All services to be amalgamated to Little Current; Mindemoya closing

MINDEMOYA—Mindemoya businesses and residents were shocked to discover that Northern Credit Union intends to close its Mindemoya branch. In a press release sent to The Expositor late last week, the company that took over operations of the former Espanola and District Credit Union five years ago announced that the Mindemoya branch would be closing its doors on November 30.

“Nothern will give its Mindemoya members four months to help with the transition,” reports the news release.

The news was received by local members of the Northern Credit Union delegate group after it was released to local politicians and the media, leaving some delegates privately disgruntled that they were not given advance notice in order to be better prepared to answer questions. The issue is likely to be discussed at the next delegate meeting scheduled for August 18.

The release notes that “While the credit union will no longer offer a bricks and mortar location in Mindemoya, its valued members will be able to access the physical branch in Little Current and Espanola. Or, if these members prefer, they can conduct their in-branch duties at any one of Northern’s 32 branches located across Northern Ontario.”

“I received an email earlier this week,” said Central Manitoulin Mayor Richard Stephens. “I was a little bit disappointed that we didn’t get some advance warning at the municipal level.”

Mayor Stephens did have an opportunity to engage with one of the company vice presidents at the Mindemoya branch on Thursday. “I expressed to him my concern that we had spent a long time at the credit union trying to bring them in because Central Manitoulin is a growing community.” The vice president, Steve Hatzipantelis, assistant vice president retail sales and service, reiterated much of what was in the press release. “He talked about the change in banking and how bricks and mortar operations are not needed so much anymore and that a lot of banking is moving to telephone and the Internet these days,” recalled Mayor Stephens. “I haven’t been able to speak to all of council, but I have spoken with a couple of them and they too expressed their concern. But it is a business and at the end of the day you can’t do too much about it.”

Mayor Stephens noted that the official did indicate that the lease on the current location was coming up. “In the end I guess they looked at things and decided it wasn’t a viable location for them.”

A statement from the Al Suraci, Northern Credit Union CEO, notes: “This consolidation was a very hard decision. I want to assure our esteemed members that we always keep their best interests at heart. This consolidation may not seem to be in-line with this commitment, however, I can promise our members and Northern staff that this decision was made for the overall good of our credit union.”

The credit union points out that “Mindemoya members are also extended a host of other banking options to help ensure they continue to receive the same high level of service they have become accustomed to. These include online banking and digital procurement tools and resources that allow them to access Northern’s products and services online—everything from chequing and savings accounts to investments and more.”

The press release goes on to say that it is “doing its best to ensure that all Mindemoya employees remain a part of Northern and will serve in their current capacity, or be extended opportunities to further their career.”

In the letter sent to local politicians, Mr. Suraci notes that “These past few years, Northern Credit Union has achieved countless community- and business-related goals, all working towards making us the one true financial institution of the North. While we continue along this successful journey, we are not immune to change, along with the adverse effects it can have.”

The missive from the CEO to local political leaders, which includes the information sent in the press release cited above, adds that: “To continue with our 60-plus year history of keeping it True North Strong, this consolidation was necessary. You see, the banking industry has changed. Where banks, credit unions and other financial institutions were opening more branches not so long ago, today, these same organizations are operating from less physical locations than ever before. Northern is certainly not immune to these changes, which is why we have come to this decision.”

“I just found out,” said Jim Gilpin of Spring Bay, former chair of the Espanola and District Credit Union who was at the helm when that organization was subsumed by Northern Credit Union, where he is now a delegate.  “I am very disappointed to see it go.” Mr. Gilpin said that he was under the impression, although not specifically stated at the time by Northern, that the Mindemoya location would stand for at least five years. “That was our general understanding,” he said.

Members of the board and delegate group were reluctant to speak on the record about the closure, noting that it is the chair who speaks for the board.

“Not avoiding you but I don’t have anymore information that I can add,” replied delegate member Steve Schaffer. “I’m still digesting the announcement myself. Our delegate group has it as an important agenda item for our August meeting.” Mr. Schaffer referred The Expositor to delegate committee chair Jim Brandow.