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‘Exceptionally damaging for business’: Tyro chief says ‘zero COVID’ unsustainable

“Part of the challenge is we have such different conversations happening in Victoria, NSW, compared to Western Australia, Queensland,” he said.

Mr Speirs said JobKeeper had helped small businesses to build capital buffers to survive the latest lockdowns across Victoria and NSW, but added clarity was needed on the “path forward”.

“In most businesses you can see balance sheet strength is still very evident,” he said. “Stepping forward, there is a degree of nervousness there. People are looking for that bridge to the other side of what this will look like.”

Bendigo Bank’s regional business customers have benefited from two pandemic trends, Mr Speirs said, the influx of city dwellers moving to the country and regional workers gaining new forms of employment as the corporate world embraces remote working.

“It works both ways,” he said. “The dispersed nature of the workforce has been accelerated as a result of COVID and that has flow on impacts for the regions.”

However, Mr Speirs called for greater collaboration between the private and public sectors to ensure these “tailwinds” translate into long-term prosperity for small businesses in the regions. “We need the government, corporate and banking landscapes in concert to best enable that,” he said. “There’s clearly a role to make sure we don’t choke credit into the system when it’s most needed.”

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