Denevans unique insights across a career spanning decades
skip to content1
Just a heads up, our Internet and Mobile Banking will be offline for scheduled maintenance between 10:00 pm on Saturday 24th of February to 6:00 am on Sunday 25th February 2024.
We apologise for any inconvenience. If you’d like to speak to us, we’re available Monday to Friday 6:00 am to 8:00 pm (AEST) on 1800 445 445.
Rabobank warns of an increased risk of scam and fraudulent activity including fictitious emails regarding fake Rabobank Term Deposits. Protect yourself online

Denevan’s unique insights across a career spanning decades

Category Our People

Denevan’s unique insights across a career spanning decades

From the pioneering of no-till farming, to the futuristic development of robotic sprayers, Tamworth’s Denevan Ellis has been at the forefront of agriculture’s evolution.

This year marks Denevan’s 34th year with Rabobank – incredible longevity that affords unique reflection on an industry, and organisation that has remained core to a fulfilling and fascinating career.      

This Tamworth-based stalwart was a fresh-faced university graduate of Hawkesbury Ag College when he began in Sydney’s Primary Industries Bank of Australia (PIBA) head office, six years before Rabobank’s eventual take-over, and has lived the evolution of Rabobank in the Australian market first-hand.

“Our PIBA managing director at the time Bev Walters travelled the globe looking for the right suitor, and approached Rabobank directly,” he explains. “It was Rabobank’s first foray into farm lending outside the Netherlands, and with its co-operative values and focus on ag it was a good fit culturally and financially.”

After seven and a half years in Sydney, Denevan was tasked with helping establish Rabobank’s regional branches, electing Tamworth as his new hometown.

“Graham Yeo headed up the north west NSW region from his garage at home, by the time I came along we had a dedicated office – but it was certainly baby steps in those early days!”

The very first Rabobank branch established was Townsville, and in NSW, Dubbo, Tamworth and Wagga Wagga.

“We serviced the whole of north west NSW, from Moree down to the Hunter Valley, from Tamworth, so there was a lot of time spent on the road, which is not too dissimilar to our role today.”

Supporting clients’ farming evolution

Over the past three decades, Australian farms have progressed into high-tech, business-savvy enterprises, and Denevan said one of his greatest pleasures has been watching his long-term clients enjoy success.

And in some cases, he’s now seeing their children, and even grandchildren continue the family legacy.

“The scale of family farms in this region has changed dramatically during my time, as has their change in wealth as a result – many of my clients started with one or two blocks and have grown steadily over the past 25 years, with the increase in land values really bolstering their assets.”

In cropping enterprises, he believed agronomists had helped progress production through nutritional advice and instilling the significance of planting windows and timing, and that the best farmers were agile thinkers, not afraid to grab opportunity.

“The days of farming being ‘routine’ are long gone, modern farmers are the most multi-skilled people I know, and it takes a unique person to have that range of skills.”

From engineering, agronomic, financial, organisational and animal nutritional skills, Denevan believes the best farmers have almost 90 percent of the skills and knowledge of experts in that field – and are still willing to listen and learn.

Despite many farmers today being university-educated, farm business-specific financial skills is still an area in which many farmers can improve, and as such he’s proud to have helped develop the Rabobank Financial Skills workshops in recent years.

These workshops remain a cornerstone of knowledge sharing and upskilling in rural and regional Australia, arming farm owners and managers with relevant skills when it comes to practical financial skills, such as gross margin analysis, cash flow budgeting and interpreting financial statements.

In the livestock sector Denevan believes graziers’ ability to manage drought has been one of the greatest achievements during his career.

“People just didn’t prepare for drought as they do now, our cattle producers are so much more savvy managing stocking rates, storing feed provisions and understanding nutrition – when I started ruminant nutrition wasn’t even a science.”

Supporting a number of cotton growing clients on the Liverpool Plains, Denevan said the industry has perhaps made the biggest transition of any over the past three decades.

“There were challenges in the cotton industry in its early days in Australia, now it’s a front-runner in sustainability - one of the cleanest industries with very minimal inputs required, huge inroads in water-use efficiency, and a strong sustainability vision – anyone who suggests otherwise is clearly outdated.”

Cotton and grain production, he believed, had provided growers with the highest returns, however livestock, particularly beef, was the most geographically diverse commodity – “you can find cattle in every corner of the state”.

Secrets to a long and meaningful career

Denevan concedes that his career has been “the sum of all the parts”, and that in the banking game, you can’t succeed without teamwork.

“The art of collaboration is critical, and Rabobank does this very, very well, and it really does feel like a second family, and I’ve received so much support throughout my career.”

“When I started there were only 100 of us at Rabobank, and the CEO could be in the lift with the mailman and they could still strike up a conversation. That was the environment in which we all worked, and it’s the culture to this day - everyone on a level playing field, supporting each other.”

“I think it also helps when people respect the work you do – I find it miraculous that people today change jobs every two years, when it can take 12 months to get accustomed to a role.”

“To progress your career in blocks is one thing, but change for the sake of change, to me is ineffective. I read recently that today people have an average of 20 jobs in their lifetime I think it must be difficult to build relationships and add genuine value in such a short timeframe.”

His biggest career learning is that burnout is real, and as such, goals and expectations need to be re-evaluated regularly.

“You can work so hard that you just don’t do your job properly, which is when it’s time to stop and reassess.”

In his own career, Denevan has worked in roles from rural officer to branch manager to regional manager, and now currently is a senior rural manager.

“Intense roles are hard to sustain, yet sideways or steps back can provide just as much job satisfaction – it’s about having balance and being happy.”

“I’ve never been motivated to change organisations because to be honest there’s been so much opportunity here within Rabobank that I’ve continually remained engaged.”

Any spare time is spent on the family’s farm, 25 kilometres from Tamworth, where Denevan runs sheep and some cattle – further building that connection with clients and indulging his love of agriculture.

“I really enjoy being a part of the Tamworth region’s rural community – both personally, and supporting clients – and the farm keeps things interesting.”

And with two of his three children now away at university, and one having just completed year 12, he said having to wave children off was one of the only downfalls of living regionally.

“Most country kids have to leave home for school or university at some stage, and while our three were all schooled here in Tamworth, two have headed to the city for further education – it’s just something country families face.”

With his children now fast approaching the age that he himself began his stellar Rabobank career, he reflects that one could not ask for a more supportive, and satisfying place to work.

“When you do get to work, it’s nice to be able to enjoy the satisfaction that comes from true collaboration – at Rabobank there is no hiding and no egos – which is why I’ve never been even tempted to look elsewhere.”