Money moves to Bancroft
To the Editor,
You can’t keep a secret in a small town.
The Bank of Nova Scotia is closing down. Not the whole bank, mind, just the one in Wilberforce. It’s the only bank we have and the whole town is talking about it.
No announcements have been made yet. It’s all at the official “hush-hush “ level. That phase that precedes the “for-your-greater-convenience” announcement, explaining how much better it will be banking in Bancroft instead of just around the corner. The current advertising in the bank windows gives no hint of the impending shift, displaying only slick posters advocating new versions of plastic bank cards.
The individual depositors, both personal and business account-holders, have not been let in on the secret nor have they been asked to find a solution short of shut-down.
Lucky To Live Here
Wilberforce is a gem.
Interdependence is the key to community. All segments must work well together. If any part falls off, the whole machine suffers.
With no major industry as an anchor, the community has expanded the firehall and upgraded the equipment. The arena has been renewed. The curling club has expanded. The Lloyd Watson Community Centre just keeps growing, improving, and serving all citizens. These form a fun-hub, essential in a town with potentially bored youth. The quaint storefront library on The Loop has been replaced with a well-lit new structure off the main drag, a resource providing not only books, but a doorway to computer literacy for all ages.
Grants from various levels of government have been partially responsible for these resources, but sweat-equity and local fundraising have been equally important. Pancake breakfasts and raffled quilts are part of the equation. There is pride in local achievement.
The town attracted a pharmacy and eliminated the need for a drive to Haliburton or Bancroft for pills and prescriptions.
That vacant field behind the library? A community garden (known in the U.K. as “allotments”) is growing fresh food for family tables.
The town now has a food bank. It looks after its own.
It also looks after visitors with the opening of a new tourist information centre. A tap outside the firehall supplies free water to cottagers who lug it home in jugs as part of their local shopping excursion. A network of trails boost eco-exploring and winter sledding. We no longer have to leave town to fill our gas tanks.
In the middle of this hive of activity is a neat attractive structure that never lacks for cars parked at its front door. It is the Bank of Nova Scotia. And now the head office on King Street in Toronto wants to close it down.
It cannot be for lack of use. And it certainly is not because the Bank of Nova Scotia has suffered losses. In its quarterly statement issued in May, Scotia reported $1.8 billion in profits, which was eight per cent higher than analysts had been forecasting. And this is when the Canadian economy has been described as “sluggish.”
I know this because I am a minor Scotiabank stockholder.
I am also a stockholder in Highlands East.
Scotiabank also is a stockholder in Wilberforce and should be bound by a social contract.
The people support the bank, so the bank should support the people. Roughly $10 million per year in Highlands East money passes through the local branch. On paper, those planners in Toronto expect our local council to stand by while those transactions are expatriated to Hastings County, the nearest Scotiabank. The only Scotiabank in Haliburton County is being closed.
Probably because by merging the two branches they can rationalize staff expenses. That means one manager instead of two, one chief accountant instead of two. It also means an ATM replacing half a dozen employees in Wilberforce. It also means renting, heating, maintaining and insuring one structure instead of two. It saves money.
But any farmer knows if you don’t buy seeds you don’t harvest crops. And if you don’t have a field you can not plant the seeds.
That $10 million in township cash is seed money. Bear in mind that a bank charges for every transaction even if the pool of cash does not increase. It is a harvest.
Follow The Money Trail
Individual taxpayers pay with cheques or have electronic withdrawals, most coming from the local bank. The township puts it back in again but in a different account. Then the township cuts cheques for employees and pays accounts from suppliers. For the most part, these sums are deposited back in the same bank.
The municipal employees shop in Agnew’s or Foodland and pick up some wine in the LCBO, using VISA (another profit centre for the bank) or a debit card, or maybe cash they have just withdrawn from the bank. Agnew’s, Foodland and LCBO then redeposit in the same bank at closing because security dictates that cash should not be left lying around. At week’s end, they too pay their employees who do not carry their wages in their pockets.
That $10 million does not sit idle. While bits and pieces go in and out, the bank issues mortgages and grants loans for which they charge interest, again moving in and out with a charge on every movement. It boggles the mind.
The Bank of Nova Scotia is not losing money in its Wilberforce operation. Like Oliver, it simply wants “more.”
But at whose expense? The closure is in violation of that unwritten social contract.
Do not smile at that term, “social contract.” This is still a place where a handshake seals a deal and paperwork is an afterthought. If the bank deserts us after a long and friendly relationship, why should we stick with Scotiabank? Why should we drive to Bancroft or limit our contact to an ATM? Why should my aged aunt lose personal contact with a teller and have to become, at the age of 80, computer literate? In view of a breach of contract, why not shop around and find if other banks can offer a better deal?
Individual personal accounts are small but en masse they can be powerful. Shifting of accounts to a rival can send a strong message, and it costs the depositor nothing. (Some banks even sweeten the deal with a free coffee maker.) The possibility of mass migration of accounts is a black eye for a bank.
It can be orchestrated.
The big account? There is no way that Highlands East can continue dealing with an institution that does not respect us. Councillors, make that clear!
Kinmount lost the CIBC. It now has a Kawartha Credit Union giving all banking services and, in some cases, better rates. A $10 million account would be a great enticement to locate in Wilberforce and to join an active community. We can even offer a facility complete with a vault.
Wilberforce: “The Mouse That Roared.” I like the sound of it.