Almost 40-year career at RBA leads to groundbreaking role as governor
Taking a look at Michele Bullock’s working life, you could say her 38-year career path was leading to this moment.
In a press conference earlier today, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Treasurer Jim Chalmers announced that Bullock (pictured above), the current Reserve Bank of Australia deputy governor, would become head of the RBA, replacing Philip Lowe as governor on September 18.
Lowe’s seven-term ends on September 17 and will not be renewed.
Bullock’s background makes her a perfect fit to take on the role of RBA governor – the first woman in the central bank’s 65-year history to do so.
Appointed to the role of deputy governor in April 2022, Bullock has spent her entire career at the RBA. A Bachelor of Economics (Honours) graduate from the University of New England in 1984, Bullock started working at the RBA in 1985, and moved to various positions across the bank’s Economic Group and International Department.
In 1989, Bullock completed a Master of Sciences at London School of Economics and in 1998, she was promoted to the role of chief manager of the Payments Policy Department at the RBA. In 2007, Bullock became of head of that department and from 2010 to 2022 she has held various senior RBA positions, including assistant governor (Currency); assistant governor (Business Services) and assistant governor (Financial System).
In a Q&A article published on the UNE website in April last year, shortly after Bullock was appointed RBA deputy governor, Bullock said while her entire career had been based in Sydney she was a “proud country girl” at heart.
“I was born in Melbourne, but my family moved to Armidale when I was about nine, so I spent my formative years there,” Bullock told UNE.
After finishing her school years at Armidale High School, Bullock said she was accepted into medicine at the University of NSW “but I was only 17 and I wasn’t sure I was cut out for medicine”.
“My dad (Ivan Droop) worked in administration and data processing at UNE, and he suggested I speak with a few people about the economics course because I enjoyed that subject at school,” Bullock said. “As a country girl, I found the idea of going to the big city quite daunting, so staying at home was a good option.”
Bullock told UNE that she found economics interesting – “it was useful in day-to-day life and topical, and it had a quantitative element that suited me because I was quite good at maths”.
She said she lots of fond memories of university life, meeting people and playing sport, and joined the RBA as an intern in her honours year.
Bullock told UNE that she enjoyed the public service side of working at the RBA, working for the Australian people.
When asked about breaking ground as the first woman deputy governor of the RBA, Bullock said she wanted to “make sure that I do a good job and that I am conscious of the young women coming up around me”.
She said the RBA had a wealth of both male and female talent “but we are deliberately trying to raise the number of women in management”.
“I am very conscious that I provide them with the realisation that they, too, can move up through the organisation. I do take that seriously.”
Speaking after it was publicly announced today that she would be appointed RBA governor, Bullock said she was “deeply honoured”.
“It is a challenging time to be coming into this role, but I will be supported by a strong executive team and boards,” Bullock said. “I am committed to ensuring that the Reserve Bank delivers on its policy and operational objectives for the benefit of the Australian people.”
Government’s decision to appoint Bullock
Speaking to reporters on Friday, Prime Minister Albanese said the Cabinet had agreed to Chalmer’s recommendation, supported by himself, that Bullock be appointed as the RBA’s ninth governor.
“Michele will be the first female governor since the independent RBA was founded in 1959,” Albanese said. “After close to four decades as service to the RBA, most recently as the deputy governor, Ms Bullock is eminently qualified to lead this national institution.”
He said Bullock would have “an important job at an important time with the challenges being faced globally”.
“This appointment follows a rigorous process including consultation with the Opposition.”
Albanese said as governor Bullock would oversee the implementation of the recommendations of the RBA review “to make sure we have the most effective central bank and monetary policy framework as Australia and the world faces ongoing economic challenges”.
The Prime Minister also thanked Lowe for his service and commitment to the nation in his seven years as RBA governor, particularly his commitment to supporting Australian jobs, incomes and businesses during the pandemic.
Chalmers described Bullock as an “outstanding economist" and an "accomplished and respected leader".
“This is a history-making appointment – Michele Bullock will become the first woman to ever lead the Reserve Bank in this country,” Chalmers said.
“Michele Bullock is the person best placed to take the Reserve Bank into the future … her appointment best combines experience and expertise with a fresh leadership perspective.”
Chalmers said it was the right call but not an easy call and the decision had been reached after months of consultation and deliberation, in “the most methodical and considered way that we could”.
He also thanked Lowe for more than 40 years dedication, commitment and service, not just to the RBA and the economy, but to the nation.
“Phil Lowe goes with our respect, he goes with our gratitude and he goes with dignity,” Chalmers said.