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Disruption can take us to a better place

1 December 2016 |Opinion
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Disruption can take us to a better place

1 December 2016 |Opinion

Mike Hirst, Managing Director, Bendigo and Adelaide Bank

The biggest buzzword at the moment is disruption.

Everywhere you look it seems disruption is being heralded as the death knell for traditional institutions like banking.

But disruption isn’t anything new.

The business environment has always been one of rapid change, and while new technologies may be accelerating that process in the 21st century, it’s nothing to be feared. In fact, it should be welcomed.

I can relate to ancient philosopher Heraclitus when he mused – “The only thing that is constant is change.”

At Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, we’ve long taken a proactive approach to changing markets.

Our origins are in a building society that started in central Victoria’s goldfields where the gold rush had rapidly transformed the local economy.

In that period of flux, our forebears saw an opportunity to help build strong communities by establishing a system for home ownership and local investment.

Similarly, in the 1990s when Australia’s big four banks started leaving country towns, resulting in a 29 per cent decline in branch numbers nationally, we went against the tide and partnered with community enterprises to establish Community Bank® branches.

We did this to restore a central plank of successful local economies – a bank. In addition, the model provides a revenue stream for local communities and employment opportunities for the people that live there.  In short, a large scale disruption was addressed and communities are now $150 million better off because of it.

Now in 2016, we’re drawing on all we’ve learnt from our past to foster another kind of partnership, one that I believe is born not of disruption, but of necessary change.

Our collaboration with Deakin University recognises that Australia’s big institutions, like banks and universities, must do things differently to serve new and growing communities.

Vice-Chancellor of Deakin University Jane Den Hollander has talked about how universities have operated virtually the same for more than 500 years.

However, advancements in technology and connectivity have seen a massive increase in the take up and appetite for online courses.

These changes could threaten the business performance of Australia’s higher education sector, or they could afford it the opportunity to reach new heights – with universities now empowered to educate more people than ever before.

Our universities now attract more than one million students, employ more than 120,000 staff and directly contribute $24 billion to GDP.

Higher education is an investment in a future that we all share.

That’s why we want to explore how we can come together, to see opportunities in the constant change around us, and, most importantly, use the strengths of both institutions to work towards innovative solutions.

Too often business uses a proprietary model in collaboration with others. Slicing a portion of its pie and handing it over.

But we think differently about the pie – it’s not about what portion you carve, it’s about how you grow the pie so you both get more.  We think this is the essence of successful, long-term partnering.

Collaboration and innovation are integral to developing and taking our economy forward.

Disruption, conflict, transformation, flux will always remain.

Change is the only constant, all we can do is embrace it and accept the challenge of creating a better world.

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