Bendigo … Isn’t there a bank there?

Jake Phillpot

3 February 2014    |    read

Welcome to Bendigo. It’s here that, in 1851, the discovery of gold set the town’s future as a prominent Australian boomtown. And it’s here that, this week, the Tanda crew arrived for the Xero Roadshow’s first day. We didnt find any gold. But we did discover a lot more about Australia’s most historically significant finance centre. Bendigo’s goldrush brought an influx of migrants to the city and, within a year, transformed it from a sheep station to a major settlement in the newly proclaimed Colony of Victoria. With the goldrush came an asset that would later launch Bendigo national fame – Bendigo Bank. The company started in 1858 as a fixed-term building society to improve financial conditions in the town’s goldfields. Seven years later, after restructuring and taking on the name Bendigo Mutual Permanent Land and Building Society, the bank continued to expand its holdings. In 1978, it merged with Bendigo and Eaglehawk Star, a building society established in 1901. After aquiring several other building societies, BBS became the first financial institution in Australia to successfully introduce both Visa credit and debit cards in 1982. Bendigo Bank also introduced the first “Green Loans” in Australia and formed “Community Sector Banking”, a joint venture with the not-for-profit sector. It received its operating licence in 2000 and absorbed the First Australian Building Society in Queensland, acquiring a new regional headquarters in Ipswich. That same year saw a A$75 million head office expansion in Bendigo. In 2007 Bendigo Bank rejected Bank of Queensland’s merger/takeover proposal, instead merging with Adelaide Bank. The A$4 billion takeover became official on 30 November, with a company name change to Bendigo and Adelaide Bank ltd. New headquarters in Bendigo were completed a year later. In April 2013, Bendigo Bank’s subsidiary “Oxford Funding” rebranded as Bendigo Debtor Finance, offering independent credit assessments and cash-flow solutions to businesses on a national level. Today, in its 163rd year, Bendigo Bank is Australia’s only provincially headquartered retail bank. As Victorian Governor Glenn Stevens said at the bank’s 150th anniversary, the fact that “The Bendigo” has endured so long being based in a town “born of gold” is remarkable. “Mining towns have their ups and downs with the inevitable cycles of discovery and depletion of ore bodies, booms and busts in commodity prices and all the associated exuberance, risk taking and inevitable subsequent disappointment for some, that goes with them. Bendigo in the gold rush days was no different. “For a locally based financial institution to ride through such cycles, without itself being too swept up in events, something must have been working well. It is surely not chance. “More likely, this success is remarkable testimony to generations of managers who had a good assessment of risk, plenty of common sense, a strong attachment to their core business and an ability to resist the temptation of exotic new opportunities. “It sounds simple. Yet the managements and Boards of some of the world’s largest and most sophisticated financial institutions did not meet that standard during the past decade, and the fallout is now upon them (and the rest of the world). Much shareholder wealth has been destroyed and reputations of some major institutions damaged.“ Bendigo Bank’s model seems to have worked well. It proves there is an important role for regional banks in the modern world, but also that well‑run institutions can successfully fill that role. Moreover, it shows that even in a globalised world, communities are still local in many important respects.

Welcome to Bendigo.

It’s here that, in 1851, the discovery of gold set the town’s future as a prominent Australian boomtown.

And it’s here that, this week, the Tanda crew arrived for the Xero Roadshow’s first day.

We didnt find any gold. But we did discover a lot more about Australia’s most historically significant finance centre.

Bendigo’s goldrush brought an influx of migrants to the city and, within a year, transformed it from a sheep station to a major settlement in the newly proclaimed Colony of Victoria. With the goldrush came an asset that would later launch Bendigo national fame – Bendigo Bank.

The company started in 1858 as a fixed-term building society to improve financial conditions in the town’s goldfields. Seven years later, after restructuring and taking on the name Bendigo Mutual Permanent Land and Building Society, the bank continued to expand its holdings.

In 1978, it merged with Bendigo and Eaglehawk Star, a building society established in 1901. After aquiring several other building societies, BBS became the first financial institution in Australia to successfully introduce both Visa credit and debit cards in 1982.

Bendigo Bank also introduced the first “Green Loans” in Australia and formed “Community Sector Banking”, a joint venture with the not-for-profit sector.

It received its operating licence in 2000 and absorbed the First Australian Building Society in Queensland, acquiring a new regional headquarters in Ipswich. That same year saw a A$75 million head office expansion in Bendigo.

In 2007 Bendigo Bank rejected Bank of Queensland’s merger/takeover proposal, instead merging with Adelaide Bank. The A$4 billion takeover became official on 30 November, with a company name change to Bendigo and Adelaide Bank ltd.

New headquarters in Bendigo were completed a year later.

In April 2013, Bendigo Bank’s subsidiary “Oxford Funding” rebranded as Bendigo Debtor Finance, offering independent credit assessments and cash-flow solutions to businesses on a national level.

Today, in its 163rd year, Bendigo Bank is Australia’s only provincially headquartered retail bank.

As Victorian Governor Glenn Stevens said at the bank’s 150th anniversary, the fact that “The Bendigo” has endured so long being based in a town “born of gold” is remarkable.

“Mining towns have their ups and downs with the inevitable cycles of discovery and depletion of ore bodies, booms and busts in commodity prices and all the associated exuberance, risk taking and inevitable subsequent disappointment for some, that goes with them. Bendigo in the gold rush days was no different.

“For a locally based financial institution to ride through such cycles, without itself being too swept up in events, something must have been working well. It is surely not chance.

“More likely, this success is remarkable testimony to generations of managers who had a good assessment of risk, plenty of common sense, a strong attachment to their core business and an ability to resist the temptation of exotic new opportunities.

“It sounds simple. Yet the managements and Boards of some of the world’s largest and most sophisticated financial institutions did not meet that standard during the past decade, and the fallout is now upon them (and the rest of the world). Much shareholder wealth has been destroyed and reputations of some major institutions damaged.“

Bendigo Bank’s model seems to have worked well.

It proves there is an important role for regional banks in the modern world, but also that well‑run institutions can successfully fill that role. Moreover, it shows that even in a globalised world, communities are still local in many important respects.

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About the author

Jake Phillpot

Director: Jake manages Tanda's end-to-end customer journey and market growth.

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