A virtuous legacy

Picture of George Koukis

Pictured: UTS Luminary George Koukis

Software entrepreneur, philanthropist, and UTS Luminary George Koukis is a champion for ethical leadership.

The Greek virtue of philotimo isn’t easily translatable into English: its Greek root words are ‘filos’ and ‘timi’, which mostly mean ‘friend’ and ‘honour’ respectively or ‘love of honour’ together.

George Koukis, UTS Luminary, philanthropist and founder of pioneering global banking software company Temenos, says the concept reveals more to you the more you live it, and suggests in essence philotimo is about “doing what’s right, without regard to cost”.

“Decide that in your life you will only do good things – for instance, create good products that do not penalise Mother Earth.” – George Koukis

Koukis adopted philotimo as one of the ethical leadership principles guiding both his personal and business endeavours, and regularly donates to medical and education programs around the world.

Koukis, who arrived in Australia in 1971 with only $140 in his pocket and speaking barely a word of English, graduated with a Diploma of Technology in Commerce from UTS in 1979. He held leadership roles at Qantas, before founding Temenos in 1986, which is today Europe’s fourth largest software company, with a market capitalisation of more than US$5 billion.

His philanthropy projects include the UTS Luminaries Postgraduate Coursework Scholarship, which helps outstanding students pursue excellence in their chosen academic field at UTS.

“Education is the only way to achieve meaningful change,” insists Koukis, who also shares his business virtuosity with the broader student body as adjunct professor at the UTS Business School. “Self-awareness and knowledge help you find the part you will play in the world.”

Named a UTS Luminary in 2014, recognising his role as one of the university’s most outstanding ambassadors, Koukis credits the university’s commerce lecturers for encouraging him to keep on building his knowledge and exploring its real world applications:

“UTS is not about theory only and this is vital for me; you learn from people who have done it before and speak from positions of knowledge. Additionally, UTS empowered me to debate, talk, give my opinion to any subject, to be innovative.”

Koukis says the real life lessons and passion for innovation shared by the lecturers at UTS motivated him to pioneer computer systems at Qantas, including a profit centre system that helped the airline optimise the activities of its fleet and personnel, and a new way of modelling risk.

“I wasn’t threatened by what was new
and unknown,” he smiles, adding that his determination to build new knowledge gave him a head start in his career at a time when computers were seen as magical, yet ungainly.

That enthusiasm for learning helped him rise through the ranks at Qantas while studying at UTS, and then convert a consultancy at the Sydney branch of Management Science America to a managing director position within six years. In 1993 he bought a failing banking system company against everyone’s advice, renamed it Temenos and gradually built it up to the multi- billion dollar market-leading business it is today.

Koukis says his success in business gives him the knowledge and resources to achieve what he calls his truest aim: to leave a virtuous and ethical legacy. “To me, you need to be humbled by how much needs
to be done, not by what you have done.

“Decide that in your life you will only do
good things – for instance, create good products that do not penalise Mother Earth. Sustainability is the key to human existence. And remain incorruptible: the rewards are immense, you will experience fulfillment in perpetuity and positively influence others.”