Australian Society of Archivists produced an outstanding booklet titled Archives Matter! which gives a fantastic overview of what archives are and why they’re important. You can read the entire Archives Matter! booklet here.

What are Archives?

Archives are records that are kept for future use and future generations (or posterity, if you like). Archives are retained because they can serve as memory – the memory of individuals, of organisations and of societies.

Archives represent only a small percentage or fraction of the huge quantity of records that are created on a daily basis by people, businesses and governments. Archives are selected for preservation for many reasons, for example because they provide information about decisions, actions and outcomes; or they provide evidence of legal rights and entitlements.

Archives can be kept by the individual, family or organisation that created them, or they can be kept by an organisation created for that purpose (such as a State or National archival or collecting institution).

Why are Archives Important?

Archives Matter! states, “Archives are part of our national heritage. But this does not mean they belong to the past. On the contrary, archives are the records we keep and use because they hold critical evidence about Australian development. They inform many current debates, including our attempts to define Australia’s identity, values and place in the world”.

It is important to emphasise that collected records do not only include spectacular items that might go on exhibition such as the Magna Carta but as the Director General of the National Archives, David Fricker, told the ABC (see article here), “The job of the Archives is not to keep this stuff because it’s pretty or because it has commercial potential, we’re keeping these records because they matter. They affect the rights and entitlements of Australians.”

Those thoughts can extend to the archives of State and local governments, as they also document the history of State and local development and affect the rights and entitlements of citizens.

Businesses and other organisations also have a need to retain ‘corporate’ memory – to keep archives that provide important evidence of their establishment, decisions, policies, activities, liabilities and obligations, as well as information about the organisations and those involved.

The Relevance of Australian Mutuals History

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As stated in Archives Matter! records are selected for preservation because they “make up the essential corporate memory of organisations”.  The aim of Australian Mutuals History is to collect material of significance to the customer owned banking industry – to function as a movement-wide memory. In part our Archives Policy reads, “The role of Australian Mutuals History is to appraise, collect, document and preserve archival and other heritage material created by or relating to the credit union movement (since its commencement in Australia in 1946), mutual building societies and customer owned banking sector”.

For us here at Australian Mutuals History, it is the essential records – minutes of board meetings and annual general meetings, rules, policies, registers, annual reports, publications and correspondence from various credit unions and industry organisations – that helps our researchers discover the history of the credit union movement and understand why the customer owned banking industry is the way it is today. We can’t fully understand our present without learning about our past.

We asked the Chair of the Australian Credit Union Archives Trust (the body overseeing Australian Mutuals History), Kaye Wetzler, to give us her thoughts on the importance of our work:

“I didn’t truly understand the full value of the archives until I became a trustee. The longer I’ve been involved in this role the more I understand the value of the archives and what it has to offer. I want to lift the profile of the Archives so that it is recognised as not just something that sits outside the mainstream of the Mutual Banking industry, but have the Archives become an integral part to which the industry automatically turns to for keeping and recording our history as we have grown into part of the mainstream Australian financial industry”.

Australian Institute of Credit Union Management in Albury

Ben Woods, Assistant Archivist, Australian Mutuals History

As part of our ongoing work processing backlogged collections we have described and registered hundreds of photographs taken at the annual Australian Institute of Credit Union Management (AICUM) Conference, over the years 1994-2003. AICUM held annual conferences in Albury from its foundation year under their previous name, Institute of Credit Union Managers (ICUM) in 1980, right through to 2004 (AICUM ceased operations in 2006 when it merged with the Australian Institute of Credit Union Directors).

The institute was founded to provide educational opportunities to those managing and guiding member credit unions across Australia. In 1981, the first year the institute was named AICUM, there were 78 member credit unions mostly drawn from the eastern states.

Attendees of COBA Conventions will recognise the format of AICUM Conferences apparent in the photographs. There was an exhibition space where businesses offering services to the credit union industry spruiked their wares while experts in various fields held forth elsewhere on the hot topics of the day. There was also a fancy dress dinner to close the conference and a cocktail party. The one difference to the COBA Conventions of today is that for many years golf and tennis competitions took place during the event where delegates competed for spoils. Below is a selection of our recently processed (and therefore now accessible) AICUM Conference photographs for your perusal.

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The exhibition space pictured from afar in 1994.

 

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Financial journalist & TV presenter David Koch addresses the AICUM Conference in 1995.

 

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Our predecessors (from left) Clarrie Murphy, Richard Raxworthy and Tom Kelly, pose in front of the Australian Credit Union Historical Co-operative stall in 1996.

 

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Counterculture icon and founder of OZ Magazine, Richard Neville, speaking at AICUM 1997.

 

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Guests arrive for the fancy dress dinner in 1998.

 

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Graham Humphreys was a leader at AICUM from its inception in 1981 until it merged in 2006. Here he is at AICUM 1999.

 

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The Ghostbusters arrive at AICUM 2000’s fancy dress dinner.

 

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Former leader of the National Party, Tim Fisher, addresses the 2001 Conference.

 

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The musical Cats was the theme of the 2002 Conference Dinner.

 

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AICUM stalwarts John McIntyre (left) and Graham Humphreys at the Albury Conference in 2003.

Sydney Water Board Employees’ Credit Union

Amanda Barber, Senior Archivist, Australian Mutuals History

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Co-operation House  at 125 Bathurst Street, Sydney, was the HQ of Sydney Water Board Employees’ Credit Union from 1968

In the late 1950s staff of the Metropolitan Water Sewerage and Drainage Board became interested in forming a credit union.  This interest was stimulated by a number of factors, including the fact that several employees or their families were already involved with the credit union movement.

A small meeting at lunch time in July 1959 learnt how a credit union operated and following that meeting a steering committee was established to proceed towards forming a credit union. The original steering committee comprised Eric Lukeman, Henry Binet, Bill Howe, Ron Birch, Paul Bounds and Gordon Dodd.

The formation meeting was held on 9 August 1959, with an attendance of 70 people.  63 of those in attendance signed up as members of the credit union.  The Sydney Water Board Officers’ Credit Union was registered on 21 August 1959.    The Board met for the first time on 26th August 1959.

Founding directors Bill Howe and Ron Birch both participated in an oral history interview on 5 July 1987 in which they discussed the early days of the credit union (tape held by Australian Mutuals History). They note that one of the best decisions in the early days was electing Eric Lukeman as the first chairman of the Board (because of his contacts in the Water Board, good standing and his determination).

The work of the credit union initially took place in the cafeteria until 1961 when office space was allocated and three part time staff attended to the members on two days of pay week.  In 1966 Paul Bounds became the full time manager of the credit union.

On 24 October 1967 the credit union was renamed Sydney Water Board Employees’ Credit Union. And in 1968 the credit union purchased Co-operation House, 125 Bathurst Street from the N.S.W. Permanent Building Society, and the credit union was run from there.

In 1972 the credit union participated in a member area centre at Bankstown Square in conjunction with the Postal Technicians and State Works Credit Unions enabling members and their families to use the service if more convenient than the City office.  Area offices and centres followed at Liverpool, Penrith and Wollongong.

In May 1974 a Special meeting changed the name of the organisation to SWB Family Credit Union. On 4 July 1983 the Credit Union was renamed SWB Community Credit Union.

During 1974 to 1990 the credit union grew and accepted engagements from Trans-Air Credit Union (March 1974), Glass Containers Employees Credit Union (November 1974), Sterlec Employees’ Credit Union (April 1975), Martin Wells Employees Credit Union (August 1980), Amoco Employees Credit Union Limited (June 1984), Woolbrokers and Trustees Staffs Credit Union Limited (July 1986), Muniff Credit Union Limited (June 1990).

The credit union was renamed Community First Credit Union Limited at a Special General Meeting on 2 July 1993.  The credit union still operates under that name today.

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A published history of the first 10 years of Sydney Water Board Employees’ Credit Union