Anger over bank closure
Meeting with business owners scheduled for June 28
|By Mark Arike - Staff Writer | June 23, 2016
Craig McDonald might have to lay off some staff if Wilberforce’s Scotiabank branch closes in January.
“We’re guessing it’s going to have a fairly significant impact,” said McDonald, who owns the Wilberforce Foodland and the plaza which houses the bank and LCBO.
Last week, McDonald and others were notified that the bank will be closing branches in Wilberforce and Maynooth effective Jan. 19, 2017 and consolidating in Bancroft.
The decision was made because of how customers are doing their banking, according to Heather Armstrong, director of communications for Canadian Banking at Scotiabank.
“Customers have a greater demand for convenience and are increasingly choosing to do their banking online and over mobile.”
The branch network is reviewed “regularly” and a “full area market analysis” of all 1,000 branches was completed, she said.
“We’ve made the difficult decision to consolidate those branches into our Bancroft branch.”
Staff were told June 14 and the bank is mailing notices to customers, she said.
McDonald believes it’s a bad decision.
“It’s totally wrong in this area, especially in this part of the country,” he said, pointing out there is a high population of seniors who aren’t computer-savvy and poor Internet service.
“For rural communities, it doesn’t make any sense.”
Highlands East Reeve Dave Burton was shocked and disappointed after receiving a call from a Scotiabank representative. “It was actually quite a severe blow.”
It’s especially frustrating because of the support the community and the municipality have shown the bank over the years.
As a client, the municipality funnels $10 million through their account annually, he said.
Burton believes the decision is purely financial.
“I have to say I do feel it’s another blow to small communities,” he said, adding it was “damn discouraging” given the progress that has been made to attract and retain businesses.
Burton will attend a meeting with MP Jamie Schmale and the district vice-president of the bank on July 5.
Council will host a meeting with local business owners next Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Lloyd Watson Centre in Wilberforce.
“Obviously when a bank in a small community shuts down, it has a huge impact,” said Schmale, who recognizes a gap in Internet and cell service.
“There is significant business in that community. We’re going to find out if there are any solutions or let other institutions know there’s a hole that should be filled.”
McDonald is handing out petitions at his store. They are also available at neighbouring businesses, such as Agnew’s General Store.
“We recognize that this change will be inconvenient for some customers and their individual banking needs,” said Armstrong, when asked about the technological challenges some residents face.
But through several town hall meetings in both communities and discussions with their customers, she says the bank will try to make the transition as smooth as possible.
Armstrong was unable to provide statistics on foot traffic or how many customers use the branch.
However, she said that 80 per cent of transactions across all branches are done by telephone or Internet banking.
In its second quarter, Scotiabank’s net income decreased by about $220 million from $1.8 billion last year to $1.58 billion. It recording a restructuring charge of $278 million after tax to “enhance the customer experience, drive a digital transformation and improve productivity.”
On Wednesday, county council added its voice to concerned citizens by voting to send a letter to the bank.
MARK ARIKE is a reporter for The Highlander.