Local service that can be banked on

28 Jun, 2000 11:07 AM
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A CHANGE in the activity of community banks could soon be evident in WA, with local entities likely to take on much more than a financial role. Bendigo Bank senior manager (operation and support) Peter English said community banks in Victoria and NSW were moving to expand their influence beyond provision of banking services. Bendigo Bank has established 23 community banks in four states, including five in rural WA. By the end of October, there are expected to be 33 Bendigo-backed community banks across Australia, with another two to be formed in WA. The Bendigo Bank concept relies on a local community providing support for a "branch" of the bank in a town. A local management board, in conjunction with established banking protocols from Bendigo Bank, provides the direction for the branch. Profits from the branch's operation are shared by the community and Bendigo Bank. Mr English said, while the banks had been established to provide banking services, usually after the departure of traditional banks from the town, the intended path of some centres had changed. He said several of the banks, or more particularly the local boards of the banks, had become a catalyst for change in the community. He said one bank was helping to foster the entry of a doctor to its town. On retirement, one doctor had handed over his premises to the bank and had asked the bank to become involved in attracting a new doctor to the community. Another bank had helped a neighbouring community, about 20km away, to re-establish banking services. The town had been too small to attract enough capital to fund its own bank, but the neighbouring town's bank had helped with the formation of a joint venture to provide a Bendigo Bank branch. Another bank was investigating the potential to borrow funds to establish a nursing home in the community, with part of the payment of the costs of the home to be met from the profit flow from the bank. Mr English said the sense of ownership and community surrounding the community banking concept was central to the new, expanded roles. Already, nine of the 23 banks are operating in profit, with most reaching profit position after about 12 months of operation. The oldest community bank has been established for two years. Mr English said one bank was generating profits of about $10,000 a month.

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