Happy 21st Bendigo Bank

Image source: Contributed

A milestone chapter has just been written in one of Bendigo Bank’s flagship Community Bank success stories. From humble beginnings, the Cooroy branch that started a banking rebellion has turned 21. Bec Marshall writes.

If you’re a bank, you’ve got to be good with numbers. Bendigo Bank goes one better – its numbers are for good.

In 2002, local residents united and formed Sunshine Coast Community Financial Services Limited (SCCFSL) to establish the first Community Bank branch in Cooroy.

Branches in Tewantin and Marcoola followed and while the Cooroy branch reached its 21st year, the presents, as always, are for the community

A staggering $3.6 million in bank profits have been given back to local community groups and causes over the past two-and-a-bit decades.

“It’s fabulous,” said SCCFSL Board Chair Trish Radge of the birthday milestone. “We have over 12,000 customers, including 5,500 in Cooroy who have made this possible, and we have to thank the shareholders who started the bank 21 years ago. Without them, we wouldn’t have a bank in town.

“Back then, the big four banks were closing down regional branches. Bendigo Bank came up with the Community Bank model where, if locals could prove they really wanted a branch – and that meant putting up their own money – then Bendigo would provide the structure.

“The original directors were the instigators. They rallied the troops and the community put up $700,000. It was enough to show Bendigo Bank that the community was committed and so, the Cooroy branch opened.

“Within a year, we opened in Tewantin and then Marcoola. After a few years, we purchased the buildings in Cooroy and Tewantin, so our customers know we are not going anywhere. We now have 700 shareholders, 80% of them are the original shareholders who have been receiving an annual dividend since 2008.

“We are incredibly proud of the community for trusting us with their banking and I love the community bank model where we give 80% of our profits back to the community.”

Trish is joined on the Board by Rick Cooper, Guy Hamilton, Toby Bicknell, Elizabeth Reynolds (all Directors), Secretary David Green and Treasurer Louise McNeich.

The Community Bank celebrated its big birthday in true Bendigo Bank style, holding a Spring Festival at Cooroy Community Garden and handing out awards to community heroes.

“We wanted to say thank you to our customers, shareholders, directors and staff as well as establish the Community Hero Awards to celebrate people who are doing wonderful things,” she said. “One winner from each branch received $5,000 towards the charity of their choice.

“Most people living on the northern end of the Sunshine Coast would have benefitted from our support including numerous sporting clubs, all the surf clubs from Noosa to Mudjimba, the arts and local theatres, education, music groups and events like Noosa Alive and the Noosa Jazz Festival.

“We just sponsored a new kitchen at Kin Kin State School; the Life Education Van for the past 10 years and we gave Permaculture Noosa $90,000 for a new pavilion in their garden.

“Our biggest project to date is Noosa Rise, a home for families seeking refuge from domestic violence. We contributed $500,000 which Coast2Bay matched and they have applied for additional state government funding to get it built.

“There are so many amazing groups doing fundraising and when we can jump in with a significant amount of money, it really is game changing.”

If you thought there was no upside to rising interest rates, here’s one: when rates go up, so do the bank’s margins, which means more money to donate.

“We’re in a situation where we really can make a difference and we’re ready to take on new projects,” Trish said. “If you choose a community bank, you are making a difference. The more who bank with us, the more we can give back.”

All three branches are full service, offering deposits, term deposits, insurance, home loans, share trading and super and Tewantin-Noosa Branch Manager Kerryn Vincart said it was important for customers set up their account in person to ensure their account contributed to SCCFSL.

“Our customers appreciate being able to walk into a branch and get personal, genuine customer service,” Kerryn said. “They like to know that they can email their bank manager and get a response on the same day or if you’re applying for a home loan, you can get expert advice.”

Here’s to another 21 years of community support and service!

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