Some small-town bad news

Marmora TD Bank

The TD Canada Trust branch in Marmora, slated to close in mid-2015 – bad news for Marmora residents. (Photo by Margriet Kitchen, Central Hastings News)

As a fairly newly arrived – or, more accurately, returned – resident of Queensborough (in particular) and rural Eastern Ontario (in general), I find myself observing and thinking a fair bit about the state of the local small towns. Much more than I did in my years as a resident of Montreal, though I’ve always had an interest in smaller places – and so, whenever Raymond and I would travel, I liked to analyze what made some small towns prosperous and attractive and others depressing and sad. I long ago reached the conclusion that a flourishing arts community and an interest in heritage preservation are two key factors in boosting a town’s fortunes and all-round economic health – well, that, and a willingness by local residents to support local businesses.

But speaking of local businesses, tonight I want to tell you about an unfortunate situation in the small town of Marmora, which is about 18 miles southwest of Queensborough (not far from the border with Peterborough County) out on Highway 7. Marmora’s similar in size and temperament to Madoc and Tweed, which are the other two towns right smack in the centre of tall, narrow Hastings County, and obviously every resident of this central Hastings area has a vested interest in seeing all three of those pretty and historic little towns do well.

But one of Canada’s big banks is not doing its part on that front, at least when it comes to Marmora. TD Canada Trust, the only bank in Marmora – where it has been operating for more than 60 years, right at the main intersection downtown – announced a short while ago that it is going to close the branch and merge it with one in Havelock, a town of similar size about 11 miles west across the Hastings-Peterborough county line. You can read the full story by Margriet Kitchen, the Central Hastings News‘s Marmora reporter, here.

So this development will mean that Marmora will have no bank at all. And a town without a bank is – well, it’s not a good situation. Not good at all. I understand that Marmora’s politicians are protesting the closure vehemently, as well they should. I hope they make a big stink about it and get everyone in town involved, and will shame TD into reversing its decision.

Now, I say that with sadness, because I myself have banked at TD all of my adult life and have always found it to be a well-run and consumer-friendly operation. The folks at the little TD branch in our town, Madoc, couldn’t be friendlier or more helpful, and it’s a pleasure to go in there. (Though I usually do my banking online or through the branch’s two ATMs.) But I have to say that this decision by TD corporate – I am dead certain it wasn’t the people at the Marmora branch itself who decided to close it – is a genuinely terrible one, and gives the bank a big black eye.

I mean, what will people who don’t have cars do if they need to visit a bank? As Margriet Kitchen’s article notes, there are a couple of ATMs in Marmora, but neither of them is TD-affiliated, so TD customers who use them to deposit or withdraw cash have to pay extra fees. And besides – the people who need, or at least prefer, to do their banking face-to-face with a teller are, let’s face it, usually older and less willing or able to use ATMs, let alone do telephone or online banking. And it’s just those more vulnerable people that this great big bank is punishing by trying to save a small amount of money in closing one little branch.

And what about business-owners in Marmora? Will they have to drive to Havelock or Madoc at the end of a long day of work in order to make their deposits? Apparently they will. Which will be a disincentive to anyone who might be considering starting up a shop, restaurant or office in that town. Why would you set up a business to a place that doesn’t even have a bank?

For shame, TD. It is to all Canadians’ benefit that our small towns not only survive, but flourish. You should be doing your part.

Ah, but: tomorrow I will have some small-town good news.

8 thoughts on “Some small-town bad news

  1. I agree fully with your sentiments that TD should feel shame about this decision but, alas, the trend is not a new one. Most, if not all, of Canada’s big banks have been closing significant numbers of their rural/small town branches. You describe well the effect that such a closing has on a community and on its diminished prospects in attracting businesses to the community.

    While I wish the local politicians well in their fight to get TD to change its mind (I heard an interview on CBC this morning with a local politician from Marmora), they might gain more by putting an effort into attracting a credit union. Credit unions have moved in, or been established, in some small Eastern Ontario communities after a bank has pulled out. In the rural area of Nova Scotia were I lived prior to coming to Eastern Ontario nearly thirty years ago, credit unions were found in places where banks would not go, and these credit unions generally did well because their focus was on serving local residents.

    Thanks for highlighting this situation on your blog.

    • Hey John, that is a most excellent point! Credit unions are (as I am sure you know) huge in Quebec; I had my first mortgage in Montreal with the Desjardins credit-union juggernaut, and it was delightful to get a nice financial payout (as all customers, who are really members, do) once a year. A great system, and a potentially very good solution for towns like Marmora.

  2. There must be a way around this. And TD should find a way to serve their customers, both personal and business, without a full-service branch. The bank that does this will be very successful. You can’t abandon communities in this way. You can’t say to potential businesses that there is no way for them to deposit their daily revenues.

  3. It is interesting to observe the reactions by Marmora residents towards the imminent closure of the TD Bank: in many ways, the reactions parallel the common stages of loss & grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.

    Since this is a corporate decision, one should NOT expect TD to reverse its decision, especially when their focus, like the other 4 Big Banks [RBC, CIBC, BMO, BNS], is to further increase their multi-billion dollar profits (http://business.financialpost.com/2013/12/06/canadian-banks-deliver-record-29-billion-profit-this-year-but-are-the-good-times-coming-to-an-end/, & http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/td-bank-profit-climbs-38-in-especially-strong-third-quarter/article20231606/). [Who knows how long it will be before the Madoc TD branch is also closed?]

    As non-Marmora residents, it is easy for the rest of us to move directly to the acceptance stage and ponder alternative banking arrangements for Marmora. Accordingly, I agree with John Young [above] that credit unions (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Credit_union) are definitely viable alternatives. [Disclaimer: personally, I’ve been a member of QuintEssential in Belleville for almost 20 years and have been eminently satisfied by their service.] While QuintEssential (www.qcu.ca) [2 branches: Belleville & Trenton] and Bayshore (www.bayshorecu.com/) [3 branches: Belleville, Trenton, Frankford] do not appear to be in expansion mode, the Kawartha Credit Union (www.kawarthacu.com/) does. It currently has 25 walk-in teller-service branches, mostly around Peterborough but also in outlying areas such as Bancroft, Coe Hill, Trenton, and as far east as Cornwall.

    So, perhaps the Marmora Chamber of Commerce & Municipal Council should consider some type of incentive package to encourage KCU to set up a branch there expeditiously.

    • That is most interesting, Great Gazoo, and a good potential solution for Marmora (and towns in a similar situation). There’s also the Ganaraska Credit Union in Port Hope, which has an excellent reputation for good customer service. I wonder if they’re in expansion mode…

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