Michael Walsh

Appreciation for John Etherington

The synod had paid credit to UCA Funds Management retiring board chair John Etherington and retiring Chief Executive Officer Michael Walsh.

Mr Etherington said Mr Walsh had provided strong leadership and guidance to Funds Management since he was appointed to head the business in 2013.

Mr Walsh came to UCA Funds Management with a long career in the financial sector and a deep commitment to ethical and responsible investment.

Mr Etherington said Mr Walsh had drawn on his past experiences to assist in the development and growth of UCA Funds Management and positioning the organisation well for the future.

During Mr Walsh’s tenure, funds under management have grown from $820 million to nearly $1.03 billion. UCA Funds Management also became the first not-for-profit or faith-based organisation with a Responsible Entity licence from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, ensuring the highest standards of governance and compliance for investors.

Two existing funds have converted into managed investment schemes and, more recently, the custody function has been outsourced to Northern Trust.

The investment team has been consolidated and other organisational improvements adopted.

Mr Walsh had also worked closely with the Synod Justice and International Mission unit to develop ethical investment policies, including policies relating to fossil fuels and payday lenders. He had also led active engagement with businesses on ethical issues such as female representation on boards and the use of credit cards for gambling purposes.

He said Mr Walsh had contributed positively and creatively to Synod ministries and operations as a member of the Synod Leadership Team and provided sound advice for organisations within the Uniting Church on investment matters.

Mr Walsh said he had been grateful for the opportunity to lead a funds management business after 30 years in the industry.

He said the organisation had a fantastic culture tied to its mission of being a profit business which gave back.

Mr Walsh also said he had been happy to do his bit to shake up corporate Australia.
He suggested future financial sustainability for church may lie in the synod working more closely with other synods and faith-based organisations.

In moving a minute for Mr Hetherington, Mr Walsh said he had an impressive record of supporting Funds Management and other committees of the church.

“He is one of those extraordinary people who really commits to giving back,” he said.

“A deep thinker who also has an amazing eye for detail and can really roll his sleeves up when needed.”

Mr Etherington has stepped down because of the board’s 10-year tenure rule.

He said he felt a little embarrassed as it had been an honour and a privilege to serve on the board.

“People may think providing guidance to a $1 billion funds under management business would be onerous, but it has not been,” he said.

“There has been unequivocal support by the senior leadership team, the Uniting Church family and the board itself.”

Mr Etherington said he had been extremely pleased to see the board of eight men change to a board of four men and four women during his time and he suggested that his contribution had been no greater than any other board member.