St Helens community bank project nears deadline day

BANK BID: A new community bank branch in St Helens is hinging on the support of Break O'Day residents.
BANK BID: A new community bank branch in St Helens is hinging on the support of Break O'Day residents.

The committee managing St Helens’ bid for a Bendigo community bank is urging East Coast residents to get behind the project as it nears a decisive stage in its development. 

To be successful in obtaining a branch, Break O'Day Community Financial Services must sell 650,000 $1 shares in the bank before April 24.

Chairman Andrew MacGregor said the committee had been working on the St Helens-St Marys community bank project for about six years. 

“The community has been very supportive but the reason I'm trying to get the message out a little bit is because everyone pays at the last minute,” Mr MacGregor said.

“We had to get $860,000 worth of pledges which we did and that then initiated the preparation of the business plan and the prospectus which was released in January.

“Because the process is so long you have to get way over the mark you need because you've got to expect that 25 to 35 per cent will drop out, that’s why we also still need to find people who are interested who haven’t got the message yet.

“You go around talking to people in the community and a lot of them still don't know anything about it.”

The community bank concept aims to return money to its region by splitting profits between Bendigo and the branch’s community-owned shareholder organisation. 

Mr MacGregor said the Break O'Day Community Financial Services committee frequently referred to the Deloraine and Districts Community Bank as a role model after the branch returned its millionth dollar to the Meander Valley region late last year.

“I like the idea of people in Deloraine walking up the street and every time they walk past that bank they can say ‘that bank has put $1 million back in to the community in the first 10 years and that's our bank, we own it’. 

“Deloraine has put $1 million in the first 10 years but you have to recognise within that that most banks take about four years to get into profit, so the next 10 years will be significantly more than that, so it's just a fantastic thing.”

The prospectus can be viewed here.