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Cooch, Alexander (1865–1948)

by E. A. Beever

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

Alexander Cooch (1865-1948), bank officer, was born on 6 May 1865 at Stawell, Victoria, son of Alexander Cooch, miner, and his wife Jane, née Quin, both from Ireland. He was educated at Stawell Grammar School and in 1880 joined the Commissioners' Savings Bank, forerunner of the State Savings Bank of Victoria. In 1893 he was appointed accountant at head office in Melbourne and next year became inspector of branches. After the amalgamation of the Commissioners' Savings and Post Office Savings banks in 1896-97, he became chief inspector and in 1914 deputy inspector general. On the retirement of George Emery, Cooch became general manager of the State Savings Bank in 1929, serving until his retirement in 1937.

Although he had a long and distinguished career at the State Savings Bank, the range of his achievements was limited by the fact that for over thirty years he worked in the shadow of his immediate superior, Emery; when he finally succeeded Emery, any scope for initiative was severely checked by the onset of the Depression, but for which, it is believed, Cooch would have been a notable pioneer of bank mechanization. Nevertheless he can still take primary credit for the introduction of school banking to Victoria in 1912 and, through the creation of the service department, for the further extension of savings banking to the factory floor in 1927. While general manager, Cooch also wrote a substantial, if fairly obviously official, history of the bank (Melbourne 1934) with what W. W. Kerr described in the foreword as 'characteristic zeal, thoroughness and self-sacrifice'.

With his vast experience in one of Victoria's largest public organizations, Cooch was generally recognized as an authority on administration, especially accounting procedures. In 1907, at the invitation of the Tasmanian government, he investigated the organization and administration of the State Savings Bank of Tasmania, and in 1908 inquired similarly into the affairs of the government Savings Bank of New South Wales. Both institutions were substantially reorganized following his recommendations. Later, in 1916, he chaired a royal commission into the Victorian Public Service. It reported in great detail after eighteen months of research and deliberations.

In 1926 Cooch was chairman of the Australian group of representatives at an international conference of savings bank delegates at Philadelphia, United States of America; from there he returned with a vision of highly mechanized banking operations. From 1927 to 1930 he was president of the Bankers' Institute of Australia. After his retirement he became a director of the Colonial Mutual Life Assurance Society Ltd. Then, as earlier, bowls appears to have been his one major recreation.

Cooch had married Normana Augusta MacLeod, at St Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Ballarat, on 17 June 1902. He died at his Toorak home on 13 August 1948, survived by his wife, two of his three sons, and a daughter. His estate was valued for probate at £14,420.

Select Bibliography

  • T. Craddock and M. Cavanough, 125 Years
  • the Story of the State Savings Bank of Victoria (Melb, 1967)
  • Age (Melbourne), 14 Aug 1948.

Citation details

E. A. Beever, 'Cooch, Alexander (1865–1948)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/cooch-alexander-5760/text9759, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 21 October 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

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