An information meeting the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) held for users of its lame-duck Tamworth branch last Thursday drew the ire of Stone Mills councillors — and they’re not going to suffer silently.
Councillor Wenda Lalande didn’t mince words as she requested the municipality write a letter to CIBC chief executive officer Victor G. Dodig to share its disappointment with the presentation.
“I was not impressed at all. I thought the data they were sharing with us was very short sighted,” she said. “They talk about online banking and how 87 per cent of rural and urban transactions are online banking. They didn’t break it down. In this township, we all know we have tremendous difficulties with Internet, cellphones, smartphones — you name it. I’m not sure the CIBC CEO or its directors are aware of that.”
She said she couldn’t believe the bank felt it was a realistic option to pull out and leave seniors with a 30-minute drive outside the village to another community if they wanted to bank in person.
Deputy-reeve John Wise also attended the meeting, but commented few residents did.
“I was a bit disappointed with the public attendance. I know the weather was cold, but I think the people have resigned themselves to the closure,” he said.
While Wise said he supported Lalande’s efforts to be heard, he felt “it won’t make a damn bit of difference.”
According to Wise, he’d like to remind the bank that in Canada, the major banks have a privileged position with federal chargers that don’t allow competition like the “Wild West, wide open banking marketplace” in the United States and that’s what kept them in tact after the 2008 recession.
“In exchange for that protection, I believe they have a social responsibility, almost as a public service,” he said, adding that many rural Canadians aren’t able to use online services even if they wanted to.
“We need to throw it back at them,” he said of that responsibility. “It might at least soften their chilly banker hearts.”
Doug Davison also chimed in. While he reminded council that public pressure stopped a previous reduction in service in Tamworth and another by the Royal Bank in Odessa, he’s not sure it will matter this time.
“They really only think dollar signs and don’t care that rural people still value the services.”