Reflecting on the LLL’s centenary, it’s startling to realise that in 100 years it has had only five leaders, whether serving as president, executive secretary, general manager or chief executive officer (CEO). Each has prioritised building relationships with the Lutheran Church, with the ultimate goal of supporting mission and ministry.

Mr Ben Koch, President, Executive Secretary 1921–1963

On 14 November 1921, the LLL was formed at Bethlehem Lutheran Church Adelaide, and Ben Koch elected president. LLL’s initial growth was attributed to his promotional tours and parish visits. In 1944, he was employed part-time as executive secretary and later was paid as a ‘regular church servant’. Ben served in this role until he died in 1963 – 42 years.

Mr Theo Koch, Executive Secretary 1963–1986

Theo Koch joined the LLL in 1953. He took the roles of secretary/treasurer and became executive secretary after his father’s death. He steered the LLL through the formation of the LCA and consolidated its position as an auxiliary of the new church. He expanded the LLL’s support base by broadening its services. Known for his work ethic, understanding of church workings and sound financial judgement, Theo retired in 1986 after 33 years’ service.

Mr Richard Bartholomaeus, Executive Secretary, General Manager, CEO 1987–2008

Richard Bartholomaeus joined LLL as assistant secretary in 1977. Following the retirement of Theo Koch, Richard was appointed executive secretary in 1987. Later renamed general manager then CEO, it was a role he served in until retiring in August 2008. A strong and insightful leader, he offered a distinctive vision and optimistic spirit. His focus on promoting the LLL bore fruit in its growth of deposits and expansion of services to the LCA. Richard says: ‘It was always a joy to witness the people of the church respond so generously to the needs of the mission and ministry of the church.’

Mr Allen Kupke, CEO 2008–2020

Allen Kupke joined the LLL in 1988 as administration manager and became CEO when Richard Bartholomaeus retired. During Allen’s leadership, deposits reached unprecedented levels, and he led the LLL through the Global Financial Crisis and a changing regulatory environment while increasing lending to church projects. He later prompted the LLL to become an Authorised Deposit-taking Institution. After 32 years’ service, 12 as CEO, he retired in November 2020. He says a highlight of his leadership was enabling the mission dream of Shepparton congregation in Victoria to be realised: ‘God used the LLL as a conduit to join the needs of the Shepparton congregation with a generous donor who … enabled the construction of the new church complex.’

Mr Ross Smith, CEO 2020–current

LLL appointed Ross Smith as its CEO in November 2020. Ross has strong finance sector knowledge, a deep understanding of Christian schools’ needs, and brings the word of Christ to all he does. Focused on fostering long-standing relationships between depositors, borrowers and staff, he says, ‘At the heart of all that LLL performs is the trust of our depositors. They have provided the necessary financial capital to support developments in our Lutheran congregations and schools and I intend to foster that spiritual growth’.

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