By Jenn Watt
Jan. 24 2017
On Wednesday Scotiabank officially closed its doors for good in Wilberforce.
The hamlet is now left without a financial institution. Scotiabank customers have been asked to continue with the bank at its Bancroft branch.
When news of the closure was first announced in June a committee of area residents business owners and municipal representatives joined to create People Before Profits tasked with finding a replacement.
But after months of meetings with banks and credit unions committee spokesman Craig McDonald told the Echo they haven’t been able to find anyone willing to set up shop.
“Right now we’ve contacted every single chartered bank that there is – all six of them. They’ve all said no. We contacted either six or seven credit unions. They’ve all rejected us” said McDonald on Friday.
“Once we got to that stage we swung over to get a bank machine and so far we’ve got two rejections from CIBC and Bank of Montreal on that. We’re still waiting for Royal Bank and TD to get back to us.
We’re waiting for Scotiabank to even return a phone call or an email.”
Scotiabank decided to close the Wilberforce branch – which has been in operation since 1969 – after looking at the volume of customers and how they normally bank. It is part of a larger shift within Scotiabank and the banking industry generally.
“Eighty per cent of transactions in Canada now take place outside the branch” Scotiabank spokeswoman Heather Armstrong told the Echo in June.
McDonald said he knows things are changing but thinks the bank should have taken a few more years before closing this particular branch.
“I understand the future is going to be no more banks” he said “In this part of the country we’re so far behind the city on cell service Internet service we’re not ready for it yet. That’s the part I found very disconcerting.”
People Before Profits members had discussed drafting a letter to the federal government about their dilemma since regulation of banks and the Canada Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission fall under their purview.
“If you’re OK with banks pulling out of rural Ontario at least make sure we have the Internet or cell service” he said.
McDonald owns the Wilberforce Foodland. If one of the remaining banks yet to respond decides to locate a machine in the hamlet he hopes to build a kiosk attached to the grocery store especially for its use. There has been discussion of a private ATM in case that falls through though it isn’t ideal.
From the conversations he’s had around town it appears most Scotiabank customers have chosen to remain with the corporation now travelling to Bancroft to do their banking.