It was ‘Happy 10th Birthday’ time for San Remo’s Community Bank last Friday night and among those helping to cut the big Bendigo Bank birthday cake in a packed San Remo Recreation Centre were, from left, Chabrelle Chisholm of the Bass Coast Shire, Terry Ashenden chairman of San Remo District Financial Services Limited, operators of the Community Bank branches at San Remo, Cowes and Grantville, Dianne Clark, an original staff member, Miranda Sage director, Trudy Jamieson manager Grantville and Joan Matthews director and instigator of the Community Bank branch project locally.
IN ITS first 10 years, San Remo and District Financial Services Limited, the community-based operators of the Community Bank branches of the Bendigo Bank at San Remo, Cowes and Grantville, has achieved an incredible amount. Not only has the group opened and operated three successful bank branches in that time, now with $220 million funds under management, 4500 customers and 15 staff members but they’ve also distributed more than $1.2 million to the community. And last Friday night, they added a further $146,000 in grants to that amount bringing the total to about $400,000 as the figure they’ve distributed to community and sporting groups across the district in the past financial year alone. The banking group expects to pay out $1/2 million next year. No wonder the local community wanted to join with local Community Bank staff members and community directors in celebrating the Community Bank’s 10th birthday last Friday night at the San Remo Recreation Centre, a night which featured the allocation of grants to 15 community organisations and the cutting of a big Bendigo Bank birthday cake. It was enough for Community Bank chairman, Terry Ashenden to urge businesses and individuals not already banking with their Community Bank branches to “get on board” and support a banking system that was directly supporting its community. The celebrations were hosted by former Bass Coast Shire Councillor, Peter Paul, an honorary director of San Remo and District Financial Services Limited, who provided details about the early days of the bank’s short history. He said the community group came into being in “the dark days” of 2002 following the closure of the last commercial bank branch in the town. In fact it was local business people at the time, Joan and Gary Matthews, driven by necessity, who made the first inquiries about setting up a Community Bank in San Remo. “Being in business here, we knew that we absolutely had to have a bank in the town if we were going to operate efficiently,” said Joan Matthews, now a community director of the bank. “I made the original phone call to the Bendigo Bank over in Drouin to find out how we could get things started.” A public meeting was called in June 2002 and a committee was formed. By November 2002, the committee members became directors and after attracting the required $650,000 in deposits, San Remo’s Community Bank was given the green light and it became Australia’s 100th Community Bank when it opened on June 27, 2003. “It’s been a wonderful thing for San Remo, Phillip Island, Grantville and the whole district,” Mr Paul said. A short video on the formation of the Community Bank branches was played, noting that the first-ever contribution to a community group resulted in a $160,000 investment in the establishment of the Phillip Island Soccer Club, which was also going from strength to strength. Mr Paul said the funds distributed to the community were a source of great pride for the staff members of the bank and why they were so happy in their work. Mr Ashenden continued the story of the Community Bank’s formation locally saying that while the bank made a loss of $263,000 in its first year, it still saw its way clear to donating $33,000 to the community that first year. San Remo’s bank was soon turning a healthy profit, however, and in 2005 moves were initiated to open a branch in Cowes and later in Grantville. Mr Ashenden said the Grantville branch hadn’t quite met its deposits target yet, although it was progressing well, and he urged everyone to get on board. San Remo branch manager, Michael Scott continued the theme, highlighting the funds the group had donated to the community and the jobs created locally. “If you are in this room tonight and you haven’t got all your banking with your local Community Bank, you need to ask yourself why not, because none of the others will be giving out $146,000 tonight. I suggest you change it over next week.” Gippsland Regional Manager for the Bendigo Bank, Rob Francis praised the community, the directors and staff for what they had achieved, kicking off the night’s presentations with a special letter of recognition for the chairman. In turn, Mr Ashenden praised the directors whom he said were unpaid for the privilege of serving the community. “We’ve had 25 directors over the 10 years and I’d like to thank them in particular. Their only reward is the satisfaction they get from seeing what these grants can do.” Mr Ashenden said that when the regular funding the Community Bank provided each year to local footy clubs and other organisations was added in, the branches were returning $400,000 to the local community in the 2012-13 year alone. It was, he said, a record that no other bank could come close to matching. The presentations of grants to 15 community groups followed, see page 28, after which there was a ceremonial cutting of the 10th birthday cake.