Three Scotiabank branches in rural Newfoundland and Labrador communities will be no more in 2022, a move that will have a major impact on residents and businesses, says one deputy mayor.
The company said in a statement its branches in Arnold's Cove, Glovertown and Fogo Island will be consolidated into neighbouring locations as it takes a more digital approach to business by opening its first "virtual branch" in Atlantic Canada to augment the existing network where "capacity or geography present challenges."
Fogo Island Deputy Mayor Justin Hearn said the news is disappointing. When the community's branch closes on Aug. 10, the nearest location will be in Gander, a ferry ride and a 130-kilometre drive south. Scotiabank has been serving the community since 1914.
"For the residents' side, especially our elderly population who depend on making bill payments and cash deposits and those kind of things, it's a major part of the community that they're losing," Hearn told CBC News on Thursday.
"On the business side, with such a strong tourism industry here on the island, a lot of businesses depend on cash. Whether that's having access to cash, or depositing cash regularly, we're now going to lose that ability."
In a statement to CBC News, a Scotiabank spokesperson said the decision was not made lightly, and the company understands the branch closure will have an impact on the people and the community. Scotiabank said it's committed to assisting customers with the move and to demonstrating alternative ways of banking, such as by phone or online.
"We feel that this relocation will help us provide better service and greater resources to our customers in both communities," the spokesperson said. "Our Gander branch is a larger location with more staff, wider business hours and resources to better help us serve our communities."
Hearn, an accountant, said he understands the company's decision based on profitability and service. However, he added, the community isn't close to Gander, and the area's aging population still relies on physical banking.
"When decisions are made from away, and looking at where we are on a map compared to Gander, the big difference here is that for us to even do basic banking now involves taking a ferry twice," Hearn said.
"To even do something as simple as a deposit now will take over eight hours."
Hearn said the town council hopes to convince the banking giant how important its service has been for the community over the last 100 years — and failing that, he hopes another institution will fill the void.
"We had a credit union here in the early 2000s, so we're hopeful that this is an opportunity for another institution to come in," he said.
"Other than that, we're looking at then if an institution won't come here, then how else do we handle it? So different cash management services, different piecemeal solutions that I'm really trying to work on now so that when Aug. 10 comes, we're ready."