University to study Community Bank benefits
Bendigo's LaTrobe University will study Community Bank towns to identify benefits which have flowed from the operations of their locally-owned bank branches.
Head of the University's Centre for Sustainable Regional Communities, Prof Les Kilmartin, said the twelve-month research project aimed to quantify anecdotal evidence that Community Banks had improved the skills, attitudes and prospects of their communities.
Prof Kilmartin said anecdotal reports received so far included:
- Storekeepers reporting increases of up to 23 per cent in their takings within six months of the bank opening.
- A supermarket which invested $130,000 on renovations to meet increased demand.
- Professional service providers returned to Lang Lang to conduct business from premises supplied by the bank board.
- Stimulation of other business investment in number of townships/regions.
"These stories are pretty typical and appear to be widespread," Prof Kilmartin said. "Our study will employ rigorous research methodology to provide an independent assessment of the economic and social effects Community Banking is having and its likely effect on the future prospects of these regions."
The research will be jointly funded by LaTrobe University, Bendigo and Bendigo Bank. Researchers will study the first five Community Bank sites: Rupanyup/Minyip, Upwey, Henty, Lang Lang and Toora. These branches were opened between June 1998 and January 1999.
The bank's managing director, Rob Hunt, said that to ensure the integrity of the research, the bank will not participate.
"Whilst we are obviously keen to see the results, we are equally determined to ensure the independence of the findings," Mr Hunt said.
"Those first few branches have all been open for more than two years now and have had some time to make an impact on their local communities. Bendigo Bank believes that while Community Bank secures local branch banking, it also has the potential to produce flow-on social and economic benefits far beyond banking.
"This study will determine whether any of those benefits are already evident."
Prof Kilmartin said researchers would break their study into two parts, a series of focus groups beginning in mid-March followed by a mail questionnaire to be sent to all residents during April.
"We believe people in these communities will benefit even from the research process itself. It will prompt them to think about changes which have occurred since their bank opened and will identify areas on which the communities can focus to enhance their future economic prospects."
Prof Kilmartin said the survey would take respondents about 20 minutes to complete and survey responses were confidential.