When Scotiabank closes its Ramea branch, residents and businesses will need to hop a ferry to Burgeo for any service that can’t be performed online.
Krista Stewart, Scotiabank’s manager of Canadian banking communications, told The Gulf News the decision to close the Ramea branch on Aug. 18, 2019, was due to changing customer needs and preferences.
“We recognize that not all customers use digital and online banking, but 80 percent of transactions in Canada now take place outside the branch,” she said in an email.
Ramea Mayor Clyde Dominie conceded that a lot of town’s residents use online banking.
“We’re getting service two days a week, on Thursdays and Fridays,” Dominie told The Gulf News. “The most difficult part I see is for local businesses and especially for organizations who pretty well deal on a cash basis with everything that they do. The issue of course, is being able to make a cash deposit.”
Although Ramea has a population of less than 500, there are three stores, a hair salon, a couple of tourism outlets and another one slated to open next summer, in addition to non-profit groups that fundraise regularly, like the fire department.
The town also enjoys a growing tourism industry, thanks in part to its annual Rock Island Music Festival. That one weekend represents a significant amount of cash transactions for the town businesses and charitable groups.
“Of course, you’ve got a lot of seniors in town,” noted Dominie, who is aware that some still need to go to the local branch to cash cheques. “They’ll certainly miss it, as well.”
Dominie also said that three bank employees will be out of work.
Although he is not insensitive to the bank’s economic realities in operating in such an isolated community, Dominie is not happy to see his town lose the only bank it’s ever had.
“I wasn’t totally shocked, but I don’t think they recognize what we have to do just to get to a garage or even if they care, I suppose, for that part. I guess we’re just a speck and obviously it’s a corporate decision.”
Dominie has reached out Scotiabank’s Corner Brook office asking them to reverse the decision.
“I’ve asked them to look at doing things differently, like maybe open one day a week or changing the hours or negotiating rent on a building here in town – whatever it may take to keep them here.”
He has yet to receive a reply, but a public town hall meeting scheduled for Sept. 26 was subsequently cancelled.
Stewart wrote that the cancellation was due to unforeseen circumstances and expects to reschedule the meeting soon. However, it seems unlikely that the meeting between residents and Scotiabank representatives will prevent the branch closure.
At a Sept. 24 meeting in Roddickton-Bide Arm, Scotiabank’s local district vice-president Angela Miles stated repeatedly to the 100 residents in attendance that the bank’s decision to close that branch was final, prompting Main Brook mayor Barbara Genge to declare the meeting “a waste of time.”
“Town halls are held to inform the public, have an open dialogue about the changes taking place in their communities and outline the ways we can assist with the transition,” Stewart wrote in her email.
“We have considered all options for the branch before we made this difficult decision. After careful consideration, we had to make the decision that we cannot continue to operate this branch.”
Once the branch closes, the town may be left with a single ATM belonging to a private business.
“We don’t know if Scotiabank even plans to have an ATM here,” said Dominie.
He’s aware of some residents who have pledged to move their banking services to an entirely different institution. The Burgeo branch also serves the communities of Grey River and Francois, which are also only accessible via the coastal ferry service.
“The more people who change, if people decide to cut down their business and move somewhere else, then I’m sure the next thing down the road you’re going to hear tell of is the same thing happening at Burgeo if your customer base starts to diminish.”
Next August, even during the height of tourist season, the ferry schedule means that performing a routinely simple bank transaction will require a great deal of time.
“We’re not somewhere you can get on a ferry every 20 minutes or every 30 minutes and go to a bank and come bank, and you can’t drive even if it was only an hour down the road and back again,” said the mayor. “You’ve got to spoil a full day to get there.”
- with files from Stephen Roberts / The Northern Pen