Bendigo and Adelaide Bank celebrates core values on 160th birthday

The Bendigo and Adelaide Bank this week celebrates 160 years of banking.

The bank has huge changes, but its core values remain the same, said chair Robert Johanson. 

With the industry facing rapid change in the next 10 years, Mr Johanson sees the 160th anniversary of the bank’s founding as a chance to reflect, both on the past and the future. 

“In these days when all sorts of public institutions aren’t trusted...I think it’s really important that we remember why it is we were founded, what the purpose of all that is,” Mr Johanson said.

“The fundamental idea of groups of local people pooling their resources so as a group they can generate prosperity for themselves and achieve their own domestic objectives, that’s still at the heart of the thing.”

The bank began its life as a building society on the Bendigo Goldfields.

Members banded together to build houses for each other, pooling money into a common pot.

Initially, the society terminated when all members had built a home. However, the idea was so good, Mr Johanson says, that it was quickly re-established as a permanent building society.

It is this entity which has since become the Bendigo and Adelaide Bank.

Since the 1980s, the organisation has undergone rapid change, which began with the merger of several Bendigo building societies. 

It became a bank in 1990s, and since then has established branches around Australia.

From the first, the bank’s success has been founded on the idea that a group of people could band together to improve their prosperity, Mr Johanson said.

For him, the organisation’s 313 community banks epitomize this. 

“We’ve had banks operating in places that the major banks often had left, and those local organisations have now in many places have become major contributors to local social infrastructure,” he said.

“The community banks are majors supporters of local sporting teams, local childcare centres.”

It’s a rare thing for a company like the bank to last 160 years, and Mr Johanson credits its base in Bendigo as one of the keys to its success.

While other public institutions face a lack of trust, the bank’s regional base mean managers come face to face with customers on a daily basis.

“Everyday you can walk outside and meet people who remind you what the point of it all is,” he said.

“A thing like Bendigo Bank, it’s just here for the benefit of the customers and it’s other stakeholders.”