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CBA's new 'Indigenous front door' to accelerate growth, simplify operations for First Nations business sector

David Prestipino -

Indigenous businesses can expect accelerated growth, faster access to cash and streamlined services through a new collaboration aimed at ensuring sustainability across the sector.

The Commonwealth Bank and Supply Nation on Monday launched a bespoke service designed to support growth or simplify operational processes, with tailored banking packages and educational workshops for Indigenous businesses.

CBA's Indigenous Business Line and Concierge was the bank's new "Indigenous front door", with culturally-trained banking experts each assigned to an Indigenous business owner, developing trust and understanding of the business so the best-suited package was offered.

Products such as CBA's Working Capital Solutions, Stream and Business Overdraft gave First Nations business owners flexible, simple and faster access to cash flow.

These tailored financial solutions would be complemented by a new Indigenous Business Education Series, delivered by Supply Nation, to help streamline access to capital and business support in areas such as marketing.

CBA Group Executive Business Banking Mike Vacy-Lyle said the bank was a proud founding member of Supply Nation and committed to supporting and strengthening the Indigenous business sector.

"We know that by strengthening First Nations businesses, we are supporting First Nations communities more broadly," he said.

CBA Indigenous Business Banking executive manager Simone Kenmore, a proud Yankunytjatjara woman who grew up in remote South Australia, has developed a passion to see better outcomes in remote communities, through economic empowerment and self determination.

Ms Kenmore, who has worked for almost 30 years across the Indigenous sector, said the bank's 120-plus Indigenous business specialists had a deep understanding of the sector's needs and challenges, and could ensure owners the best-suited financial products and services, education and training to support business growth.

While challenges like cashflow and access to capital were common for any business, access to capital was particularly challenging for remote Indigenous businesses and CBA was committed to bridging this gap through its streamlined services.

"When I think of our remote businesses, particularly those in remote locations, it becomes extra challenging to access resources, to access and develop relationships with bankers," Ms Kenmore said.

"That's why our offering is trying to bridge that gap, so that there's streamlined access to people with cultural competency, which will help overcome some barriers to growth.

"This won't solve everything, but we need to keep listening and learning from businesses and that's what our education series with Supply Nation is about - an opportunity to listen to businesses, and keep developing our offerings so we are meeting their needs, and it's relevant information to help them to grow."

Supply Nation's chief executive officer, proud Awabakal woman Kate Russell, said the Indigenous Business Education Series would provide ongoing support, education and training for First Nations business owners.

"Our research has revealed a need for continued education on topics such as cash flow management, cyber safety, fraud protection, risk, workplace health and safety, procurement and marketing, which the program will address," Ms Russell said.

Supply Nation chief CEO Kate Russell said CBA's new specialised service had four primary benefits for First Nations businesses and was not just for Supply Nation members.

"The first benefit is the Indigenous front door of the bank... it's a specific hotline.

"That concierge then connects businesses with a culturally-competent banker who takes you through the rest of your customer journey.

"They can work with you to determine what bespoke product rates and services are right for that specific business.

"And then the educational series, a business capability that came out of conversations around what can we do to solve this problem about access to capital, it's one of the biggest problems we have in the Indigenous business sector."

Ms Russell said international opportunities were increasing for Indigenous businesses, and Supply Nation was working closely with DFAT and AusTrade to boost exposure for them.

She said there were major supply and demand opportunities for Indigenous businesses in the defence and mining sectors, while in 2024 Supply Nation would increase its footprint in Tasmania, South Australia, WA and Darwin, where it had just opened a new office.

CBA's Indigenous program would help Supply Nation aid "middle players" in the business sector become sustainable for future generations.

"We enabled $4.1 billion of spending last year, which was a record number, but there was an opportunity for Supply Nation to build a pipeline for these businesses," she said.

First Nations-owned labour hire organisation Impact Services has used CBA's Stream Working Capital service to help smooth mismatched cash flow cycles and manage cash flow risk to ensure operational stability and growth.

This included ensuring it could always remunerate its growing workforce while waiting for other payments to come in.

"Rather than looking at assets, Stream Working Capital looks at the debtor invoices then provides working capital in order to manage cash flow," Impact Services CEO Kerry Fry said.

"It means entrepreneurs building a business might have access to credit based on their track record, compliance, and customer base.

"That can provide an equal opportunity to compete and avoid the stress for those without property or that don't want to risk the family home."

To contact CBA's Indigenous Business Line and Concierge, call 1300 096 394.

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