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QLD a winner from merger, says Managing Director

3 April 2003 |Media centre

Bendigo Bank’s merger with Queensland’s First Australian Building Society continued to deliver benefits to all stakeholders, the bank’s managing director, Rob Hunt, said today.

During a four-day tour of the Queensland seaboard which ends today, Mr Hunt said there had been “natural scepticism” from those fearful that the Victorian-based bank would extract value from First Australian. “The reverse is true.”

“We said at the time our intention was to invest to grow the business and establish Bendigo Bank as a long-term participant in community life in Queensland, but words are easy – we are happy to be judged by our actions,” Mr Hunt said.

“I am pleased to report that less than three years on, we are well-advanced in that aim.”

Outlining progress to date, Mr Hunt said Bendigo had:
• Created 82 new jobs, building staff numbers in Queensland from 404 to 486.
• Established its national lending centre at Ipswich, with staff numbers now approaching 100.
• Established the bank’s hi-tech e-banking development unit in Ipswich.
• Opened four new company owned branches and five Community Bank branches, with more planned.
• Relocated eight branches to larger, more prominent premises and refurbished a further nine branches.
• Worked with the Logan community on a plan to establish Australia’s first “super Community Bank” network.
• Introduced significant new services for former First Australian customers, including 24-hour internet and telephone banking and a wide range of business banking and financial planning services.
• Established Australia’s second community owned telecommunications company, Itel, in Ipswich.
• With funding assistance from the State Government, introduced the Lead On youth development program into Queensland (at Ipswich and shortly in Beaudesert).
• Conducted the national launch of Australia’s first Green Home Loan in Queensland.
• Continued its commitment to a wide range of community sponsorships.

“Former FABS shareholders who accepted Bendigo’s one-for-two scrip offer back in October 2000 have also benefitted from the bank’s progress, with an 85 per cent capital gain plus 97 cents in dividends.” (Eds: FABS shares traded at $2.02 on last day [2/6/00} prior to BBL’s offer. BBL price closed at $7.68 yesterday. Queenslanders own 17% of Bendigo Bank.)

Mr Hunt said that having invested millions of dollars in upgrading the old FABS network and technology, and in establishing itself as a genuine contributor to community enhancement, Bendigo Bank was now beginning to see “a defined upswing” in its Queensland business.

“In our view, that is the order in which things should occur. As a new player in Queensland, it was incumbent on us to prove our credentials by improving customer service and making real and lasting contributions to the communities in which we operate.

“Successful customers and successful communities create a successful bank – and it happens in that order.

“Having done some hard yards in establishing ourselves in this State, our past four months trading have shown a steady progression in deposits and lending, which is at record levels for the business.

“Our focus now is very much on expanding our involvement with community and government to further enhance the prospects of those communities in which Bendigo Bank plays a role. If we can do that well, then we expect more people to see whether our personalised style of banking is suited to their needs.

“We are committed to continuing our community enhancement activities.”

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