Banking on Wilberforce
By Jenn Watt
June 21, 2016
When you talk to Scotiabank spokeswoman Heather Armstrong, it’s clear that the bank’s decision to leave the communities of Wilberforce and Maynooth is a done deal.
The banking industry is changing rapidly thanks to the Internet and customers’ desire to do banking from their cellphones or computers. Branches are becoming less frequented as people choose the convenience of a computer screen over the personal touch of a teller.
In May, Scotiabank made headlines when it announced it would be closing between four and five per cent of its branches and making other changes to account for the fact that 80 per cent of transactions in Canada are taking place outside of the branch.
“Bank of Nova Scotia cut 650 positions from its Canadian banking and wealth divisions and expects to close as many as 50 branches over the next two years, as it seeks to become a more efficient, digitally focused operation,” wrote The Globe and Mail in a May 31 article.
So when the bank announces it’s leaving hamlets like Wilberforce, it seems there is no chance of walking that decision back.
But Wilberforce is a feisty community and they’re passionate about keeping their main street vibrant. They’re organizing. They’re brainstorming. They’re thinking creatively.
Staff were informed of the closure on Tuesday. As of this Monday, the MP and MPP have been informed, phone calls have been placed to senior staff at Scotiabank and Highlands East council is organizing a community meeting.
The hope is to persuade Scotiabank to stay, but the practical undercurrent is that of seeking alternatives.
Perhaps another bank would be interested in the prime business location with a ready-made customer base. Maybe Kawartha Credit Union would find a niche in the hamlet that is a 30-minute drive away from both Bancroft and Haliburton. Maybe something new and fresh can come from some devastating news.
Mary Barker, owner of Agnew’s General Store, whose business is literally and figuratively at the heart of Wilberforce, says the closure is both incredibly upsetting, but also offers opportunity.
“We’re hoping that it’s not the end, just a new chapter,” she says.
I tend to believe her.