September 9, 2013
By Kevin Weedmark
|The RBC branch building in Maryfield.|
Many people in Maryfield say they were taken aback by RBC’s decision to close the local bank branch effective March 14 of next year.
The loss of the bank branch comes on top of the closure of an Andrew Agencies branch office and the Borderland Co-op hardware store—two losses that many in the community say have left a hole in their business sector.
Mayor Dave Hill said he is worried about the impact on the community if the bank goes ahead with its plan and if no other financial institution opens up shop in Maryfield.
“Getting the news was a bit of a shock, and there’s lots of concern,” he says.
“We are getting more younger people in town but there are still a fair few seniors in town. How are they going to do their banking? There’s lots of concern by local farmers and local business owners about it.
“When we met with them, the district manager said we should be happy Moosomin and Wawota are getting expanded service, but how does that help us?
“They say they had to close it because the business isn’t there, but I know they’re busy there.”
He said the town will work to see if another financial institution will set up in town.
“We will pursue it to see if there is another bank that might be interested in coming in. That might be a possibility. We hope we can bring someone else in.”
Cindy Thompson farms with her husband near Maryfield. She worries when she will have time to do her banking out of town.
“All my personal banking is with RBC,” she said. “I work on the ambulance. I will have to find someone to cover a shift for me to go to a bank. All the kids’ banking will have to be done out of town when they’re at school, so they won’t learn how to do it themselves.”
She said she doesn’t fault RBC for making a business decision, but she doesn’t understand why there was no warning, or why the community wasn’t told more local support was needed to make the branch viable.
“I totally understand business decisions, but I think making the public aware before announcing would be a gracious and generous thing to do.
“They claim transactions are down in Maryfield but they won’t talk about those numbers.”
She said the business closures have had a cumulative effect on morale in the community.
“With the closing of the Co-op, and now this, everyone’s wondering what’s next,” she said.
Thompson said the decision is particularly hard to take when the community is doing so well.
“Our community is growing. Our school enrolment is growing. We only have three houses for sale in town. We know there’s another pipeline coming through town.
“I have a hard time believing that the bank couldn’t have been doing well.”
Like many Maryfield residents, Thompson says she was offended by the wording of a letter announcing the closure.
“The letter caused a lot of hard feelings,” she says. “The letter says to serve you better, we’ve extended the hours in Wawota and Moosomin, and it says people like to bank where they shop, and people from Maryfield are shopping in Moosomin and Wawota.
“I’d like to know how they know where I’m shopping? I think it’s very unfair for them to say where people from Maryfield are shopping.”
Janet Lemon said she finds it frustrating that the bank is closing up shop when Maryfield is growing and becoming busier.
“I don’t think what they’re recording as transactions are accurate,” she said. “Some of us bank out of the Royal Bank through Manitoba. When Curtis Rowan went from Moosomin to Brandon, some farm accounts went from Moosomin to Brandon.
“We do all our farm banking at the wicket in Maryfield but may not be counted because our account is in Manitoba.
“The frustrating thing is it’s a good bank branch, but our hands are tied. Our (tellers) are exceptional, taking time to show seniors how to bank online, and it’s turning around and stabbing us in the back, because now we’re told there aren’t enough transactions because people are banking online.”
Lemon has been encouraging people in Maryfield to do something to fight back against the closure.
“I have been talking to a few people,” she said. “I’ve been encouraging them to phone people and see if anything can be done. I’m hoping the Royal Bank will change their mind. They want us to come to Moosomin to the Royal Bank and do their banking there, but people are so mad they will change their banking services.
“I’m in the bank in Maryfield probably three times a week. I’m only in Moosomin once a month, and I would have to go at least once a week if we didn’t have a bank.
“I don’t know how all the organizations would handle it. If they’re having a steak night or another fundraiser, where do they get cash?
“We will survive because we’re hard fighters but it’s like a slap in the face.
“Bruce and I have been married 38 years and we’ve always supported the Royal Bank. This doesn’t seem fair when everyone here has been so loyal to them.”
Lemon said she spoke with RBC’s regional vice-president to let him know what a good job she thinks the local staff is doing.
“I just feel it’s so unfair,” she said. “I certainly hope another bank will come in. I hope somebody else sees the potential. This year, we’ve put a $130,000 cement floor into our rink, there’s a new airstrip and hangar on the edge of town, a new ambulance and fire truck, the community spent $80,000 for a new digital projector.
“Obviously our town is growing. For the bank to do this now just isn’t fair. People are furious. They feel betrayed.”
Brendon Paliuk runs the Arlington Hotel in Maryfield. He said that not having a bank branch in town would make things more difficult for his business.
“It’s a pretty huge inconvenience,” he said. “Our business depends on doing daily deposits. To have to run to Moosomin every day to make a deposit would take at least an hour and a half out of our day. It’s a hard thing to do. For me, being the business person who has to do that, to take an hour and a half every day, it would take too much time out of my day, and to have a staff member do that every day would cost a lot.
“I just don’t know how I would operate without a bank in town. If you run out of fives and tens, quarters, or loonies, you can run across the street now. I can’t imagine doing business without that bank there.”
The hotel has an ATM, but when it runs out of money, staff run across the street to the bank to refill it.
“Instead of me running across the street if the ATM is out of money, I guess we’ll have to go out of town,” says Paliuk.
He believes there should be strong demand for a financial institution in the area.
“There’s a lot of oil around here right now. You see it here all the time, and one of the questions the workers ask is ‘where’s your nearest bank?’ “
Paliuk sits on Maryfield’s village council, and has been involved in battles to keep other businesses.
“We were going to do whatever we could to keep their costs down to try to keep an insurance office in town. We fought to keep the Co-op open as much as we could.
“Once the service is lost and gone, it’s hard to get it up and going again.”
He said the village has to work hard to attract another financial institution.
“We’ve got to organize people and we’ve got to aggressively pursue another bank.
“I believe we can attract another institution. If someone else is willing to come in, I’ll be switching immediately, my 14 staff will be switching immediately—there’s lots of business here.”
Paliuk says he has no doubt Maryfield can rise to the challenge.
“This is just another hurdle—we’ll go over it,” he said. “I do see potential growth coming down the road.”
Village administrator Ward Fraser says he took offence to the wording of the letter from RBC, which states “many of our customers are choosing to bank where they shop,” and suggests that they are shopping in Wawota and Moosomin more than ever.
“I haven’t talked to anyone who has been queried as to where they shop,” Fraser says. “I think our local store is doing a great job. It has more people shopping locally than ever before. I think it’s an insult to say that people aren’t shopping in town and that they wouldn’t want to do their banking in town.”
He said the loss of the bank would be a major inconvenience to every organization in town.
“Now the school’s deposits will have to be driven somewhere, and the secretary is already swamped. At the village office, we’re mandated that every time we reach $10,000 we need to make a deposit. To have to drive out of town every time we make a deposit would be a major inconvenience.”
He said the bank’s suggestion that accounts be moved to the Moosomin branch could backfire.
“They’re pushing Moosomin, and a lot of people are getting offended by that, because they’re telling us we have to go there. A lot of people don’t like that.
“Council’s going to meet on the 11th and see what we can do. We’ll talk to the credit union, the bank of commerce, BMO, TD— we think we can get someone to come in. Our businesses are growing, there isn’t a building in the community to live in that isn’t full. Our store’s business has increased. I just can’t believe the bank isn’t doing well. When they came in here and said that, it just slapped me on the side of the head.
“Our concern is the elderly in the community. What are they supposed to do? One woman came into my office who doesn’t drive. She said ‘it’s a long bike ride for me to do my banking.’ ”
Fraser says the losses to the community have added up over the last year.
“It’s been a really tough year for us,” he says. “We lost the Co-op hardware and now people are driving to Moosomin or Wawota to get their licences. Our community has taken a big hit over the last three years, but the bank is huge. Think of the volunteer groups and the banking they do. Now the volunteers will have to drive someplace to do a deposit.
“It’s huge, the hole it’s going to leave in our community. Council will hopefully meet with the bank and change their minds, but it sounds like their minds are made up.”
He said the loss could hurt the community “It’s very frustrating for us—we’ve lost three businesses in the last year,” he said. “There are going to be some groups organized to try to promote businesses coming into the community. We’ve got a great water source, quiet streets, good living conditions, everything’s paved. The corner store and the bar are very busy businesses. The corner store has a lot more people shopping locally. Any business in town is doing well. It’s hard to believe these big corporations can’t make money here.
“The comments in the letter and the comments that Ed (RBC’s regional manager) made were insulting to our community. I get the sense that the decision has been made and they don’t care about the community.
He said he was caught off guard by the the announcement. “When a new manger in the area is brought in they always come out to meet us. I assumed that’s what was happening. I just assumed I was being introduced to new banking personnel. When he said ‘there’s no good way to say this—we’re closing your bank,’ I could barely speak for the rest of the meeting, I was so angry.”
Theresa Walker raises sheep and cattle near Fairlight and believes strongly in the future of Maryfield.
She has written a letter to RBC questioning the decision to close the Maryfield branch.
“I wrote a 14-point letter complete with statistics,” she says. “This is an expanding town, and it doesn’t deserve this. I came here in 2002. It wasn’t expanding at the time.
“There were 84 pupils at the school when I came, it was down to 76 in 2008, and it’s up to 115 right now. Now all talk of closing the school is done.
“There were 20 vacant lots in 2002 and there are only three now, and there are some houses on lots that didn’t even exist in 2002. There are about 20 more families living in Maryfield itself than there were just a few years ago.
“The town is expanding, it’s not dying.”
She said the decision seems particularly unfair because the bank staff is excellent.
“I’ve never seen such a helpful bank during my life, on either side of the pond,” she says. (She moved to Saskatchewan from Britain a decade ago.)
“They’re just super. The bank is saying transaction numbers are down, but I’m sure they’re down all over the world.
“They say they have the interests of their shareholders in mind, and I’m sure that’s true, but some of these families have been banking there for 100 years. They’re so mad.”
Although she lives on a farm in the RM of Walpole, Walker says she deals with the Maryfield branch and believes the branch is important to people for a large area around Maryfield.
“Right now I’m helping my older daughter buy her first home in Maryfield. That’s an extra account I have with RBC,” she said. “For me it’s just a great place to do business.”
“My younger daughter has just had a baby. That little one will be attending Maryfield School. Maryfield is growing. That’s what makes me mad. I don’t like when people say something that’s actually wrong.
“My question is why they would close a bank in a growing community. I think they’ve underestimated the people of Maryfield and they have not done their homework. I’m just gobsmacked.”
Walker holds out hope that Maryfield can either convince bank officials to change their mind or attract another financial institution.
“Personally, I think we do have hope,” she said. “We have six months to work on this. Several of us will get together with the village and come up with a plan.”
John Van Eaton farms near Maryfield.
He’s very upset with the RBC announcement.
“It’s insensitive and it’s insulting,” he says. “The community has supported the Royal Bank for in excess of 100 years. There are families who have supported that branch for three or four generations. I can’t say how insulted they feel about this. It’s worse than frustrating.
“I can’t understand why they’re doing this. I can’t imagine that their overhead is killing them. If they think their clients will travel to a different location and still support the Royal Bank, then they’ve miscalculated.”
Van Eaton said he is hopeful bank officials will reconsider the decision.
“Their comments to date have been that the decision is final but I know there are efforts to have them at least reconsider,” he said.
“I know there are efforts in the direction, and if they don’t reconsider I know there will be a concerted effort to bring in another institution.”
Van Eaton said the bank is vital to the community.
“There are cornerstones you need, to have a viable community, and a financial institution is one of them,” he says.
Moosomin RBC branch manager Andellina Mayes said RBC investigated thoroughly before coming to its decision.
“We made this decision following a lengthy review process that examined a variety of factors such as changing branch traffic patterns, transaction volumes and types, marketplace patterns and enhancements in technology,” she said.
“We looked at many considerations and factors when making the difficult decision to consolidate the Maryfield Branch into the Moosomin Branch. This was not an easy decision.”
She said RBC is working with its Maryfield staff on options for them.
“We recognize the impact this change will have on our three employees in Maryfield and are working with them to find the best solution for each individual. In partnership with our employees, we are exploring all available opportunities, given individual career aspirations, skills and flexibility regarding location and are confidant that there are jobs available for those who want to continue with RBC.”
She also said there will be no restrictions on future use of the bank branch that would prevent another financial institution from coming to town—something people in Maryfield had been worried about.
“There will be no restrictions placed on the property,” she said.
She said she understands why people in Maryfield are upset. “We understand that change such as this can be difficult and we are committed to working with each client to find solutions that work best for them with this change,” she said. “We are grateful to the community of Maryfield for their support over the years and appreciate their valued business and we hope that our clients continue to choose to do business with us.”