No one in Ilderton, Ont., is happy about the news, but Debbie Heffernan has more reasons than most to be angry about CIBC’s plans to permanently close the town’s only bank.
Heffernan is a lifelong resident of the farming community north of London and retired after spending 35 years working for CIBC, including 25 years at the Ilderton branch. She’s also a Ward 1 councillor for Middlesex Centre, which includes Ilderton.
“I was in complete shock, I’ve been here since childhood basically,” she said about CIBC’s letters sent to clients last week announcing the bank would close on April 4 of next year. “It affects a lot of people.”
Those affected include owners of businesses along the town’s small commercial strip, merchants who use the bank for everything from deposits to exchanging bills. Although the town’s population is less than 3,000 people, Ilderton is growing with new subdivisions popping up on the town’s outskirts.
Many of the bank’s customers are seniors who Heffernan said often don’t bank online. From her working years, Heffernan knows that many of the area’s farmers prefer coming into the bank to deal with staff they know rather than banking online or by phone.
“The effect on the farmers is going to be tremendous,” said Heffernan.
The letter sent to clients said all accounts would be automatically moved to the bank’s branch at Masonville Mall, about 15 kilometres away in north London.
In a statement to CBC News, CIBC said the decision to close any branch “is not taken lightly” and that changing business conditions forced the closure.
“Our Ilderton Banking Centre has experienced lower business volumes for some time, and currently more than 90 per cent of our client transactions take place outside of a banking centre, through mobile, online and telephone banking,” the statement said.
“As a result of this shift, we’ve made adjustments to our network.”
Heffernan said the branch has traditionally been profitable, even after many of its services have been shifted to other branches.
“We really need this branch,” said Heffernan, who said the branch has remained profitable even as it’s reduced services at that location over the years. “The town is growing, businesses are growing and CIBC is ducking out.”
CIBC’s departure will mean there will be nowhere to bank in town. Heffernan said even the CIBC bank machine is going.
Business owners concerned
Kathy Nixey owns Floral Temptations in Ilderton’s small commercial strip.
“It’s devastating, to be honest,” she said about the closure. “A lot of our seniors don’t drive and don’t use online banks so it’s going to be a problem for them. I guess this is about the bottom line for CIBC but they shouldn’t forget about what a hub the bank is.”
Heffernan has many good memories working at the branch. She recalls when the old brick bank building beside the more modern one was closed in 1980 and the vault had to be moved under police escort.
There have also been some challenging times.
In 1982 she was pepper sprayed when two men tried to rob the bank but were caught nearby.
There has been a bank on that block since 1906. CIBC began its operations there in 1928.
Ilderton isn’t the only town to struggle with the loss of a bank branch. There have been pushbacks against closures in many small towns.
Residents in Grand Bend, Ont., recently learned that BMO is closing its brand there.
Meanwhile, in a recent Facebook post, Heffernan encouraged residents to complain to the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, a federal body tasked with protecting the rights of consumers who use financial products and services.
“It may not work, but nothing ventured, nothing gained!” wrote Heffernan.