Community Banks return profits to the community
The pioneers of Bendigo Bank's Community Banking model are being rewarded for their initial support of the unique banking model.
Rupanyup Minyip, Upwey, Henty and Lang Lang shareholders have been paid their first contributions since the bank branches opened, the first officially launched in June 1998.
Bendigo Bank managing director Rob Hunt said it had been evident for some time that the Community Bank model worked financially, both for communities and Bendigo Bank.
"This is the sign of tangible benefits beginning to flow back to those who had the vision and the faith to support the then, unheard of concept," Mr Hunt said.
"We are also beginning to see other benefits beginning to flow through to communities.
"We always said it was much more than banking services and the early sites are proof of that."
Lang Lang Community Bank has taken the lead and has not only supported nearby Pearcedale in its quest for a bank branch, but has introduced a range of new services to Lang Lang.
The Community Bank board has leased the building next door to the branch and developed a business centre which is occupied by a lawyer, accountant, town planner, local M.P. and a licensed surveyor.
Many of these professional services have never been available in Lang Lang.
The board is also in the process of purchasing a property to establish a medical centre to return a G.P. to the community and provide a baby health centre for Lang Lang.
"Lang Lang is a wonderful example of communities not only mobilising to secure branch banking services, but further developing their potential as a community," Mr Hunt said.
"We are increasingly hearing from communities who still have banking services but can see the greater benefits of establishing certainty of access and control over their capital."
The Victorian grainbelt towns of Rupanyup and Minyip were the pioneers of the Community Banking model.
After 17 months the Community Bank branch is making a regular monthly operating surplus, the changes in the community described by Rupanyup Minyip Community Bank founding chairman David Matthews described Community Banking as running much deeper than the return of banking services.
"Bendigo Bank is teaching us how to have greater control over many aspects of our lives," Mr Matthews said.
"They are showing us how to harness our strengths and providing us with the skills and confidence to secure the future of our communities. And it is all based on using business to achieve positive social change."
"Despite the cynics and the knockers, the Community Bank strategy has been an amazing success," Mr Matthews said.