People Before Profits pushing ahead to replace bank

By Jenn Watt

Published Sept. 13 2016

Wilberforce citizen group People Before Profits is riding high following a story in the Toronto Star highlighting their work to attract a new bank or credit union to the hamlet.

Following the announcement earlier this year that Scotiabank will be leaving in January businesses residents and politicians rallied to find solutions and People Before Profits or PBP was formed.

In July they released a survey asking those in the area what they wanted in a financial institution. Add a boost in interest from the Star story and the group has gathered 283 responses.

Committee member and Wilberforce Foodland owner Craig McDonald said PBP is still accepting surveys and the information gathered will allow the group to create a business plan to be presented to potential replacement banks or credit unions.

The committee wants to know the type of service desired (a full-service bank versus a machine for cash and deposits for example) and if respondents are willing information on how much money might be deposited.

Surveys are kept confidential.

The group is hoping for $10 million in deposits. “The higher it goes the better the chance [of attracting a bank or credit union]” said McDonald.

PBP is in the midst of creating a business plan that will be taken to several financial institutions to gauge interest.

“We’re fairly realistic with the committee too” said McDonald. “We realize we may not get a full-time bank in town right away again. … Even if it starts as a two- or three-day-a-week service if there’s enough volume and interest they will add more days onto it.”

There’s pressure on the group to get the process underway. Scotiabank has told the community it will be leaving on Jan. 17 2017 and McDonald is aware that bank clients want to make decisions about their money sooner than later.

“The township they have to make a decision fairly soon for what’s going to happen with their account. And even for myself as a Foodland owner I have to start getting rolling because come Jan. 17 there’s no bank. So we have to have other arrangements. The longer it takes the more people will splinter off to other banks” he said.

There is also the education component.

Not everyone has experience with or knowledge of credit unions.

“We still have people in town that are worried about a credit union because they hear they have to pay $25 or $10 whatever the credit union’s fee to become a member but it’s only a one-time fee” McDonald said. “You do get it back if you close your account.”

He said credit unions are more suited to small communities but that PBP is also talking to banks closing no doors.

In order to bring the best information to their meetings with financial institutions PBP is asking anyone who hasn’t filled out a survey to do so. They are available on the Highlands East municipality’s website and paper copies are located in most of the businesses in Wilberforce.