Middle Lake meets about Conexus branch closure

MIDDLE LAKE — Conexus Credit Union representatives met with Middle Lake and area residence to discuss the closure of the town's branch.

The credit union gave the town of Middle Lake 120 days notice prior to the branch’s closure on Oct. 2 this year. It is one of nine Conexus branches closing throughout the province as the credit unions shifts in focus to online banking, said Jacques DeCorby, executive vice president in retail banking.

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“Banking is changing. The world is changing dramatically around us,” DeCorby told around 70 residents gathered at Middle Lake’s Uniplex on June 10.

He said less than five per cent of transactions by Middle Lake Conexus members were made physically in the Middle Lake branch. The grand majority were made through cheque, phone, or online banking.

“Decisions like this,” DeCorby said, “they are the most difficult decisions your credit union makes.”

“The meeting tonight was disappointing for everybody,” Sharon Carter, the chair of the Three Lakes Economic Development Region, told The Recorder.

Indeed, every attendee that spoke during the meeting was upset with Conexus’s closure of the Middle Lake branch. The chief concern raised was a lack of consultation or compromise between Conexus and the town.

“If there could have been an answer either to an ATM, or one day of banking a week … we would feel like human beings, like we were being listened to,” Carter said. “That's not what we got today.”

DeCorby said it wasn’t possible to keep the bank open one day a week and that an ATM would not be able to pay for itself.

Lisa Irlbeck, administrator at Bethany Pioneer Village within Middle Lake, said seniors make up nearly 40 per cent of Middle Lake’s population. Many lack mobility to Conexus branches in other cities such as Humboldt, and are unfamiliar with online banking.

“Education in that aspect, especially for our seniors, would have helped people understand why things are going in this direction,” Carter said.

Irlbeck said around 60 per cent of the senior village’s 100 residents do not drive or have means to leave Middle Lake for banking. Bethany Village itself is “very cash intensive,” Irlbeck said. At least five residence withdraw funds from Bethany Village per day.

DeCorby said Conexus would be making a point to personally contact every Conexus Middle Lake member who interacted with the physical branch in the last six months to help in adjusting them to online banking.  

“Any unhappiness or anger that is in this room today is not about change – we know about change,” Carter told DeCorby and attendees. “Right now our hearts are breaking for our elders who, with perseverance and pride in 1946 built Middle Lake’s Credit Union into a viable, thriving member-owned business.

There will be an economic development meeting on June 20. Carter said at that meeting, the community may look at other available options – other than Conexus.

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