CIBC unequivocal on Blyth branch's closure - April 26, 2018
BY DENNY SCOTT
The message from CIBC representatives at last week’s public meeting regarding the Blyth branch was clear and repeated: the branch is closing.
Jon Kastikainen, one of three CIBC representatives at the meeting, stated that the company wanted no mixed messages: the branch will close in September.
While the company, according to Kastikainen, respected the amount of effort Blyth and its residents were putting into keeping the branch, he said he wanted no confusion about the future of the Blyth branch.
Kastikainen, both at the beginning of the meeting and through answering questions regarding the closure, pointed to a provincial banking trend that saw 80 per cent of users no longer utilizing bank branches as a reason for the closure. He said that number was forecast to increase to 90 per cent by 2020. He also said he wouldn’t comment on the commercial success of any branch, but did say that Blyth’s branch was in the lowest 10 per cent, nationally, for generating new business. He reiterated, however, that the decision was not dictated by the banking centre’s performance.
Kastikainen said Blyth and area customers could move their services to Wingham, or another CIBC branch, or use phone and online banking opportunities.
CIBC also will not be placing an ATM in the area. Kastikainen explained that history has shown that low usage will likely result in the ATM’s removal.
The one note to the removal of the current ATM was that CIBC would leave it in place for the duration of the Festival of Wizardry in Blyth this year. The ATM was scheduled to be removed when the bank closed, just prior to the event.
Kastikainen also explained that Blyth branch customers should see no interruption of service. Any automatic withdrawals or deposits would be switched over by the bank to the new Wingham accounts. He also said that cheques and debit cards would still work and didn’t require any changes.
Blyth’s John Stadelmann asked what would happen with the bank building. Kastikainen said the bank building would be placed on the open market four to six months after the closure.
He also explained, later in the meeting, that CIBC had no intention of instituting a no-compete clause in the sale, meaning if another financial institute bought the bank they could use it immediately.
Irene Kellins of Stitches with a Twist in Blyth presented the petition that she and other concerned citizens created which included 557 signatures as well as some comments.
Kastikainen appreciated the effort, but said the decision had been made and, while it was a difficult one, it wouldn’t be revisited.
Throughout the meeting, Kellins, alongside other business owners, said the closure would have negative impacts on local businesses and shoppers, pointing to weather as preventing them from getting to other branches as well as problems with refilling registers. Kastikainen said that, for companies that deal in cash and need to have deposits made with any regularity, it would be on the businesses to adapt to accommodate that.
Londesborough-area resident Ken Scott said that, while online banking can fill a need, it doesn’t replace seeing friendly faces. He went on to say that, when the branch closes, it could leave customers wondering if they wanted to switch financial institutions.
Ryan Walters, CIBC District Vice President of Western Ontario, said the friendly faces Scott referred to would still be around.
“All those friendly faces will keep their jobs,” he said. “They will be placed in local centres. We will find out where they want to go, it won’t be assigned. Clients are usually comforted by that.”
Crystal Taylor, a Morris-Turnberry resident, asked why Wingham was chosen as the new home branch for Blyth customers.
Taylor was told she was free to switch to any branch she wanted, and was also informed that, with inter-bank branching, switching to another centre wasn’t necessary.
Kellins also said that CIBC should consider, when reviewing the closure, that many local customers take money out of ATMs to avoid using debit cards at local businesses, which cost the business transaction fees.
Kastikainen suggested that local businesses could start offering cash back as a means to provide money and also reduce the amount of night deposits necessary. Unfortunately, as several business owners and employees pointed out, when the businesses need money to fill their registers, there will be no option to get cash or change without driving to Wingham.
Lorie Falconer also spoke, saying she felt that CIBC had encouraged people to use online banking, and that now, the community felt following that advice had robbed it of its bank branch.
“We feel crushed by that because we followed those directions,” she said.
Karen Stewart suggested the bank could partner with a local business to try and provide change and cash as well as a night-time drop-off location, however Kastikainen and the other representatives didn’t seem interested in the suggestion.
For more information on the closure, contact CIBC’s Blyth branch or Kastikainen at 416-351-4272.