British Columbia

Withdrawal: Fraser Lake losing only bank in town

The community of Fraser Lake, B.C. will no longer have a brick-and-mortar bank by next fall. The next closest bank is a 40-minute drive away and mayor Sarrah Storey is worried about the impact on residents and businesses.

'I don't know what we're going to do,' says mayor Sarrah Storey

The CIBC bank in Fraser Lake is shutting its doors in September. The bank says the majority of clients in the rural community are doing their banking digitally. (Shutterstock)

The mayor of a small village in Central B.C. is worried the departure of its only brick-and-mortar bank will further erode the quality of life for residents.

The Village of Fraser Lake, about two hours west of Prince George, will lose its CIBC Fraser Lake Banking Centre on September 12, 2019.

"I don't know what we are going to do," Mayor Sarrah Storey told CBC Daybreak North host Carolina de Ryk.

Fraser Lake B.C. is about a two hour drive from Prince George. Its only bank, which will close in September 2019, is highlighted with the burgundy box. (Google Maps)

Anyone needing in-person banking services will have to commute 40 minutes by car to Vanderhoof.

Tough times for Fraser Lake

Fraser Lake has about 1000 residents but has lost its grocery store and endured the shuttering of a local mine. A local sawmill is also expected to reduce its workforce in 2019.

As for the banking closure, Storey said she is concerned for seniors who are less likely to use online banking and for business owners who have large cash deposits. She said local business owners have already reached out to her and are panicked about CIBC's withdrawal.

Simon Fraser University business professor Peter Tingling is not surprised to hear about a bank pulling out of rural community.

"The surprise in many ways is that it's taken as long as it has and that the banks have been as patient as they have been," Tingling told de Ryk.

Technology trumping tellers

Tingling said the cost of operating some branches is not worth it for big banks given that people are no longer relying on in-person transactions as much as they once were.

"More and more of us are seeking out alternative channels and to a large degree the banks are grappling with restructuring their own industry," said Tingling.

Online banking training

According to a statement from CIBC, over 80 per cent of client transactions take place outside of a banking centre through online, mobile and telephone banking. The statement says the majority of Fraser Lake clients use digital options but that staff will work with clients in the coming months who need to learn.

Mayor Storey said she is also planning literacy training for seniors in Fraser Lake and elders in neighbouring First Nations communities to prepare them for September.

In June 2016, Fraser Lake lost its only grocery store when SuperValu shut its doors permanently. The community was hit hard economically when the Endako Mine, which employed more than 350 people, closed in 2014.

Another 60 people are expected to lose their jobs in 2019 at the local sawmill, where the workforce is being reduced, according to a press release from West Fraser, the company that operates the mill.

With files from Daybreak North