James Kell was the Commonwealth Bank's first Deputy Governor. The Commonwealth Bank opened for business on 15 July 1912, under the Bank's new Governor, Denison Miller. In September 1912, Miller wrote to the Prime Minister, Andrew Fisher, requesting that he consider the appointment of a Deputy Governor to assist him in his duties. Out of nine applicants, Miller himself chose Kell. With his recommendation approved by the Prime Minister, James Kell was appointed Deputy Governor on 2 December 1912.
Kell's appointment was for an initial period of 7 years on an annual salary of £1,500; less than half Miller's. It was also less than Charles Campion's, the manager of the Bank's London Office, whose salary was £2,000 per year - in part due to the importance given to the London Office and its role at the centre of international banking, but also indicating that the role of Deputy Governor was seen, at this time, as a support role to the Governor rather than a role of influence or authority.
Miller delegated little to the Deputy Governor, with all decisions and oversight kept very much under his management and control. In letters he wrote and addresses he gave as Deputy Governor, Kell was always effusive in his praise of Miller and supportive of all he did, but on at least one occasion was compelled to request an opinion from the Commonwealth Solicitor-General regarding his duties and responsibilities.
After Miller's sudden death in June 1923, Kell took on the responsibilities of the Governor. As there was no provision under the Commonwealth Bank Act for an Acting Governor, he remained in this role until being formally appointed to the position of Governor in 1924.
James Kell was Governor of the Bank until October 1926, after which he took leave due to ill health, with his official retirement taking effect on the 31 May 1927. He died in 1933 after a short illness.
Kell signature on Australian banknotes
Kell appears on the following banknotes:
- Ten pounds 1925 to 1934 (Kell-Collins)
- Five pounds 1924 to 1933 (Kell-Collins)
- One pound 1923 to 1933 (Kell-Collins)
- Ten shillings 1923 to 1933 (Kell-Collins)
- One thousand pounds 1914 and 1915 (Kell-Collins)
- Five pounds 1924 to 1933 (Kell-Heathershaw)
- One pound 1923 to 1933 (Kell-Heathershaw)
- Ten shillings 1923 to 1933 (Kell-Heathershaw)