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Cereals grow in dairy country too!
The summer months of the year have always meant a handful of key things to me; golden paddocks, >45 degree days and plenty of mozzies. I didn’t expect to experience much of the former two in Gippsland, but knew that I wouldn’t be able to escape the latter. Much to my enjoyment, one of my colleagues and I were invited to trek around the district with one of our sponsored organisations, Southern Farming Systems, to judge their inaugural Crop Challenge. Whilst broadacre cropping in this neck of the woods isn’t overly common, there’s a tight-knit group of passionate, talented cropping farmers who have a real crack nonetheless. Most of the grain grown here is sold locally as feed due to the higher moisture content rendering it unsuitable for bulk storage.
I had a bit of a break over the Christmas period and headed back to the Wimmera Mallee to enjoy the last of the grain harvest there with family. Seasonal conditions have meant phenomenal yields and paddocks full of straw – a welcome change to the years prior.
My tenure in Gippsland has been extended, allowing me to further focus on developing relationships within the region and strengthening my knowledge on the dairy and beef industries. I’m pleased to be spending more time with the Gippsland/Tassie team, and look forward to many exciting developments within the Rural Business over 2017.
Out with the cattle in Gippsland
Until a couple of years ago, Gippsland was a spot on the map that I wasn’t well acquainted with - having rarely travelled further East than Melbourne. With my first regional rotation being based in Traralgon, in Gippsland’s Latrobe Valley, I’ve become much more familiar with this green part of the state.
Agriculture in Gippsland centres predominantly on dairy and beef production. Horticulture is also present, as are sheep graziers, and some broadacre cropping around Rosedale through to Bairnsdale. The majority of my time has been spent on dairy and beef farms whilst over here which is a stark (and muddy) contrast to the cropping and sheep farming properties on which I was raised. I’ve attended a number of industry events on-farm; an area in which the dairy industry is very proactive. These events range from discussion groups, where farmers come together to share ideas about how to maximise efficiency on each other’s farms; to Tactics for Tight Times sessions where industry representatives organise strategy days to provide support and knowledge for broader groups of farmers. It’s brilliant to see people sharing their knowledge and working together and it adds a real sense of comradery and strength to the industry.
Working with the experienced Gippsland/Tasmania team has given me exposure to areas of agriculture that were previously alien to me. The relationships and knowledge developed here will definitely benefit me throughout my career.
Treasury - Into the unknown
When it comes to banks, one thing many people don’t understand is much of what is done within the Treasury department. How are interest rates set? Where does the bank derive funding for loans from? What’s involved in balancing what comes in and what goes out? These were my questions before I went into a two-week rotation with the Finance and Treasury team. Rest assured that they were all answered by the time I finished!
My first couple of days in Finance and Treasury were focused on soaking up as much information as possible from one of our Treasury analysts. I spent time learning to understand the many different programs and information sources that are relied on to ensure the bank has adequate funds to meet customer and regulatory requirements. After I had some idea of how the system worked, I was able to try my hand at updating some of the price setting and profiling tools used across the business. These activities gave me a solid insight into how the bank calculates risk, sets interest rates and conducts detailed financial forecasting. I also learnt about how the bank sources money, how much different forms of money cost (the cost of funds) and how differing costs affect interest rates on both loans and deposits. My Treasury rotation taught me about the ‘backbone’ of the bank and really helped me to understand the linkages between different parts of the business. While there’s no physical gold involved, the learning was worth its weight in it.
An Induction in Adelaide
Monday afternoon saw me packing my bags and flying to Adelaide for two days of corporate induction. Why Adelaide? Well, besides being “The City of Churches”, Adelaide is home to a state-of-the-art Bendigo and Adelaide Bank Group office, housing many of the Group’s teams.
The induction program gave an overview of the many different facets of the business, explained how the units work together, and introduced us to the organisation’s leaders. Besides attendance by interstate Rural Bank and Rural Finance staff, we met a number of the Elders team. Elders Rural Services is a distribution partner for Rural Bank, providing tremendous regional reach and agribusiness expertise. Induction was a great opportunity to gain valuable industry and personal insights.
I concluded my rotation with the People and Culture team (who look after everything to do with ‘people’ or the human resources within the business) by collating leadership feedback on how to best promote individual and team performance. The beauty of Rural Bank and Rural Finance is that our senior leaders are highly receptive to meeting face-to-face or by phone, which allowed me to easily access our decision makers and efficiently compile the report. It’s a culture I’m proud to contribute to and be part of.
A perfect fit
Who are Rural Bank and Rural Finance Graduates, what do they do, and what are they actually like? I’m Benjamin Gebert, and I’m fortunate enough to be part of the current Graduate intake.
My life in agriculture commenced at birth, only leaving the family farm in Victoria’s Wimmera-Mallee to study Business at Melbourne’s La Trobe University. My supportive rural community instilled in me a passion for such communities and the industry that fuels them. That’s where Rural Bank and Rural Finance come in.
I wanted to join an organisation that I could work for with pride, one that supported agriculture and rural communities. Rural Bank and Rural Finance stood out – they are owned by the community-centric Bendigo and Adelaide Bank Group and they offer the ‘Ag Achiever’ Graduate Program. After some research, I noted the Program gave graduates exposure to all organisational functions, including regional office rotations. The role was ideal. I applied, succeeded, and relocated to Rural Finance’s Bendigo office for six months to commence the Program.
I’ve worked with supportive teams across various functions, including Finance and Treasury, People and Culture, and our industry knowledge powerhouse Ag Answers. I also hit the road with a Regional Manager who works directly with customers and also manages a team of regionally-based Relationship Managers. These team rotations are not about undertaking menial tasks; they’re designed to evoke thought, equip you with a breadth of knowledge and allow you to add value to the business. I have worked on national reports, personally engaged with clients, contributed to meetings of the Bank’s Executive team and learnt banking essentials as well as how an agribusiness bank differs from a retail bank. There’s no coffee making here unless it’s for yourself!
One stand-out for me has been the culture; I frequently chat with executive officers, senior leaders and the CEO around the office and over lunch. These people knew my name before I started and make an effort to regularly touch base. This is an organisation that invests in its people. I hope this this blog gives you an insight into the Program and encourages you to join us.