Life goes on after Elders

25 Jan, 2005 10:00 PM

FOR outgoing Elders state chairman Frank Bongers, working with the company provided the opportunity to see WA, Australia and eventually the world.

Mr Bongers has spent most of his life in the red of Elders, after beginning in the Perth wool department in 1951 as a young arrival from the Netherlands.

During the next 13 years he spent time in the country branches of Wyalkatchem, Gnowangerup, Katanning, Bridgetown, Northam and Corrigin, where he met his wife Margaret, the daughter of a well-known cattle and stud breeder in the area, WJ Russell.

After returning to Perth in 1964, Mr Bongers climbed the Elders ladder and became WA general manager in 1978.

In 1982 he moved to Elders¹ Australian headquarters in Adelaide as the executive director of its pastoral division before heading to Tokyo as the general manager of its North Asia region.

This position provided a dramatic change of pace.

³I used to drive myself around without a chauffeur, which the Japanese couldn¹t understand,² he said. ³Most executives had chauffeurs but I liked the challenge of negotiating the Tokyo traffic.²

Mr Bongers also spent time in Melbourne, New York and London with Elders.

He took up the position of state chairman eight years ago.

³People ask how can you work for the same company for so long, but it¹s always been different,² he said.

³It¹s wool, livestock, cropping, merchandise, real estate and if you can go through all those areas and have an interest in each, then it definitely helps.²

He said as state chairman he did not get involved too much in the running of the company.

³It primarily involves chairing the state meetings, the main achievement is by the staff and the various product managers, I¹m just there in an advisory role,² he said.

Life without Elders will be a change for Mr Bongers, but he does not fear what lies ahead.

³It was getting time to hand it over I think,² he said. ³I¹m never short of things to do, I start each day with a swim at Cottesloe and take a walk along the beach, I¹ve still got some small financial interests, I play the odd game of snooker with the boys and I read a lot.²

He also has three daughters.

He said a lot had changed during his time with Elders, both in agriculture and in the company itself.

³The main thing in farming is accumulation, people buying neighbouring properties and creating much bigger farms,² he said.

³There¹s also been a lot of development through the Agriculture Department, breeding new varieties of grains with higher yields and salt tolerance. Machinery is bigger and more powerful and there¹s a lot more use of IT by farmers.

³Elders has certainly changed through the years. The different areas like livestock, merchandise and real estate have become more assimilated and there¹s an enhanced branch structure, which makes sure clients have comprehensive service for all their needs.²

He said Elders had many more selling options available to wool, livestock and grain producers.

He was confident for the future of Elders as Australia¹s premier rural service provider.



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