As a former CEO and chairman of major financial institutions, Whitlam has been exposed to most aspects of banking, insurance and superannuation.
A career banker, he joined Morgan Guaranty Trust Co (now JP Morgan) in 1969, working at headquarters in New York and then London, and rising to the position of Vice President. Subsequently, he worked with American Express in Sydney and Hong Kong. He was with Banque Paribas in Hong Kong before his appointment as Managing Director and CEO of the State Bank of New South Wales from 1981.
In 1987, together with Malcolm Turnbull, he established the investment bank Whitlam Turnbull. Since 1990 he has managed Whitlam & Co.
Whitlam was President of the National Roads and Motorists’ Association, Australia’s largest mutual organisation, from 1996 to 2002. He chaired NRMA Insurance, Australia’s largest general insurance company, from 1996 to 2001, and while at NRMA Insurance he led the process by which that company was demutualised and listed on the Australian Stock Exchange. (It is still the largest general insurer in the country and now trades as Insurance Australia Group or IAG.)
In recent years he has been heavily involved in the ports/logistics sector: Whitlam served as chairman of the new Port Authority of New South Wales from its inauguration in 2014 to mid-2018. From 2004, first in Port Kembla and then in Sydney and Newcastle, he was a director of the three NSW port corporations and he chaired all three ports - Sydney, Newcastle and Port Kembla - prior to their amalgamation as the new port authority.
Former public sector roles include serving as a director of the Australian Trade Commission and the Export Finance & Insurance Corporation, and in the disability and compensation sector he has served as chairman of the Lifetime Care & Support Authority and deputy chairman of the WorkCover Fund and WorkCover NSW.
Whitlam represented New South Wales and Harvard in swimming. For the 2000 Olympics, he was a member of the Sydney Olympic Games Review Committee (which recommended the bid), and he subsequently served as a member of the Sydney Olympic Games Bid Committee. He is a former Chairman of Tattersall’s Club, Sydney and was an inaugural director of the Australian Sports Foundation.
He chaired the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in the 1990s. For many years Whitlam chaired the Australian Graduate School of Management and the Whitlam Institute.
Whitlam holds degrees from Harvard University (AB cum laude, 1967) and the University of London (MSc, 1969). He has been awarded honorary doctorates by The University of New South Wales (Hon.DUniv, 1996) and Western Sydney University (Hon.DLitt, 2016). Publications include his recent book Four Weeks One Summer and a 2004 memoir, Still Standing. He was born in Sydney and attended Sydney High School. Whitlam is married to Judy (née Frye); they live in a coastal village south of Sydney and have three adult children.