BMO shutting down Lunenburg branch

by Evan Bower

  • <p>EVAN BOWER PHOTO</p><p>Lunenburg&#8217;s Bank of Montreal branch will merge its operations with Mahone Bay this summer, but the company vows to keep an ATM and night depository in Old Town.</p>

This summer, Lunenburg will be without a Bank of Montreal branch for the first time in over 125 years.

On August 18 the bank will close the doors of its distinctive dome building on King Street for good, and begin to move its accounts and safety deposit boxes to the Mahone Bay location.

"Obviously we did not make this decision lightly," said Lee Winchester, regional vice president of Bank of Montreal.

"We know that every community branch has a local history and of course local customers who're used to doing their banking a certain way, but this move is really about finding a way to deliver higher quality and consistent banking solutions to our customers."

The bank is holding a public meeting on March 7 at the Lunenburg Legion to discuss the move with the community.

Before then, Lunenburg town council is sending a letter to BMO and the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada expressing its disappointment in the lack of consultation over the move.

"I just think we're probably small enough that they don't care,"said Mayor Rachel Bailey at a February 14 council meeting.

"I think the fact that they're moving out of a prime location and a very high profile community is not necessarily to their ultimate benefit, but I don't think they look that far into it. I do think it might be worth our while to point some of those things out to them."

Until it made the decision to close, the bank operated three branches-one in Lunenburg, Bridgewater and Mahone Bay-all within a 20 kilometre radius.

Winchester says closing one branch is a way to broaden their services without spreading themselves too thin. The Mahone Bay location was chosen as the one to keep because it's a bigger, more modern building.

"It's a larger facility that allows us to have more employees and services provided than we could potentially do in Lunenburg," he said. "The other thing too is that it's a larger branch from a business perspective. We have a bigger share of the business in Mahone Bay; we're the only bank in town."

An ATM will remain in operation in the Lunenburg location until the building sells, and they intend to keep one in town after that point and are currently exploring where to put it.

The bank will also continue to operate a night depository in town for its commercial customers, and Winchester says the entire Lunenburg staff is being transferred to Mahone Bay.

According to an address in the legislature by Lunenburg MLA Suzanne Lohnes-Croft in 2014, the BMO branch made the move from its original spot on Montague Street to its current location in 1908. Winchester says the company feels an obligation to find a new owner who respects the building's history in the town.

"What we do know is that there is lots of interest in the building, so it's not like that building will be mothballed or locked to go to ruins," he said.

"What we have to do is make sure that we're doing our due diligence, that it goes into the right hands of a reputable owner that will look after the building in the manner that it deserves."

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