ANZ has pledged its support for regional and rural WA with a host of investments in new and refurbished branches in communities across the South West as part of its 'back to customers' approach.
The cornerstone of ANZ's commitment to the country will be a brand new branch in Margaret River, one of three new rural branches the bank is opening nationally, which is quite an achievement considering the number of banks closing regional divisions in recent years.
The Margaret River chapter will be the first new ANZ branch in WA for 10 years and ANZ South West regional manager David Whitby said new manager Chris Burke will be a strong addition to the local community.
"Mr Burke has over 20 years banking experience gained both here and in the eastern states. In particular his specialist agribusiness knowledge will be of benefit to our local farming customers," Mr Whitby said.
South West MLC Barry House congratulated ANZ on its new branch.
"The Margaret River region is enjoying exciting growth," Mr House said. "New services such as the one proposed recognise this growth and will help meet the needs of locals and the many thousands of people who visit the region every year."
This is just one of many ANZ projects that will make the lives of rural and regional customers much easier.
A new agency has also opened in Wickepin, taking the place of the branch that closed six years ago.
Mr Whitby said ANZ had learnt from the past and realised that even these small towns need convenient banking.
In addition to new premises, many of ANZ's established country branches have been refurbished, with customers in Esperance, Australind, Bunbury and Narrogin now enjoying greater comfort when conducting their business.
Narrogin locals would be particularly thankful for the upkeep, as their grand old bank recently celebrated its 100th anniversary. Local 97-year-old Roy Leviere memorably cut the ribbon on celebrations for the institution, which has served the community throughout his life.
The younger Narrogin generation has also gained, with ANZ investing in a local skate park through its Community Funds program.
Local MLA Terry Waldron said it was encouraging to see a bank taking an interest in regional WA.
"Having branches of banks in country towns is a great thing because, as you know, a lot of them have been closing down," he said. "They've also been great at opening agencies in places like Williams and Wickepin and I wish them well with their new branch at Margaret River."
Children throughout the South West will get a head start in saving with the reintroduction of school banking, ANZ provided moneyboxes are rattling with the first dollars and cents of tomorrow's community leaders.
Mr Whitby said parents and grandparents have been especially pleased, seeing their children and grandchildren getting the same helping hand they did.
Above all, ANZ wants customers to know it is there to help, that its level of commitment to the community has never been stronger and it has the expertise to handle the needs of regional and rural WA.
Mr Whitby said ANZ was one of the first banks with a designated drought policy and it has changed the way it views farming for the better.
"Rather than looking at farming over a one-year period, we'd actually look at it over five years," Mr Whitby said.
"We say 'well they had a drought this year but that's not the farmer's fault. The question to ask is how can we assist this farmer to manage cash flow during unseasonal conditions?".
ANZ's Seeds of Renewal program has already gone a long way towards easing the financial burdens of drought-affected landowners. The program, a joint initiative between the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR) and ANZ, offers small rural and remote communities in WA, Queensland and NSW who have been declared in Exceptional Circumstances to apply for funding grants to help ease the burden experienced during the drought.
The association with farmers will continue prior to this year's Dowerin Field Days, with ANZ the major sponsor of the 2003 International Farm Management Association's congress at Burswood Resort Convention Centre from August 10-15.