When the Bank of Heritage Isle informed it’s members that their Beaconsfield branch would be closing, anger and disappointment surged through the community.
It was through this anger that one member of the community picked up the phone to call Janie Finlay, who was at the time a candidate for the Legislate Council in Rosevears.
“A member of the local community picked up the phone to me and said, this is not OK, what can we do about it?” Said Janie Finlay.
“From that I spoke to a lot of people and asked a lot of questions, and put together a working group to address the issue.”
“Initially to call the Bank of Heritage Isle to account for their decision, but also to discuss what we are going to do about it?”
Given that not all members of the community use online banking, and that many prefer the old-school face-to-face system, the working group set out to restore banking services to the local community.
“We engaged with Commonwealth Bank, Bank of Us and Bendigo Bank initially.”
“Everyone were fantastic, with Commonwealth bank deeply committed to Exeter, they have physical services there, and we were able to confirm there was no indication of them contracting that.”
“Bank of Us obviously rebranded and re-operationalised recently with a high commitment to digital engagement, and wanted to make sure that the community were aware of their offering” Said Janie
“Bendigo Bank hands down were the organisation that understood and had experience with starting up agency model banking services successfully across the country, and so we engaged in a discussion with them.”
“They needed to be sure there would be sufficient long-term banking in the community to sustain an offering long term, which involved a minimum commitment from the community and the community actually pledged the minimum requirement, and we are seeing that business coming through and accounts opening up” Said Janie
The second issue was they needed a host site that the community would trust and support, which through community engagement and feedback the community identified Beaconsfield H Hardware, Nursery & Building Supplies as the ideal location.
“Hands down that was the supported location for the agency” said Janie
“Bendigo bank put them through deep scrutiny to ensure they met all their requirements, and they were successful.”
“The building is nearly complete now, and they are hoping for a spring opening.”
“For Bendigo Bank to be committed to and recognise why it’s so important for the community, we really appreciate that.”
When asked what advice Janie Finlay has for other local communities who are facing situations like these and want to come together as a community and overcome challenges like these, she said it had to be community lead.
“Without that one phone call of someone saying ‘this is not OK, what are we going to do about it?’ and then putting together a working group of locals who are directly impacted, but also have the skills to deliver, it’s not something you can do on your own, you have to do it together.”
“You have to be persistent and determined” said Janie.
“As a working group we drove the process. We were calling for meetings, attending meetings and catching up weekly over those first few months.”
“It’s not just a short term process, as a working group we’ll probably continue working through the year ahead to support it and make sure that it is sustainable.”
“My advice is to get a great team around you that are dedicated, passionate and skilled, and are willing to do the hard work, for the long term, because that’s what it takes.”