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AwardsBest Bank Awards

Australia's best domestic bank 2017: Bendigo and Adelaide Bank

Bendigo and Adelaide Bank

Bendigo and Adelaide Bank gets what might be called the Steve Bradbury award, named after the Australian skater who won an Olympic gold medal when his highly ranked competitors piled into each other just before the finishing line.

Australia’s dominant banks – ANZ, CommBank, NAB and Westpac – tally collective earnings of A$32 billion ($24 billion). If the big four are the merciless profiteers, as many Australians, including a good few politicians, see them, then Bendigo and Adelaide Bank can claim to be banking’s customer-friendly emancipator: community-oriented, attentive and the antithesis of those oligopolistic firms.

While 2017 was the big four’s annus horribilis, with repeated revelations of market abuse and a royal commission into their misconduct, it has been smaller Bendigo’s boon.

And the market has noticed. Shares in the big four slumped when that royal commission was announced in November, but Bendigo stock soared.

Customers are noticing too. Though Bendigo and Adelaide is a fraction of the size of even the smallest of the big four, its searing focus on the customer has catapulted it into fifth place in Australia’s bank rankings, with annual earnings of A$416 million and 500 outlets nationwide.

Rural-based Bendigo has rewritten the rules of modern banking by reaching back into the themes of the past. It has expanded by partnering with local companies in districts across the country to restore banking and financial services to communities abandoned by the bloodless big-city banks.

Now it’s starting to do the same in places where the big four still dominate – in the cities. But as tech-loving Australians also warm to their own emerging fintechs, Bendigo’s existential challenge is to extend that same country spirit to the suburbs and online.