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CIBC Bloomfield: The Final Chapter

Steve Campbell

It’s been a while since I’ve addressed the issue of the closing of the CIBC bank in Bloomfield which, as time marches on, looms ever closer. I can’t say that this was a heartless, thoughtless and plain bonehead stupid move – even from a financial point of view, and a total disregard for customer service. And by that, I mean I probably can’t say it.

In one way, the Bloomfield Town Hall meeting went well, in that all of the locals behaved themselves well, with pointed concerns displaying clear passion, but not with anger and disrespect. Score one for our team, in both heart and in being the only ones in the room who understood the complexities of the needs of a rural Ontario village, versus pieces of paper forged in a very tall and expensive building in the beating heart of downtown Toronto.

The other side? Well let’s just say CIBC brought in a ringer to run the meeting. Not Dean Chapman, the District VP, who was supposed to run the meeting. Mr. C was indeed there, but uttered not a word, even when asked a direct question from the audience. Jon K ran the meeting. He was good looking, extremely slick and personable, and wearing a way better suit than the rest of us. Not a bad guy, by any means, but clearly sent to read from the stone tablets of some corporate ‘business plan’ that was ‘inalterable’, according to him. I suspect even Moses, with his two tablets, couldn’t have put together a more adamant position than Jon, much to the frustration of our people.

I drafted a final letter to CIBC CEO Victor Dodig – who was alleged to be a proponent of what we now laughingly call ‘customer service’ – and it appears below.

But first, some highlights from the meeting: My favorite, after a discussion of parking and traffic issues in Picton: Someone at the back shouted, ‘Why don’t you move the Picton branch to Bloomfield? Then everybody would be happy!” Wellington-on-the-Lake was well represented at the meeting, and one person noted: “My kids can use their iPads for their banking, because I bought them for them. Are you now only serving 20- to 40-year-olds? I’m retired now, but I’ve got LOTS of money. You don’t want me anymore?”

Bloomfield’s business owners were also out in force, expressing concern over their specific needs: Acquiring coin and small bills in a hurry (since bank machines only give out big bills), direct deposits across the counter with (uggh) humans, and the need to stay close to their businesses during the course of a busy shopping day. Also noted was that some of the businesses in our village are ‘cash only’, which often takes city debit-card users by surprise. Quick trip to the bank machine? Sorry, CIBC’s promise to relocate the ATM in January has hit expected stumbling blocks. Obviously, where in Bloomfield can you find a place that has 24-hour access and is completely secure with a full alarm system and video surveillance? Five people at the meeting declared that they would be moving all their accounts – bank accounts, mortgages, investments – to other, more accessible banks, such as Wellington’s Scotiabank. Open road and a breezy drive, versus stopped traffic and a void of parking spaces, particularly in the summer months.

Dear Mr. Dodig: In case you thought the Bloomfield Town Hall meeting went exceptionally well, I would like to offer my final words on the subject to you. Though your email and phone lines have gone silent, this is not a representation of the anger and frustration that residents of Bloomfield and outskirts feel as a result of that meeting. Don’t get me wrong … Jon K did an excellent job reciting the CIBC agenda, and sticking firmly to some sort of ‘business plan’ which is unalterable … “set in stone,” as he said. I might note here that I also have a business plan.

Though I am miniscule by CIBC standards, mine has flexibility to accommodate the needs of my clients, as they occur, unpredictably. This builds my business. Though many of those present at the meeting voiced their concerns well, and passionately … without angry tirades … it became evident quickly that this decision was final. I liken it to bouncing a ball against a wall, and having it return to the same spot each time. Regardless of the concern, it was met with: “The branch will close, but we have many other banking options, etc. etc.” in response. So you can be proud of your ‘communications’ person for sticking to script, but you should be aware that everyone in the room left feeling abandoned, and with the deep belief that CIBC no longer cared about customer service. And that the individual needs of seniors and mobility-challenged, as well as farmers, businesses, and long-time customers were discardable, in pursuit of the plan.

Last week, while standing in line in your busy Bloomfield branch, I witnessed an elderly woman closing all of her accounts, and gathering it into a bank draft. I suspect she is an early bird in the exodus to come.
All of us in rural Ontario know the heartlessness of large, urban-based corporations … and that trying to achieve a simple and cost-efficient solution is pointless. This would be: To maintain the status quo. Two tellers, three days a week for four hours each day, in a building you already own.

We were basically asking you to Do Nothing. If I got up in the morning and asked my wife, “What would you like me to do today?” and she answered, “Nothing!” I would be thrilled. As I mentioned at the meeting, with good representation from businesses like mine and larger: “A basic principle of business is to keep costs to a minimum, and maximize your profits.” Even tiny businesses understand that.

But CIBC says, “No. We don’t like that concept.” If this is your business plan, it’s no surprise that CIBC is #5 on the list of top five Canadian banks. It’s because you are followers, and not leaders. If you want to take centre stage, keep your humans, and promote yourself as The People Bank AND we have the hottest tech machines too! That would stand you out from the crowd, and bring back the days when someone at the bank met you at the door and said, “How may we help you today?”

Strange for me to give advice to a corporation of your stature, but putting your heart forward – and honestly – sustains your existing clients, and draws new ones. Having a machine just doesn’t cut it. I don’t jump for joy when a receipt prints out Have A Nice Day. I suspect it doesn’t really mean it. Or you could also change your acronym to Corporation Ignoring Banking Customers. You wouldn’t even have to change the logo!

Wish I were the penguin in your TV ads. Then we all might get the service we long for.

Filed Under: News from Everywhere ElseSteve Campbell

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  1. Chuck says:

    If the other so called banks have such big hearts, why hasn’t one jumped at the opportunity to come in and provide services? Seriously they are pretty much the same meaning the bottom line.

  2. Lynda says:

    Well done Steve, as usual.
    I too will be moving my accounts to a bank with heart.

  3. wevil says:

    CIBC does not care about people it only cares about its top earnings

  4. Bloomfieldian says:

    Yesterday, August 23rd, the cash machine at the Bloomfield CIBC ran out of money…

  5. Borys Holowacz says:

    From the August 24, 2017 issue of the Financial Post:

    Adjusted earnings were $2.77 per share or $1.17 billion in the three months ended July 31, up from $1.07 billion a year ago, while revenue was steady at $4.1 billion.
    CIBC’s core retail and business banking unit in Canada grew net income by eight per cent to $719 million.

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