Scotiabank is closing our rural branch in Avonmore. This is a branch that has been in the community 113 years, and is, by all accounts, a profitable branch. The bank has yet to dispute this claim. Yet they are building a new bank in Cassselman … a community already serviced by three other banks with longstanding customer commitment there. Scotiabank expects that we, along with two other area branches they intend to close, will move our accounts to the new bank. This is an hour round trip, assuming relatively quick service at the bank, and much further for people to the south who also bank at the Avonmore branch.
We had a town hall meeting in Avonmore on Feb. 13. The bank officials in attendance claimed the reason for closure is better customer service, implying they have our best interests as a chief consideration. We were told the new bank be open longer hours; we don’t care. It will be open on the weekend; we don’t care. It will have a drive-through; we don’t care. It will supposedly have specialists to advise us on how to best handle our banking; we don’t care, and, in any event, our local branch folks are quite capable of offering this service. Closing the bank will impact the people of this community on many levels. For example, let’s look at our elderly who are not computer savvy, no longer drive, would be overwhelmed by the concept of telephone banking … and have perhaps never even used an ABM! What do these people do, these same families who have supported this branch from the beginning? What about businesses who need a physical bank presence in order to conduct their business? What about the ongoing consultation process that is a part of the daily workings of any bank? Not only is it an unnecessary travel burden to inflict upon customers every time they need to speak to the bank manager or a financial adviser, but it also destroys the relationship continuity built up over years with people in this branch, who we know and trust, and who have demonstrated time and again that they really do have our best interests at heart. And, in favour of what? Being absorbed into another financial processing centre … take a number?
Setting aside the hardship created for Scotiabank customers by the pending closure, I want to point out that I understand, and I think as a community we understand, that decisions such as these are made from a business perspective. Shareholders want to maximize their profits and expect Scotiabank to do whatever it takes to grow the business. However, in this case, profitability at the Avonmore branch has never been shown to be the issue, and as for growing the business, the bank officials at the ‘town hall’ have been presented with the results of a petition that indicated 85% will close their accounts and change banks. Held up to scrutiny, and setting aside the emotional response the closure has evoked in the community, it would seem the closure, as a business decision, is suspect. At our meeting on Feb. 13, there were several questions asked of the officials in attendance. Following is the question I asked; there was no satisfactory answer given. Perhaps someone from Scotiabank would like to comment?
Good Evening, I have both personal and business interests with Scotiabank.
Since the bank declared its intention to close our branch, and move us en masse to Casselman, they have been attempting, through the media, to justify this move as a sound business decision. Now, I fully understand any company reviewing its business operations on an ongoing basis and would assume any decision with such far reaching impact would be carefully researched and evaluated. In fact, in a recent interview a bank official confirmed this notion, and I quote:
“We evaluate our network with input from the local level on an ongoing basis”.
I offer the following for your consideration:
It is widely known that much of the economic life of residents in this community tends to be along the Monkland, Avonmore, Finch, Chesterville, Winchester, corridor and points to the south (not to the north). This being the case, it appears that the decision to transfer customers north to Casselman, is out of step with customer activity.
Secondlym “input from the local level” would have shown – as will become increasingly evident over the course of this evening — that customers will by and large not move to Casselman and many will actually withdraw all their accounts from Scotiabank. This we understand will be a sizeable amount representing both personal and business accounts.
Finally, it seems even a cursory evaluation of local banking practices would reveal how much more the bank stands to lose than what immediately lays before them. My parents, both over 90, intend to close their accounts should the bank close. They’ve been banking here literally a lifetime. Because they bank with Scotia so do I.. Because I bank with Scotia my kids ranging from 23-34, and their partners bank here. As mine have children, it stands to reason they would also bank here…and so it goes, if you play it forward, on into the future. I would suggest this is the case for the vast majority here. There are long-reaching consequences to the pending closure.
It would seem logical that market realities such as these would have been considered. However, we’re here, so I have to ask: Was this input not forthcoming – resulting in a misinformed business decision OR are they being ignored in a futile attempt at some level to fit a round hole into a square, and in so doing justify the expansion plans already underway in Casselman. I hope it’s the former and that with this input this evening the bank will reassess its decision. Thank you.
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