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Graduate blogs

Our current graduates embark on a structured learning program that exposes them to different facets of our business. From business unit rotations to one-on-one mentoring with agribusiness specialists, the graduate program aims to provide real work experience to talented graduates who want to join us in supporting and enabling farmers to build vibrant businesses across Australia.

Meet our current graduates and read about their experiences as part of the Ag Achievers graduate program:

Daniel Toohey


How time flies when you’re having fun
June 2017 | By Daniel Toohey

As part of the fifth generation of a proud farming family from Springbank in Victoria, you could say a love for agriculture is well and truly in my blood. Before commencing work with Rural Bank and Rural Finance, I completed a Bachelor of Science at the University of Melbourne, majoring in Agricultural Science. This showcased the huge potential Australia’s agribusiness sector has on the world stage. With a reassured sense of optimism regarding the developing agricultural industry, I was excited about beginning my working career with an organisation that both recognises this blossoming opportunity, and which is an avid supporter of Australian agriculture’s development both domestically and abroad.

In just over three months I have already been given a huge snapshot into the many different aspects and diverse roles held within the RB and RF business. I have been able to work alongside some of the experienced and passionate leaders within the organisation; the sales force, the property valuations team, the treasury and finance teams, and the ‘gate keepers’ or better known as credit. This has allowed me to develop my skills and knowledge, and hit the grown running from the outset. With each day comes a new experience, a new opportunity to learn, and countless questions, discussions and advice. This has all been the catalyst for piecing together and beginning to understand the Ag Finance business in its entirety.

Looking forward, I still have another two months based at head office in Bendigo. Going on my experience so far, I am very excited about what’s to come in the not so distant future. Stay tuned as I continue to showcase my experiences and development over the next year. This may inspire you to join this organisation that invests not only in its clients and Australian agriculture, but also its employees!


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Brittany Bickford

The next stage of my graduate program...
Sept 2017 | By Brittany Bickford | View blog archive

After finishing my mini rotations in the Bendigo office, I have moved interstate to Mount Gambier in SA where I am shadowing an Agribusiness Relationship Manager (ARM). The next six months will be the first of two sales rotations I will complete in the final year of my graduate program. During this new rotation I have helped complete loan applications, written credit submissions and attended farm visits. This is a great way to learn the role of an ARM in our business.

So far in the South East I have been intrigued by farming systems where there is limestone in the soil structure and a high water table, both of which are new to me. On one farm we visited, the water in the bore was only 3 feet below ground level, which is in stark contrast to my farm at home where a bore we drilled had to be 105 meters deep before we struck water.

In the last few weeks, I have attended the National Sheep and Wool show, Sheep Week and Sheepvention with Rural Bank. I love events like these because of my background in the sheep and wool industry, and because they get me out meeting farmers and getting mud on my boots.

Photo: Taken at Sheep Week, picturing L-R Alan Harris of Koole Vale Merino & Poll Merino Stud, Brittany Bickford, fellow graduate Dan Toohey and Grant Thomas (ARM).

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Anthea Healy

The start of summer
12 January 2017 | By Anthea Healy | View blog archive

Without a doubt, summer is my favourite time of the year. Christmas and New Year provide the perfect opportunity to catch up with friends and family. For many of our clients, harvest was in full swing; long days, late nights and a keen eye on the weather horizon. In my last blog I mentioned how good the Mallee crops were looking. I couldn’t be happier to report that by all accounts, the yields lived up to expectations.

I spent the Christmas period at Rupanyup helping the family with harvest, which is always more enjoyable when you have the rainfall of 2016. Last year was full of new people and new learnings for me, so the routine of harvest was a welcome break, with the exception of a few breakdowns here and there!

I’m moving to Warrnambool at the end of this week to explore the South West region. It is incredible that in 400 kilometres the landscape can change so quickly. From the Murray to the Ocean, I fully intend to enjoy the new scenery and people.

A photo of Greg, Jane and myself at the Pooncarie Field Days.

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Benjamin Gebert

Cereals grow in dairy country too!
23 February 2017 | By Benjamin Gebert  | View blog archive

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.

Benjamin Gebert

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David Swain

What can we learn from Graduate alumni?
15 June 2016 | By David Swain | View blog archive

I interviewed Mark Hodge and Kate Hemphill who are working as Agribusiness Relationship Managers (ARMs) in Rural Finance’s Shepparton office.

1. When did you start as a graduate

Mark Hodge: I started the graduate program with Rural Finance in April 1999 before the business became part of the Bendigo and Adelaide Bank Group. I was the first to go through a formal graduate program at Rural Finance and have been here since, working in different locations around Victoria. I’m currently located in the North East of Victoria at the Shepparton office.

Kate Hemphill: I joined the organisation as the first group of Ag Achiever Graduates in February 2013. My program was for 18 months and I spent time in Bendigo head office, as well as Shepparton and Swan Hill.

2. What did you enjoy most about your time as a graduate?

MH: I enjoyed the variety of work I was exposed to – at the time, with Rural Finance being government owned, I was involved in the “Land Aggregation Program” after land around Omeo in Victoria’s high country was flooded following successive years of drought. I also spent some time in the old head office in Melbourne doing rotations with the finance, treasury and legal teams where I also got to work with a lender. During this time I also did relief work for lenders in the Horsham, Bendigo, Leongatha and Traralgon offices.

KH: The best part of the Ag Achievers Grad Program was the variety, with the opportunity to spend six months in three different locations. In head office, I did rotations with the different parts of the organisation, including working on a project I presented to the Board. I worked with lenders in Shepparton and Swan Hill and was on farm more days than not. The highlight of Shepparton was working on the Farm Finance Scheme where I learnt a lot about maintaining client relationships and communicating effectively with the customer. I was in the Wimmera Mallee for sowing time and had never been exposed to the scale of farms, having come from the Goulburn Valley – some client visits we had were spent sowing the crop with the client in the tractor.

3. What roles have you held since and describe your current role?

MH: I took on a lending role as an ARM in Shepparton after completing the graduate program (Please refer to David Swain’s blog “Around the town” to learn about what an ARM does with Rural Finance). I then spent some time doing a similar role in Warrnambool and Colac before returning to Shepparton where I am currently based.

KH: I graduated from the Ag Achiever Graduate Program working as a lending assistant to Mark Hodge and another lender in the Shepparton office for 6 months. I moved into an ARM position in Shepparton in early 2015 and now manage my own portfolio of clients. I’m really enjoying working with my customers and becoming an integral part of their business.

4. How did your time as a graduate help you progress to where you are now?

MH: As part of the graduate program, I was introduced to diverse agricultural practices in different regions of Victoria. I was also exposed to the different facets of the organisation through my rotations in head office and roles in the regional offices. This has proven to be really beneficial for me in working with the customer, understanding the resources of the organisation that are available to me, that will assist their business and help to develop the client relationship going forward.

KH: The Ag Achiever Graduate Program significantly assisted me with enhancing my organisation skills leading into the ARM role I am currently working in. I worked with colleagues in valuations, loans administration and credit which assisted with prioritising work flow management to ensure I maintain a good relationship with my clients. The best thing about the Bendigo rotation in head office is getting to know everybody so there is someone to call if I need assistance.

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Joshua Thunig

Risk Seeker
March 2017 | By Joshua Thunig |View blog archive

Risk, put simply, is the effect of uncertainty on objectives; and for banks, risk is unavoidable.

It’s how banks do business.

So understanding risks and applying appropriate controls is the best way to keep the business running efficiently. Trying to avoid all risk just isn’t possible and is actually counter-productive!

Following an 11 month stint in the Credit team, my next rotation took me to the Operational Risk team. It was great to start in a new area of the business, an area that was of particular interest to me. Operational Risk focusses on ensuring the business has the appropriate safeguards in place against any adverse risks that could happen. For example, Rural Bank has developed plans for when a natural disaster affects our ability to service customers. By doing this sort of work before the actual event happens, the Bank helps to lower the chance of disruption to the customer’s banking needs./p>

So far, I have been tasked with researching potential data risks that exist in the business, helping facilitate business unit risk meetings where we identify and document risks, conduct daily fraud checks, and assist in reviewing policies. And while it might sound dry as you read it, and at times it can be, I am finding the work rewarding and quite enjoyable!

During these past 12 months I have looked at loan applications, improved the bank’s Hindsight Review process, provided market analysis for Relationship Managers, managed valuation requests, and so much more.

Doing risk tasks is very much a group effort, you’re relying on subject matter experts, Risk Business Partners and execs for guidance and specific information about how their business unit operates. Working in team environments really resonates with me, it’s a great way to see different perspectives and helps you to understand why people do what they do.

My Risk rotation continues until late May.

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Michael Curtis

Interview with past graduate Greg Kuchel.
24 May 2016 | By Michael Curtis |  View blog archive

1. When did you start as a graduate?
I started in 1998 – coming up to 19 years now. Back then, we didn’t have email, my work mobile phone was a handset attached to the car and there was no Microsoft Office. My graduate program was not as sophisticated as what is offered now, but invaluable nonetheless.

2. What did you enjoy most about your time as a graduate?
I had the opportunity to be mentored by some very experienced “legends” of the organisation. The best skills they taught me were how to relate to clients, to get the information you need without sounding like an interrogator and learning that having good relationships with people is paramount. As a graduate, it is the only time in your working career where you are paid to learn, everyone wants to teach you and the only expectation on you is to absorb as much knowledge as you can and ask lots of questions.

3. What roles have you held since and describe your current role?
I spent nine years in Agribusiness Relationship Manager roles in Warrnambool, Swan Hill and Mildura. I then returned to Warrnambool and spent six years as a Regional Manager. My current role is Regional Manager Agribusiness, looking after North West Victoria, which I have been doing for four years. The job I have now is the best one I have had. I am still very close to the front line to get a great feel for what is happening in agricultural industries and what our clients are experiencing. I also have the opportunity to really impact on the development of our people (which I enjoy the most) and get great exposure to the internal workings of the business – this provides opportunities to influence the organisation for the benefit of our clients, our sales staff and the organisation.

4. How did your time as a graduate help you progress to where you are now?
It gave me a great grounding and understanding of the business and helped me build relationships with others within the organisation that I wouldn’t normally come across.

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