Mike Baird heads bush to win back farmers
THE nation's biggest rural lender NAB is sending former premier Mike Baird on a tour of the bush to work out how to cut a better deal for farmers who no longer trust banks.
Mr Baird, boss of NAB corporate banking, will be joining CEO Andrew Thorburn to hear first-hand from farmers about the damage done by widespread regional branch closures and loan arrears penalties.
"Listening, learning and responding to communities in regional Australia is critical to us supporting them better and building trust in what we do," Mr Baird told The Daily Telegraph last night.
In response, Mr Thorburn last night announced that the bank will no longer hit drought-affected farmers who fall behind on their loan repayments with default penalties.
"This matter came up in a recent royal commission case, and we have decided that change needs to occur," Mr Thorburn said.
In a speech to 100 rural customers in Wagga last night, Mr Thorburn said joining him and Mr Baird on the rural tour will be former deputy prime minister and leader of the national party John Anderson and Chris Sarra, indigenous leader and education specialist.
"This is an exciting opportunity to work with some big people on a big question," Mr Thorburn said. "This doesn't mean that we won't, from time to time, have to make difficult decisions."
Mr Baird said: "We've always backed regional Australia and the question is what more can we do."
Mr Thorburn also announced NAB will give farmers a discount on their loan repayments by allowing their tax-deductible farm management deposits to offset their loan balance, thereby reducing the amount of interest paid.
Farm management deposits allow farmers to put money away tax-free in good times to be drawn on when their business falters.
"FMDs play an important part in supporting farmers to manage and grow through fluctuating commodity prices and variable seasonal conditions. This will take the form of a discount to their lending interest rate," he said.
"This enables us to quickly respond to issues raised at the recent government drought roundtable, where we were challenged to see what prompt action we could take."
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