Q&A with Dennis Tarrant: Chair of Murrumbeena Community Financial Services Ltd

Tell me about your connection to the south east suburbs?

I moved to Murrumbeena in 1998 and currently live in Bentleigh, not far away but still have the passion for the district. Originally, I’m a boy from the northern suburbs who crossed the river and never looked back. My partner Sue is from Bendigo. We’re so happy here in this area. It’s a fantastic community and I’m proud to be part of it. I’m involved in many community groups and am a community facilitator in the area.

Did you play local sport in the area?

I played for the Coburg VFA under 19s team when I was a youngster, also for Watsonia in the Diamond Valley League when I was about 20 years old. It was a lot of fun getting the living daylights kicked out of you every weekend.

What drew you to working at Bendigo Bank?

I went into the Murrumbeena newsagent one day and there was a giant fundraising thermometer on the wall. I asked about it and in short order was conscripted to come to a meeting that evening to establish one of Bendigo Bank’s Community Bank branches in the area. 

By the end of the evening I had put in $500 of my own money to buy shares to help get the branch off the ground and had joined the steering committee. I loved the idea of the Community Bank model: that a local branch can be owned by the local community and return its profits to that community. 

What’s your current role at Bendigo Bank?

I’m the Chair of Murrumbeena Community Financial Services Ltd – the company that owns and operates Community Bank Murrumbeena in partnership with Bendigo Bank. I’m also the branch CEO. It’s keeping me out of mischief, let me tell you.

What’s the most endearing quality of Bendigo Bank?

The bank’s Community Bank model is one of the world’s largest and successful social enterprise-style businesses. It gives communities the ability to do something for themselves. It empowers them to generate funds to support clubs, not for profit community groups and schools in their area. It keeps money circulating locally, which helps a community thrive and grow. In turn that makes it a great place to live, work and do business. That’s the incredible power you have when you choose one of Bendigo Bank’s Community Bank branches. You’ll have a big impact on your community, just by choosing to bank with them.

How did Bendigo Bank see its customers thru the recent pandemic?

Our Murrumbeena branch continued to support all the local groups and clubs in our community in the same way we had in the previous year. It was so important for us as (often as a major sponsor) to continue our support as other sponsors were dropping off. Clubs continued to have operating costs and overheads even though they weren’t playing a season. We knew we had to be there for them as a solid, reliable partner.

In some cases, this year we’ve been increasing our support. Sporting clubs are so important to community health and wellbeing. I think they’ll help the young people in our communities get back on track after the pandemic. Hasn’t it been fantastic to see play recommence this year?

Tell us about the funniest thing you have seen happen inside a Bendigo Bank branch?

The Bendigo Bank Piggy mascot is a source of great fun in many branches. It’s bloody hot in that suit in summer and you can’t see a thing. We’ve seen kids hug that pig to the ground. They really love him and go mad. I’ve managed to avoid being on the inside of that suit for 17 years. I plan to continue that exceptionally good run. It’s a young person’s game.

What did you find out about yourself during the 2020 lockdown that surprised you?

I’m used to working from a home office, but I was surprised how much I really missed face-to-face meetings. I’m used to getting together with clubs and community groups, and I didn’t find video meetings had quite the same effect. I really missed the live connections and face to face relationships.

That said, there were some collaborations and relationships that our branch was really able to develop during the lockdown. Bendigo Bank prided itself on being there for our customers and communities during the pandemic. As an essential service our branches remained open to the public. That wasn’t easy. In the early stages it was quite frightening and difficult for our staff, there were many new protocols to observe, and we simply didn’t know how things would play out. 

It felt good to be one of the few retail shops to remain open during the lockdowns. We had customers coming into our branch who hadn’t spoken to another person all week. We were helping local businesses with the various support package measures. To be able to support our customers and community groups through it all was a really great feeling. 

What can Bendigo Bank do for SFNL clubs?

If your club has a close relationship with your local Community Bank it can set you up for long-term success. It’s a reciprocal relationship that will benefit both parties. If the club steers leads and referrals to the branch, we can steer increasing amounts of sponsorship support back to the club.

But for it to work, we need to have a solid relationship that’s built on trust and mutual respect. We can help your club enormously, but we can only do it if our business is growing and we’re in a strong financial position. So the moral of the story is to send everyone you know into Bendigo Bank!

I would also add that Bendigo Bank is considered to be one of Australia’s most trusted brands. It’s got very competitive products and services, great technology and over 2 million customers. We say it is Australia’s better big bank. It’s a bank that can be a trusted financial partner for you and your family through every stage of life. I reckon it’s time to choose a bank you can feel better about.

Do you have a favourite SFNL club?

There’s four clubs Community Bank Murrumbeena supports in the SFNL, so I naturally support them: Murrumbeena, Bentleigh, Oakleigh District and Caulfield Bears. I follow them all and love watching their games.

If pressed, I also have a real soft spot for the women’s football teams. They’re fantastic and I love the enthusiasm they bring to the field. I love seeing the growth in the women’s game. 

The netball players simply do my head in. They’re so fast and quick. They make me feel old. I’m in awe of their reflexes and the level of skill. But it does make my knees hurt just watching.

Where can we find you a wintry Saturday afternoon?

I’ll be out in the community watching a couple of footy and netball games. Probably at Murrumbeena Park, Bentleigh Reserve or Princes Highway Reserve. There’s no rest for the wicked.

Who’s your tip for SFNL premiership glory in 2021?

Now you’ve got me. It’s early days. Cheltenham are looking strong in Division 1. But Dingley are always worth keeping an eye on. I’ll be cheering for the Murrumbeena women, so I hope they do well too. May the best teams win.

To be honest, I’m just over the moon to see everyone back playing this year. Frankly it’ll be a fantastic season for everyone simply for that reason. Let’s all enjoy it.


Make an appointment with the Community Bank Murrumbeena team on 9568 8166 or visit bendigobank.com.au to find your nearest branch.

League Partners