Brewing an historic relationship
“A relationship like that has to be built on trust and good character. And they are certainly qualities you associate with the Cooper family. They're the kind of people you stick with and we've been able to see them through some of those really difficult times.”
In business, as in life, relationships can wax and wane over time. They can change when the circumstances change or end as the needs of the individual parties evolve over time.
It’s quite rare in the world of banking, or any other industry, to maintain a commercial relationship decade after decade. Like any relationship it has to be nurtured by the parties and must continue to serve an integral purpose.
Recently I had the chance to visit one of ANZ’s oldest customers, the Coopers Brewery in Adelaide. Coopers are a sixth generation family business that has been making its product in Adelaide since 1862. For more than 100 years ANZ and its predecessor banks have been supporting the business as it evolved.
This remarkable relationship has thrived and grown and it illustrates the trust and character that are so important in banking. The founder, Thomas Cooper, began brewing beer after he emigrated to Adelaide from England in the 1850s.
The company is now run by Dr Tim Cooper, who is part of the fifth generation. Tim was training in cardiology in London in the late 1980s when he got the call from his father to come back and run the family business.
I've known Tim for many years and he’s been around long enough as managing director to also know my three predecessor CEOs at ANZ (Don Mercer, John Macfarlane and Mike Smith).
Growth and transition
A relationship like that has to be built on trust and good character. And they are certainly qualities you associate with the Cooper family. They're the kind of people you stick with and we've been able to see them through some of those really difficult times.
Banks help companies grow and evolve. Our job is to connect them with others, to support their expansion and make sure they grow safely and thrive on a bigger scale.
The company has had significant periods of investment over the years – expanding into lager production in the 1960s, building a new bottling hall and warehouse in the 1970s, a new brew house in the 1980s and constructing their current brewery at Regency Park in Adelaide’s northern suburbs in 2000.
ANZ has been able to work side by side with the Cooper family to help them expand from the local to the national and international markets. Historically they sold two thirds of their beer inside South Australia. Now three quarters of their production is sold outside the state.
Their latest project is a new $48 million visitor centre and brand home at Regency Park. It will include a restaurant and bar, outdoor dining plaza, interactive history centre, microbrewery, whisky distillery and underground stillage for whisky maturation.
It’s expected to be completed by the end of 2023 and will allow visitors to the brewery to
enjoy a beer, have a meal, go on a tour or do a tasting.
What is inspiring and unique about the Cooper family is the strong brand and customer loyalty they have created. It's about family, it's about Adelaide and about South Australia, and they have always maintained that connection to their heritage.
Likewise, generation after generation of ANZ staff have worked with the family to create a unique and successful business and brand.
The importance of independence
A relationship has good times but it’s also about what happens in times of stress, the difficult times. Over that 160 years, there have been many ups and downs, including when the company was the subject of an ultimately unsuccessful takeover offer from Lion in 2005.
The support the family experienced during that takeover battle only solidified their desire to maintain their independence and pass the company on to future generations. There are now two members of the sixth generation (including Tim’s daughter Louise) working in the business.
Right throughout history, we know companies change. They get bigger and they have to think about their structure and whether it’s still appropriate to maintain family ownership.
What's really unique about the Cooper family is they have grown the business to a substantial scale but still kept what's important to them – that sense of family and the ability to pass the business onto the next generation.
And ANZ plans to be there every step of the way to help them on their journey.
Shayne Elliott is Chief Executive Officer of ANZ
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