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The Australian agricultural sector is the traditional backbone of the Australian economy and is expected to continue to grow over the next five years due to continual advancements in farming practices and ag tech, coupled with the increasingly globalised nature of the food supply chain.
It's for this reason that Judo Bank, Australia's only challenger bank purpose-built for small and medium businesses opened a specialist agribusiness arm in 2022, so more businesses in this sector would have access to a bank that listens, learns and boldly backs them as they grow.
Judo Bank Regional and Agribusiness managing director Jason Marr said for this important sector to continue to grow and thrive into the future, it requires significant capital investment both from the agriculture industry as well as the banking sector.
"Judo Bank is supporting progressive farmers who have strong forward-looking strategic plans that would not typically fit within the traditional tick- box banking metrics," Mr Marr said.
"Judo's point of difference, is our unique relationship-led approach, meaning our specialist bankers build deep relationships with our customers and can provide the support these businesses need in a timely manner," he said.
"At Judo Bank we have long felt that farmers were being left behind or taken for granted by the rest of the finance industry.
"There are so many customers who do not receive the financial support they require, and we see the opportunity to back these customers. I'm proud of the part Judo is playing in the growth of this important industry "
The expansion of Judo Bank has been welcomed in regional Australia.
"The overwhelming feedback from our regional customers is that it's refreshing to see a bank investing back into regional Australia, bringing back the craft of relationship banking and common-sense, character-first lending."
Judo Bank's Agribusiness team provides tailored, flexible banking solutions to customers to support their succession, acquisition, expansion, and modernisation plans which enables them to increase scale, improve efficiency and output and lower their environmental impact.
By way of example, Judo Bank's customer Fleet Wines, situated at Leongatha, in the South Gippsland region of Victoria, is working towards achieving certification under the Sustainable Winegrowers Australia accreditation framework.
Judo Bank worked with the Fleet Wines business owners, Justin and Lisa Jenkins, to tailor a lending solution that included funding for equipment and other infrastructure required to achieve this certification as well as the development of their own sustainable vineyard and winery facility.
The Jenkins took out a variable-rate business loan through Judo Bank for this purpose.
A philosophy of "doing what is best from a farming perspective" is at the core of everything the Jenkins do.
"It's this approach that helps us to grow the best grapes to make the best wine. Our wine club membership is not only about offering an interesting selection of wines every quarter, we also pledge to plant 50 native trees on each member's behalf every year."
Mrs Jenkins said vineyard establishment is a long game.
"We're located in one of Australia's most exciting viticultural regions. With enough existing vine area to be able to gain an understanding of vineyard potential, we decided it worthy to set down roots in the region. Judo Bank has been critical to this."
The Jenkins decided on Judo Bank as they wanted to work closely with their bank manager.
"We felt after our initial chat that Judo's experience in agriculture was going to be really beneficial in assisting with our growth. They are on the phone/email when needed. Their ability to be fast and responsive is critical to the growth and success of our farm and in turn wine business. Communication is key."
The Jenkins have been "blown away" by the level of customer service across the board with Judo Bank.
"Having experienced the exact opposite with our previous lenders, the relief to be able to pick up the phone and directly speak with our manager gives us peace of mind. The agribusiness team is across all forms of ag. It means real empathy and rapport can be built, which we see as an asset to our farm business.
Mrs Jenkins said the level of service Judo Bank provides is "worth every cent".
"We're super impressed with the clarity and transparency that Judo offers. In a world where there is less and less, it's refreshing to see a bank work fast and clear."
Mr Marr said Judo Bank employs local, experienced agribusiness bankers with deep industry knowledge, who are delivering an old-style relationship banking proposition while applying common-sense lending decisions in a timely manner.
"Having the best bankers in the market allows us to provide them with the autonomy to make decisions quickly and provide customers with the confidence they will be supported.
"Judo Bank was founded on the values of being close to your customer and applying sound credit judgement. The overwhelming feedback from our clients is that we are delivering a level of service and expertise they have not experienced with other lenders."
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