Jack Diamond: financial innovator… and more
Before Jack Diamond, a super industry and funds management stalwart, was diagnosed with cancer his friend Josh Funder had come up with the idea of sponsoring an award for innovation in finance. It is called the ‘Diamond Award’.
For Funder, the founder and chief executive of Household Capital, an innovative firm itself which lends to retirees based on the equity in their homes with no repayments along the way, Jack was “a serial innovator in investment and financial services”.
He was also a mentor to Funder and a sounding board for ideas to make ordinary people’s lives better, throughout his career, while also providing a return on capital.
Perhaps his biggest idea, which was also perhaps the most difficult to get off the ground, was as an instigator of Super Member Home Loans (SMHL), which grew into ME Bank.
“Jack had a clear strategy to deliver to super fund members cheaper home loans, once they had paid off part of their mortgage, and put the money they saved into superannuation,” Funder says. “He identified a big inefficiency and a big need. Jack was absolutely committed to helping people.”
SMHL was, in a sense, the first financial product of the Industry Fund Services (IFS) group, the brainchild of Garry Weaven, who had a strong belief that industry funds should control their own destiny.
This started with ownership of the asset consulting component of the process in 1994, when a group of more than 30 industry funds backed IFS as well as SMHL. With the ACTU’s support SMHL grew quickly and in 1999 IFS formed a joint venture with National Mutual (now AXA) to turn the business into a bank – Members Equity Bank.
Ray King, another of Jack’s many friends, remembers Jack talking to him about the SMHL concept when he was an asset consultant at Towers Perrin. Jack confided in him some of the difficulties they were facing corralling all those industry funds together, taking small shareholdings for the right to be able to offer the cheap home loans to members and with the initial support of the ACTU. King became the first head of the asset consulting business for IFS, now Frontier.
In July last year, by which time ME Bank was offering a full range of retail banking and financial services, the Bank of Queensland paid the 26 industry funds which ended up owning it $1.325 billion for the company.
Jack Diamond died on February 21, age 66. A celebration of his life was scheduled to be held on March 4 at Leonda by the Yarra events venue in Melbourne. He is survived by wife of 45 years Maria, children Sarah, Jacqueline and Sam and grandchildren Enrique, Sabine, Wesley and Jack.
At the time of his death Jack was non-executive chair of BCYBER, a small cyber security consultancy for financial businesses, the chair of the Box Hill Institute & Centre for Adult Education and director of the Victorian Sports Centre Trust.
He had recently, in the middle of last year, stepped down as chair of the strategy advisory committee of Household Capital, which he had been since the company’s inception in 2016. Deborah Ralston, a Future Fund guardian and another super industry identity, has taken up that committee position. Long-time collaborator in innovative concepts, Garry Weaven, is one of the company’s directors. Ray King says that many of Jack’s ideas ended up being put to Weaven.
Jack managed to mix up his work with the not-for-profit sector – industry funds and related organisations such as IFS were never known to be big spenders, certainly not in the early days – with stints for commercial organisations such as National Mutual, Colonial and NAB.
He was head of business for the old ANZ Asset Management and did five long years from 2000 as the Australian head for challenging US manager Nicholas Applegate, including closing down the firm’s Australian trusts.
Those in the trade media can attest to his enthusiasm as a self-taught salesman whoever he was promoting, but you could tell that, for this former school teacher, working for a foreign fund manager or Australian bank was more about raising a family.
Josh Funder sums up Jack’s contribution to society well: “Part of his story is that Jack saw that finance is important and can do important things for people… He contributed ideas, energy and warmth.”