Meet our Board of Directors
Sean Linkson Executive Director & Chairman
Sean is one of the three founding Directors of Pinnacle, along with Philip Comans his partner of 14 years, and their long-term friend Paul Clark. Inspired by the Point Foundation in the US, Sean, Philip and Paul set up Pinnacle with pro bono help from Freehills Lawyers, Saatchi & Saatchi and Sothertons Chartered Accountants.
After four years in creation, Pinnacle was officially launched in November 2009 by our Patron, The Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG. Sydney-based, Sean is also a member of the Management Committee that runs the day-to-day activities of the foundation.
Currently he is a Partner in a large head-hunting firm, Talent Partners. Prior to joining Talent Partners, he was Managing Director of A.T. Kearney Executive Search, spending nine years at the firm growing their Australian and New Zealand business. He commenced his search career with Australia’s largest human capital consulting company Morgan and Banks. In preceding years he worked for the Australian subsidiaries of international banks JP Morgan, Chase Manhattan and Lloyds. Prior to this, he spent nine years in project management with a leading Australian construction and engineering company.
Sean has a Bachelor of Applied Science and a Master of Commerce majoring in finance. Every day Sean sees the advantage of a good education. His love is putting people into careers they love. Seeing people achieve their full potential is what inspires him – it was also the inspiration for The Pinnacle Foundation. He wants to see every young LGBTIQ achieve their full potential and make a mark in the world.
Bohdan Abrat Non-Executive Director
Bohdan is a corporate lawyer by trade, specialising in Funds Management and Superannuation law. He holds a combined Arts/Law (Hons) degree from Melbourne University with a double major in Fine Arts and History, and an honours thesis in law on property rights upon separation in same-sex relationships.
Melbourne-based Bohdan has worked at Goldman Sachs in Melbourne for the past six and a half years, currently as an Executive Director, Senior Counsel and Head of Compliance for the Asset Management division. At Goldman Sachs, he is the co-chair of the GLaM network, which seeks to promote a work environment that respects, welcomes and supports lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex professionals, as well as providing a forum to foster an understanding of issues facing gay and lesbian professionals within the broader financial services sector, by partnering with local universities and not for profit organisations such as Pride in Diversity that focus on workplace inclusion.
Bohdan has had a long running association with the Queer community, beginning in 1998 as the ‘Queer Officer’ at the Melbourne University Student Union, working as an activist for Queer student rights. From 2001 – 2005, he served as a Director on the Board of the Midsumma Festival in Melbourne, initially running the Sports Program, and later sponsorships and partnerships, overseeing a successful financial growth period for the festival. In 2002, Bohdan led ‘Team Melbourne’ to the Sydney Gay Games, and was thereafter instrumental in bringing together Melbourne’s Gay and Lesbian sporting clubs to form Queer Sports Alliance Melbourne (QSAM) as an overarching umbrella organisation to support and nurture Melbourne’s gay and lesbian sports programs.
He has co-hosted ‘The Sports Lounge’ on Melbourne’s FM Radio JOY 94.9 for the past 7 years, focusing on sport from a gay and lesbian perspective, winning the Australian Community Broadcasting Award in 2008-9 for the best community-based radio sports show.
Pippa Downes Non-Executive Director
Pippa Downes is a non-executive Director and a former Managing Director and Equity Partner of Goldman Sachs in Australia. Pippa has had a successful international banking and finance career spanning over 20 years and has led the local trading arms of several of the world’s leading Investment Banks. Pippa’s specialialist derivative, funds management and capital markets expertise and deep knowledge of the Australian and International investment community will assist Pinnacle as they grow their endowment and scholarship funds. Pippa’s expert knowledge and understanding of financial risk management will ensure every dollar donated to the Pinnacle Foundation will be prudently invested and managed for the long term.
Prior to joining Goldman Sachs in 2004 Pippa was a Director and the Head of Equity Derivatives Trading at Deutsche Bank in Sydney. Before joining Deutsche Bank Pippa was a Director and Head of Morgan Stanley’s Equity Trading and Derivative business when they started their Australian Equity Franchise in 1998 based in Hong Kong. Pippa started her career working for Swiss Bank O’Connor on the Floor of the Pacific Coast Stock Exchange in San Francisco and then the Philadelphia Stock exchange before returning to work in Sydney as a Director for UBS.
Pippa was previously an appointed Independent Director on the Board of Swimming Australia and the Swimming Australia Foundation until Dec 2011. She has a Master’s in Applied Finance from Macquarie University and Bachelor of Science (Business Administration) from University of California, Berkeley. Pippa is also a keen sportsperson being a former member of the Australian Swim Team and has represented Hong Kong at the International Rugby Sevens. She lives with her partner Cassandra, her young son Matthew and new daughter Sophie in Bronte, Sydney.
Stephen Barrow Non-Executive Director
Currently General Manager People, Change and Communications for Group Business Services of NAB, Stephen was Born and raised in London. Educated in the UK, Stephen’s early career was in sales with Rank Xerox in Central London. This role was fantastic in instilling an absolute customer and sales mindset and solid business disciplines early in Stephen’s career. Sponsored by Xerox, he returned to University in Manchester to undertake a Masters and then PhD in organisational change, which led to the next ten years being spent researching ‘change’, teaching MBA and running his own small consultancy business (the PhD thesis regrettably remains ‘unfinished business’!). During this time he was based in the UK and then in Dubai for almost 5 years, working all over Asia and the Middle East.
Stephen joined HSBC in Hong Kong in 1997 to lead the regional performance management, talent and organisational development agendas across Asia. He returned to London with HSBC in 2001, taking on a number of group-wide roles, most notably as Global Head of People Strategy and Resourcing. During this time Stephen worked extensively in the US, South America, Canada and in Europe.
He joined the Royal Bank of Scotland in early 2005 as Chief Learning Officer and Head of Organisational Effectiveness. Taking a family decision to return to Asia, Stephen’s next role was establishing and leading Hewitt’s Leadership development business across Asia, based again in Hong Kong. He arrived in Australia in mid-2007 to take on the position of Executive Director, HR with Telstra. Stephen originally joined NAB in February 2009 as General Manager for Technology People and Culture and Change Management.
The Pinnacle Foundations values Stephens commitment and input to our Board of Directors.
Meet Our Managing Committee
Susan Brooks Chair of Selection Panel
Susan is our compliance guru and has extensive experience in managing regulatory risks and consumer issues from within executive government, statutory administrative bodies (Australian Broadcasting Tribunal and Australian Securities Commission) and financial services sector (Chief Compliance Officer, Westpac and has been the Australian Banking Industry Ombudsman). She is currently a member of the ABC’s Independent Complaints Review Panel and several Managed Investment Compliance Committees. She holds Bach. of Eco. and Masters of Law.
“Being a member of the Management Committee I am able to apply the wealth of experience I gained through corporate life. It also allows me to give back to our community. Back in the Seventies I was a beneficiary of the Labor Government’s new approach to university entrance, so I understand the benefits of education and how it can change your life. In semi-retirement I can now devote significant time to the Foundation and at the same time enjoy travel and quality time with my partner Janis.”
My role with the Foundation is best described as a ‘Jill of all trades’, since as well as chairing a small team responsible for scholarship selection, I provide governance and general policy advice and design processes for us to use. All to ensure compliance with our policies and Constitution since our reputation is very important to us. In the next couple of years I am also implementing a program to boost the number of registered mentors.”
Warren Stanborough Major Benefactor & Selection Committee Member
Warren and partner John Douglass have provided a significant donation over four years and this allowed the Foundation to get off to a flying start in its formative years.
“We are now comfortable supporting The Pinnacle Foundation, as our major charity, where none of the money goes to salaries or expensive promotions. All the people running the Foundation are successful and competent people doing it out of love and the genuine desire to help young people complete their education”.
Recently retired from the Board of The Pinnacle Foundation, Warren is currently a member of the Scholarship Selection Committee.
Philip Comans Fundraising
Phillip is one of our founding Directors, along with Sean.
“I have been a real estate agent for the past 10 years and before that many different jobs (or careers) including photographer, PR and event management consultant, retail buyer and even a masseur.
Thankfully I went to University when it was provided free, and came out with an Economics Degree. I’ve seen over and over again how having that Degree has opened employment opportunities for me. It was at Uni that I came out and again luckily my family were very accepting. The Uni environment was really important to me during that time, providing fantastic friends and counselling support.
I’m a Director of Pinnacle and partnered with Sean Linkson (another Director) with our rescue dog Sooty (she doesn’t “do” rescue she was rescued)”.
Steven Deveraux-Stanford Marketing & Communications
Steven heads our Marketing Committee, doing wonders in helping The Pinnacle Foundation connect with our scholars, donors and corporate partners.
With qualifications in Public Relations, Marketing and Property, Steven was co-founder and Director of high-end estate agency, Leonarder Collins Luxury Homes – ranked by the CNBC International Property Awards as one of the ‘Top 5 Estate Agencies in the World’ for 4 consecutive years.
After spending the past decade working throughout Australia and internationally in the luxury and commercial property markets, Steven with passion for, and love of animals changed directions. He is currently founder of Ivory Coat Companion Goods, manufacturing his own range of all-natural personal care and companion animal grooming products.
With Steven’s understanding and appreciation of how further education and mentoring have aided in his own accomplishments, his skills and talents play a large part in communicating our message to the wider community.
Dave Rorke University Liaison
Dave joined The Pinnacle Foundation in 2009 as a integral part of our Selection Committee and now also the Marketing Task Force, providing a student perspective and connecting Pinnacle to universities across Australia.
Currently working at Macquarie University as the PACE International Program Officer, Dave is closely connected to the campus community where so many Pinnacle Scholarship applicants have originated from.
Dave’s background includes environmental management and international relations whilst also being heavily involved in the development of LGBTI programs at Macquarie University. This has included running the QueerSpace in 2008/09 which provides a safe community space for GLBTIQ students & staff, and co-founding/coordinating the Ally Network, a visible campus-wide support to the GLBTIQ community at Macquarie.
With his continued involvement with higher education both personally and professionally, Dave understands its value to realising someone’s potential and is key to communicating this to campus communities.
Geoff Annabel Scholar & Mentor Liaison
Geoff Annabel joined The Pinnacle Foundation in 2011 to oversee our Scholar Liaison. Geoff is CEO of an asset management company which specialises in property and Australian equities. He is a licenced real estate agent and registered valuer.
Geoff provides assistance to our scholars by helping them to obtain educational items funded by their scholarship, liaising with other Pinnacle colleagues when the need arises and general administrative support.
“I applaud the aims of the Foundation and love adding my small bit assisting emerging leaders of the LGBTIQ community to shine through educational assistance.”
In addition to Pinnacle Geoff’s background includes volunteering with a range of LGBTIQ community organisations including Queerscreen, ACON and Metropolitan Community Church.
Martin Comans Chief Information Officer
Martin joined the Pinnacle team in 2012 after hearing about wonderful progress of the foundation and offered some much needed technical oversight of our website and IT systems. We’re big on diversity so Martin is the first straight member of the Management Team!
An executive in the Federal Public Service Martin has a strong history with all things technical and has worked in both Australia and the developing countries of Timor-Leste and the Solomon Islands delivering a range of ICT services professionally while volunteering in his spare time.
Since returning to Australia Martin has established a Web Design company www.Comans.com.au delivering cost effective web solutions to small business and the community sector and was more than happy to become involved in supporting the foundation’s technical needs.
Martin has also had a long love affair in the community sector where he has 10 years experience in Disability support, is a regular volunteer for the Salvos and was awarded volunteer of the year by Sailability ACT in 2012. “I can really see how one person can make such a difference to those who just need a little help”.
Martin is currently based in Canberra.