RODDICKTON-BIDE ARM, N.L.
NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR
The future of banking in Roddickton-Bide Arm is up in the air as its Scotiabank branch plans to close its doors.
Scotiabank has confirmed with The Northern Pen that the Roddickton-Bide Arm branch (a sub-branch of Flower’s Cove) will close over a year from now on Oct. 9, 2019.
Letters to customers with details of the consolidation will be distributed on Oct. 26 of this year.
However, the news leaked and has spread throughout the community with many people feeling unhappy with the decision.
Roddickton-Bide Arm Mayor Sheila Fitzgerald has numerous concerns.
“The implications for our community are huge,” she told The Northern Pen.
One of her primary concerns was the ability of seniors to get access to banking services.
Fitzgerald explains that many seniors haven’t adapted to online banking and prefer to do so at a physical establishment.
Meanwhile, it’s harder for some to get transportation access as family members are not always available to bring them to the nearest branches in Flower’s Cove (111 km away) or St. Anthony (129 km away).
Furthermore, there are no public transportation services to bring residents to these branches.
With harsh weather conditions in the winter, it would become harder for everyone, but especially seniors and those on income support, to avail of these services elsewhere.
Fitzgerald emphasizes how many people this affects. She points out that the Roddickton-Bide Arm establishment also services residents and businesses in neighbouring communities, including Main Brook, Conche and Englee.
She broke down the numbers and estimates 46 per cent of the population in those four municipalities is 55 or older, while 27 per cent are 65 or over.
Roddickton-Bide Arm author Earl Pilgrim is one of the seniors who utilizes services at the institution.
He recalls how things were before the Roddickton-Bide Arm branch was opened in 1980.
“Before they put the bank in Roddickton, it was so complicated,” he told The Northern Pen. “You had to go to Flower’s Cove or St. Anthony. Since they put it (the bank) here, everybody has depended upon that.”
There are also concerns around how this closure will impact local businesses.
According to Fitzgerald, as well as business owner Perry Fillier, many people travelling from Main Brook, Englee, Conche and other communities to do banking in Roddickton-Bide Arm, shop, get fuel and make hospital appointments while in town.
Now, they’ll be travelling to Flower’s Cove or St. Anthony instead and taking this extra business with them to those other towns.
“In terms of public services, if those services aren’t being utilized here, do you think they’ll be maintained?” Fitzgerald asked.
Fillier, who owns the Foodland and Home Hardware in Roddickton-Bide Arm, says this is definitely a possibility.
He’s concerned it paints a bleak picture for the town’s economic future.
“The community is always looking at ways to bring people to the area, to create a bigger population, change the demographics a bit, and if there’s no bank that deters people from coming,” he said. “Obviously the first thing you look at for a community is whether all these essential services are there and, obviously, a bank is an essential service to most people.”
St. Barbe – L’Anse aux Meadows MHA Christopher Mitchelmore also provided a comment to The Northern Pen on Sept 13. At the time, Mitchelmore said he had not been informed of any changes but expressed support for the continuation of the bank in Roddickton-Bide Arm.
“Access to banking services is important for all communities, for both residents and business. My office has not been informed of any changes at this time at the bank in Roddickton and we have not received calls from constituents,” he wrote to The Northern Pen. “As MHA, I certainly support continuation of this bank in the community. It is important that the financial services that banks provide be accessible to both urban and rural areas of N.L. to help build stronger communities and grow economic development opportunities.”
Mitchelmore encourages other financial institutions, such as the Eagle River Credit Union, to consider opening a branch in Roddickton-Bide Arm.
Scotiabank has scheduled a public meeting at the town hall in Roddickton-Bide Arm for Monday, Sept. 24.
Fitzgerald, Pilgrim and Fillier expressed hope the institution would reconsider its decision.
The branch was open part time on Tuesdays and Thursdays (10 a.m.-3 p.m.) and Fridays (10 a.m.-4 p.m.).
Scotiabank explained its decision in an email to The Northern Pen.
The institution said 80 per cent of banking transactions now take place outside the branch.
“Like any business, we regularly review our branch network, the number of customers that we serve in the market area, and the way that those customers are doing their banking,” the statement read. “Our review includes a full area market analysis and is not limited to one branch, or to rural or urban areas. That review includes such things as proximity of the branch to other Scotiabank branches and customer traffic at branches across the market area.
“After careful consideration of our operations in this community, we have made the difficult decision that we cannot continue to operate this branch.”