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Numbers and agriculture Francis’ perfect fit

Category Our People

Francis English

While not uncommon for our farmers to hail from a long-line of primary producers before them, it’s numbers that prevail in Francis English’s bloodline.

This former accountant, and now Rabobank Rural Manager, followed his great grandfather and grandfather into the world of finance – all three choosing accounting and small country towns to do business.

“I really enjoy working with rural people, they’re straight-forward and don’t beat around the bush, and even though I’m not from the country I feel fortunate to be working in the agricultural sector amongst so many great people, and places,” Francis said.

Francis, who moved to Australia from South Africa in the late 1980s, grew up in Adelaide with no formal agricultural connections - however a stint working on a vineyard whilst at university opened his eyes to the myriad opportunities agriculture afforded.

“Working in the vineyard really ignited something in me – I loved the fact I wasn’t just working at a desk or in a shed – I was involved in the whole process from vineyard to bottle  – there was something different going on every day and that energy really appealed to me.”

With the winery in its infancy at the time, the experience of helping an agribusiness grow proved a pivotal turning point in Francis’ aspirations.

“It made me realise that you don’t have to be off a farm to be involved in agriculture, and it opened my eyes to what an interesting and dynamic industry it was, full of opportunity,” Francis said. “It’s a global industry with the opportunity to travel, it’s filled with fantastic people, it’s crucial to feeding the world and it’s broad enough to appeal to a range of skillsets– from tech to finance to marketing.”

After completing a Masters in Agribusiness Francis joined the Department of Agriculture’s graduate program based in Canberra, where he spent a year, yet deciding public service was not for him he took the opportunity to work with primary producers directly through accounting and business advice.

“I knew I didn’t want to be in the city, so joined a firm in Bordertown in South East SA where I could still help clients grow their businesses and remain involved in the agricultural sector.”

Finishing his CPA program part-time, Francis worked as a country-based accountant for eight years, until the yearn for a change channelled his attentions towards Rabobank.

“I knew the great work Rabobank was doing for its clients plus in the industry and community, and actually had a rural manager as one of my accounting clients. It took a year for a position to come up, but it was worth the wait, and I was able to work remotely out of the Mt Gambier branch,” he said.

While the move to Rabobank two years ago came with a learning curve, he said his accounting background ensured the role was a ‘great fit’.

“There’s a fantastic welcoming culture and the opportunity to work autonomously, without micro-management, to ensure the needs of the client are met, cannot be underestimated,” he said.

The opportunity to remain in the South East and work remotely – before it became a covid normality – was also something he was extremely grateful for.

“Within my first two months of starting my wife Olivia and I had our first daughter, Henrietta, so it really was the year of change – but I will always cherish the fact that I was able to work from home and witness my daughter’s early days and especially her first steps, all thanks to Rabobank’s  flexibility.”

And the career development opportunities have continued to present since Francis first joined the bank.

Twelve months ago Francis was successful in gaining a Rural Manager position, based in Adelaide – broadening his territory and knowledge base.

“It was a good time to move back to Adelaide – we now have grandparents only streets away – but I still get to enjoy agriculture and rural travel,” he said.

From Robe to Murray Bridge, the Barossa to the mid-north and the Adelaide Hills Francis said his expanded ‘patch’ presented regions and sectors he was keen to learn more about.

“It’s been a highlight meeting my new clients from across the state, and I’ve really enjoyed learning more about the pastoral activity around Broken Hill – it’s eye opening to see how those producers deal with years of drought with such resilience, and personally I’m looking forward to working in different regions and supporting clients working in inconsistent seasons.”

“I love the fact that I’m afforded the time and responsibility to visit clients across the state, there’s nothing more important than sitting around a kitchen table and helping clients work towards achieving their business goals.”

Francis is also a staff representative on the South Australia/North West Victoria Client Council, leading the Teacher Farm Experience initiative.

“I’m particularly passionate about getting young people interested in agriculture, and that starts in the classroom, so getting the teachers out on farm is vital,” he said.

“There are so many opportunities for young people today in agriculture, in addition to running a farm, from robotics to finance – and as someone who personally did not come from a farming background, I can 100 percent vouch that this is an industry for everyone.”

While Francis said he was familiar with Rabobank’s co-operative values and community-led nature, the full extent of its community work is now a great source of pride.

“The work we’re doing with the Rabo Client Council in areas such as financial skills training, mental health services and education is genuine, with money behind it – we can really see the results.”

“I’m so glad I put my hand up for a role on the Rabo Client Council, it’s nice to do some non day-to-day tasks that make a genuine difference in the community.”

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