South Peace News
It was not the answer McLennan town council wanted to hear.
There is no chance of keeping the ATB branch in town open past its eventual closure May 12, council heard at its March 14 meeting.
“. . .the decision to close our McLennan branch was not made lightly,” wrote Jeremy Friesen, vice-president, Everyday Financial Services, to council Feb. 28.
“While this decision will not be reconsidered, ATB does remain committed to rural communities and I look forward to collaborating with you to evolve our presence in McLennan,” Friesen added.
“I also stress that this decision was not influenced by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.”
The letter did not sit well with council, especially the part where Friesen asked for help.
“Nice letter,” said Councillor Marie-Anne Jones, hinting at a strong degree of sarcasm.
Mayor Jason Doris was not willing to help ATB locate an ATM in McLennan, after reading the news. Earlier, he repeatedly suggested to put the ATM in the existing branch and keep it open.
“Is there anything more we can do with this?” he asked council, who were out of ideas.
“I don’t know if there’s anything more we can do?
“I won’t go out of my way to help them,” concluded Doris.
In addition to losing a valuable service in town, council is upset after feeling they were misled last year regarding ATB’s commitment to the town.
“ATB always said they were committed to small communities,” wrote Doris in a letter to ATB on Feb. 22.
“In fact, McLennan town council had a meeting with the ATB branch manager, Tracy Gagne, 360 business advisor Nazil Lbrahim, and relationship manager Nichole Simard [June 14, 2021] and these ATB representatives stated ATB was committed to McLennan.”
Therefore, the notice of closure came as a surprise to council, although Doris was quick not to blame local staff.
“Obviously, these local representatives of ATB are not kept informed of what is truly happening in the higher branches of ATB.”
Doris wrote in his letter council felt ATB was “turning your back on us” regarding the decision to close.
Council received official word of closure Feb. 4. At the June 14, 2021 meeting, council heard the McLennan branch is one of the smallest branches in Alberta. Coupled with a decreasing regional population, the decline in customer interaction, plus the fact more customers are banking digitally, means any future decision may change if trends continue.
The “may change” has occurred.
“Our decision is based on extensive analysis of many factors, which determined that our McLennan location is no longer serving clients where and when they need us,” wrote Friesen.
“We’ve seen client preferences change; where clients of all ages are taking advantage of our digital banking options to a greater extent, given the convenience they provide. The majority of community members are also choosing to bank outside of McLennan and it is not sustainable for any business, including ATB, to maintain a physical presence where their services are underutilized.”
In an effort to stay open, Doris and council proposed cutting the number of days the McLennan branch is open to three from five, or reduced hours, but it fell on deaf ears.
“We understand there would still be operational cost; however, ATB was built to help Albertans and with no longer having agencies and the recent announcement of closing the McLennan branch, how is this helping Albertans in our area?” asked Doris in his letter.
Doris warned ATB of a potential loss in customers.
“We are mainly a retirement community and our residents have already told us that if ATB closes its doors, they will be changing banking institutions.”