The loss of Turner Valley’s only bank last month has left the Diamond Valley area with one fewer local option and forces many patrons to look elsewhere.
The Turner Valley branch of the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) closed its doors at the end of 2017 and a opened a second Okotoks location.
Several former clients the Western Wheel spoke to say they cancelled accounts with the RBC and are now banking with the Alberta Treasury Branch (ATB) in Black Diamond, while others remained with the RBC, meaning they have to drive to Okotoks to do their banking.
In the spring of 2017, RBC sent letters to its Turner Valley clients informing them it will relocate to a second branch in Okotoks in December due to a reduction in foot traffic.
The bank claims that 89 per cent of its customers bank online, over the phone and via ATM machines.
Muriel Dais, who lives southwest of Turner Valley, transferred her business to the Black Diamond ATB and left only a few dollars in an account with the RBC – just in case.
“What my routine used to be was to go the library, post office and Royal Bank and that’s all on the Main Street of Turner Valley,” she said. “Now I have to go to ATB.”
While the drive isn’t far, just three kilometres from where the RBC brick building still stands, she said parking has been a challenge.
“Sometimes I can’t find any parking within eight car lengths of the ATB,” she said. “I’ve had to park behind (the building) and I found that really bad when it was cold because of my COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). Any kind of exertion, even talking, I have to take quite a gasping breath.
“There was always parking in the parking lot or in front of the Royal Bank.”
Dan Denning had an account with the Turner Valley RBC since his parents opened it shortly after he was born more than 60 years ago. He too switched to the ATB in Black Diamond.
“Okotoks isn’t convenient,” he said. “I don’t care if someone in Toronto thinks it’s only a 20-minute drive. To me it’s a really bad inconvenience. The only saving grace is the treasury branch in Black Diamond.”
Unlike many people in today’s technological-dominating world, Denning doesn’t bank online.
“All my deposits are done face-to-face,” he said. “I don’t have a credit card. I do everything in cash.”
Denning hasn’t been able to avoid doing business at the Royal Bank altogether. His elderly mom has kept her accounts with the major financial institution and Denning does a lot of her banking for her, which means making trips into Okotoks.
Frequent trips to the new RBC branch in Okotoks are not an option for staff at the Town of Turner Valley, who often need to make change for citizens paying utility bills, taxes, licenses and other fees.
“We have a lot of customers that come in and want to pay cash, so that is a huge thing for us not being able to get change,” said Heather Thomson, interim chief administrative officer. “Even things like our petty cash we can’t get change so we basically closed our petty cash account.”
Thomson said administration is discussing opening an account at a closer financial institution to better meet these needs.
“We can’t run to Okotoks to get change and the RBC has told us they can’t bring us change,” she said. “That’s the biggest thing that’s affecting us at this point in time is getting cash period.”
Marlene Ryks, branch manager with ATB in Black Diamond, said the bank has seen an influx of new customers since the neighbouring RBC closed, but wouldn’t comment on how much. The bank is the only financial institution in Black Diamond.
“Specifically, here, we have seen some people who have chosen to bank with ATB and we would welcome the opportunity to talk with others who are feeling displaced as well,” she said. “We are here in this community for our community.”
In response to the Western Wheel’s inquiry about the closure, RBC corporate communications advisor Joelle Savard sent an email replying, “We are unable to comment as RBC does not disclose information on client relationships.”