Wednesday 02 August 2017
Article by Kelly Emmerton
Put your money where your mouth is: community banking that makes a difference
Bendigo Bank has a long history of excellent banking products and meaningful engagement with its customers’ communities. Born out of the goldfields of Victoria in 1858, it began as a building society, helping families to fulfill the great Australian dream of owning their own home. From there, it branched out to offer a suite of products ranging from bank accounts to credit cards, and racked up a bunch of ‘firsts’ to be proud of.
In 1982, still operating as Bendigo Building Society, it became the first financial institution in Australia to successfully offer both Visa credit and debit cards. Later, Bendigo Bank was the first bank in Australia to introduce an offset account with its home loan products.
The bank has also been a champion of environmentally friendly practices, introducing the first "Green Loans" in Australia in 2002, and in June 2014, becoming the first bank in Australia to adopt an investment policy which steered clear of fossil fuel investments.
Bendigo also pioneered the innovative Community Bank franchise program as a response to the closure of banks in rural areas. This system allows local communities to own and manage a Bendigo Bank branch, and since its inception in 1998, has poured no less than $165 million of revenue back into strengthening Aussie communities.
Now, Bendigo is Australia’s fifth largest full service retail bank, with 600 service outlets, including 314 Community Bank branches. According to Baker, it's this long lived connection to customers and their communities that helps it stay ahead of the competition.
“Our customers like the fact that they can talk with real people who have a genuine interest in them and their financial well being,” she says.
“We know as a bank we are good with money, but we’re more interested in the good that money can do to improve the lives of our customers and their communities.”
And the folks at Bendigo Bank have found plenty of ways to put that into practice, from academic scholarships to sporting and arts sponsorships, right through to its dedicated crowdfunding platform, Communities.
Products for people - not profits
Another way Bendigo is helping its customers and their communities is by crafting a suite of innovative and effective products. For example, the CommunitySaver Account makes it super easy for savers to support organisations they believe in, by giving them the option to donate a portion of the interest they earn to community partners such as Oxfam Australia, Royal Children’s Hospital foundation and SES Victoria.
Other Bendigo products work to help customers hang onto their hard earned dollars. Case in point, Bendigo was one of the few providers to take home a People’s Choice Award for Customer Satisfaction in credit cards.
Baker says this largely comes down to Bendigo’s fairer approach to charging interest. When customers spend on a Bendigo Bank credit card, unlike other options, they’re charged interest only from the statement date, instead of the purchase date. That means interest free days apply, even if the balance isn’t paid off in full. Plus, all types of spending, including purchases and cash advances are charged interest at the same rate.
This can make a big difference, considering cash advance rates can typically reach as high as 21.99%, while Bendigo Bank card rates can be as low as 11.99%.
“Because of when and how we charge interest, a customer could save up to 50% in monthly interest charges, even if the rate is the same as that on a card from another bank,” Baker says.
And it doesn’t stop there. Only recently, Bendigo revamped their credit card line, “building on the features customers already love about our current card products.” So be sure to check them out!
The times, they are a-changin’: connecting to customers in a digital world
The world of banking is moving full steam ahead, with technological innovations making autonomous online and mobile banking more popular than ever. And Bendigo certainly isn’t being left behind.
“We have a design team dedicated to learning, testing and figuring out what the future might look like and how we can better connect with our growing customer base,” says Baker.
“We’re continually innovating, and as technology evolves, legacy products are retired and new products and services come online to meet the needs and expectations of our customers.”
For example, the award-winning Bendigo banking app, launched in late 2014, is still a favourite with customers. And that’s not surprising, given that the mobile banking service was built from scratch, through a process where customers “actively contribute to the look, feel and functionality” of the app, through suggestions, feedback, testing and evaluation of new features.
The app allows customers to do a number of things, including check their balance, manage their accounts, make payments and even apply for new products. It can also integrate with the technology on customers phones, enabling handy intuitive features like fingerprint login.
The more things change, the more they stay the same
While the digital future is certainly exciting, Bendigo isn’t about to lose sight of its roots. This year, the bank also received a People’s Choice award for Staff Friendliness, and customers who like to see a smiling face behind the counter can rest easy. Baker said that while the design and function of branches may evolve, the bank won’t be doing away with bricks and mortar any time soon.
“It’s all about making Bendigo easier to do business with, so we’ll continue to open new branches and agencies in communities where demand for face-to-face banking is growing,” she says.
“In a rapidly changing world, you can be sure that the one thing we won’t be changing at Bendigo is our leading customer service offering which is based on our 160 year tenet of putting our customers at the centre of everything we do.”
Well, why change a winning formula, right?