The start of summer
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.
My first regional rotation
Typically, I have travelled through the Mallee a few times a year, and have only seen the good and the bad years as a passer-by; 2016 seems particularly notable as one to remember. Fortunately I get to see this in detail during my first rotation in the Swan Hill regional office. I’ve covered some country with the lenders in the office - through field days, industry group events and farm visits, and have taken the opportunity to interrogate them with questions about the area as often as I can.
I was not prepared for some of the ventures in the Mallee; I never thought gumboots would be a requirement up here; but was happy to make an emergency purchase before the Birchip Cropping Group’s main field day. Besides the cold weather on the day and mud nearly up to my knees, it was interesting hearing the results from the group’s research and trials, especially with the somewhat unusual seasonal conditions. Through these opportunities and discussions with locals, I have appreciated seeing the cautious optimism that can be found in the grain growing regions.
I’ve enjoyed seeing different industries and the phases they go through at this time of the year, from dairying to stone fruit. It has been constant learning about new and interesting topics in agriculture.
6 months in Bendigo
During my time in Rural Finance’s Bendigo office, I have slowly been crossing weeks off my rotation schedule, and now that I am at the end of the first 6 months of the graduate program, it doesn’t seem even remotely slow. The weeks have flown by!
Since my last update, I have moved through five different areas of the rural business, Executive Projects, Customer Services, Loans Administration, Industry Programs and shadowing a Regional Manager.
A significant feature of this graduate rotation has been time spent completing a project under the guidance of an Executive of the business. This included formal training in Melbourne in addition to mentoring from the Executive and key members of the change management team. This allowed fellow graduate, Ben and I to explore how change is implemented and further opportunities to experience how the wider business operates.
The next phase of the graduate program is in a regional office working with the frontline sales team. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in the Bendigo office, but I am very excited to head north and enjoy Swan Hill for the next six months.
Ag Answers is an integral resource within Rural Finance and Rural Bank, through the provision of key research and analysis into agricultural commodities, weather and farmland values. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being a part of the team for the past three weeks. I had been looking forward to working with the Ag Answers team since the beginning of the program because the key updates they produce had always piqued my curiosity, and my time there did not disappoint.
During my weeks with Ag Answers, I tried my hand at completing the monthly dairy update for Victoria, in addition to looking at trends in grain, wool and livestock. It involved gathering information from public resources, where it can be summarised to provide the greatest benefit to our clients and any other readers (if you haven’t already seen them, the flyers are well worth a look!). I found this rotation to be really interesting, an exploration into the agricultural commodity world on which our clients rely. It gave me insight into our publications and enhanced my knowledge of the commodity markets, so much that I even signed up my parents for a subscription.
A week in Victoria's north west
As part of the graduate program, we spend a week ‘shadowing’ one of the Senior Agribusiness Relationship Managers within the business. This gives Graduates a chance to experience the ‘front line’, where the positive relationships our business prides itself on are formed. During this week, I spent time in the fantastic Swan Hill office and had the opportunity to tour avocado and table grape farms around the north-west Victorian region with other Rural Bank and Rural Finance staff.
Coming from a cropping background, there are definitely elements of the horticulture industry that are foreign to me, but I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to this part of the industry than hearing from a local farmer. I certainly learnt a lot.
A new adventure
I started my exciting new adventure as a Graduate with Rural Finance on 1 February 2016, commencing in their Bendigo office. Rural Finance is a division of the Bendigo and Adelaide Bank Group and, alongside fellow subsidiary, Rural Bank, supports Victorian farmers with specialist financial tools and industry insights.
I grew up on a family farm near Rupanyup in western Victoria, a fantastic farming community with a particular focus on broad acre cropping. Working on farm and learning about different methods, traditions and upcoming changes in farming really interested me. With this interest in agriculture and my financial studies at Latrobe University (Bachelors in Accounting and Finance), applying for a position at Rural Finance through the Bendigo and Adelaide Bank Graduate Program was a no-brainer. This program enables me to rotate through key areas of the business to gain an understanding of how each team collaborates to deliver great service to customers.
In the two months since I’ve been with the business, I’ve met some fantastic people, including co-workers, clients and other industry professionals. Highlights include an evening at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne with key members of the Bendigo and Adelaide Bank Group, client functions featuring meteorologist Jane Bunn delivering weather forecasts for the farming community, and travelling some (very dry) countryside to visit customers. I consider myself exceptionally fortunate to have a start like this straight out of university.
Over the course of this blog, I’m hoping to share some of my experiences, thoughts and why I’m excited to be a part of Rural Finance and Rural Bank.