For South Peace News
As of noon Nov. 27, the Kinuso Alberta Treasury Branch is closing.
But residents are petitioning to keep it open.
It is the only bank in the hamlet.
“We have petitions all over,” says Donna Holmes, Swan River First Nation Social Development Director.
The closure of the bank will impact the whole community, but will be especially hard on the Elders, many of whom don’t have vehicles to drive to Slave Lake or High Prairie to go to the bank.
Swan River and the Hamlet of Kinuso are joined at the hip into one community.
“Kinuso is a seniors’ town,” says Tony Ahn, owner of Kinuso AG Foods.
Many seniors do not have computers to do Internet banking. Sporadic Internet outside of town is another reason residents might not be able to switch to online banking from in-branch banking.
“At ATB, our customers are at the heart of everything we do,” Aly Sumar, senior vice president at ATB Financial, says.
“A closure is only done after extensive consideration of many factors including the frequency of in-branch transactions and ensuring we can continue to support our customers, both virtually and at other ATB locations nearby,” he adds.
“We have listened to the local community and our teams are considering their feedback. In the meantime, we continue to work with the community to make banking work for our local customers.”
“I’ve been on the phone since I heard this [closure],” says Holmes, “talking to anyone who can keep it open.”
So far, she’s left messages at ATB, Big Lakes County, MLA Pat Rehn’s office, etc.
There are petitions in all of the businesses in Kinuso and at the band office. Petitions are collected twice a week. As of Nov. 4, 260 people had signed. The petitions were sent to the ATB in Slave Lake and upper management.
Kinuso is an ATB Financial agency, not a branch. A full-service branch is distinct from an agency in its operations. The Kinuso agency has been open since 1993.
The woman who currently runs the bank is retiring, says Holmes. There is someone lined up and willing to take over the franchise, but ATB decided to close the bank instead.
The current and potential future franchise owner was not able to comment on the closure.
There are 468 people living on Swan River, says Holmes. Over half of these are adults, the majority use the ATB. Not all of them have accounts, but they cash their cheques there.
Ahn has banked with ATB for over 20 years. Asked what impact the ATB closure while have on his business he says, “I think a lot, because most of our residents in Kinuso have an ATB account. And surrounding communities as well. Because the ATB is here, they come to Kinuso and stop by my business, as well.”
The nearby communities are Faust and Driftpile First Nation. As of 2016, says Stats Canada, the population of Kinuso was 182, Faust was 261, Driftpile First Nation was 825.
Another challenge facing Ahn is what to do about daily cash deposits once the only bank in town closes.
“We’re trying to talk them [ATB] into staying,” says Barry Boisvert, owner of Kinuso Mercantile.
The store currently banks with RBC, but Boisvert is willing to switch if it means keeping a bank in Kinuso.
The closure will make it difficult for non-profits, who depend on volunteers, says local resident Everett Samuel- son, who owns a business and volunteers.
At the moment, the Kinuso ATB is open from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday to Friday.