A sign greeting RBC customers at the downtown Vernon branch tells of the institution’s move to a different location come September. (Jennifer Blake - Morning Star)

Financial – and Okanagan – institution leaving downtown

RBC has been located in downtown Vernon for more than 100 years but is moving come September

It’s part of downtown Vernon’s Bank Corner, at the intersection of 30th Avenue and 32nd Street.

RBC, or the Royal Bank, sits on the northwest corner, directly across from CIBC, and was diagonally across the way from Bank of Montreal, or BMO, which has since moved south down 32nd Street.

After 114 years – and 105 at the current location in Vernon’s downtown core – RBC has announced to customers it’s moving the branch to its The Shops at Polson Park branch, effective this fall.

“On Sept. 13, this branch is moving,” says a notice posted in the window. “We look forward to welcoming you at our Polson Place branch.”

The downtown RBC will close at 5 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 12.

“It was a difficult decision that was not taken lightly,” said Pam Shaw, RBC’s regional vice-president for the Okanagan and Kootenays. “We’re not leaving. We are staying in Vernon and we’re continuing to evolve.”

Shaw said local and regional RBC leaders met to determine how to best serve the Greater Vernon region with three branches located within five kilometres of one another (downtown, Polson Park, Village Green Centre). Shaw said membership at the downtown branch has been in decline, and that 65 per cent of members of the downtown branch go to the other two branches for their banking needs.

Asked if Vernon’s downtown issues with safety and vagrancy played a role in the decision, Shaw said no.

“It’s everywhere,” she said of the issues. Shaw oversees 21 RBCs in her region.

Shaw added RBC client patterns are changing, with more people doing banking online or on their smartphones so they don’t have to go into a branch.

Shaw said the company still wants people to come into the banks and deal with humans. Nobody from the downtown branch will lose their job. All staff will be moved to one of the other two Vernon locations.

“We’re going to have two fully staffed branches,” said Shaw.

The Shops at Polson Park branch will close for three weeks for renovations from May 31 to June 24 to prepare for the relocation of the downtown branch. People can do their banking at the other two branches, and a trailer will be set up at the Polson branch to help clients there. People will still have access to their safety deposit boxes.

Another concern addressed by RBC about leaving downtown is what that means for Vernon’s seniors population, of which many live near the downtown core. The company understands that many clients have been coming into the bank for years so, with the impending move, RBC plans to take their bank to the seniors.

“We hope to have something set up at a seniors centre before we make the move,” said Shaw. “With technology, we’ll be able to help seniors look at their statements or help them pay a bill. We can do a lot.”

Shaw said RBC won’t totally be leaving the downtown as some full-service ATM machines will be placed in the core after the consolidation of the two branches.

As for the building, which RBC owns, Shaw said they’ve tried unsuccessfully for five years to lease it out, and the building will be put up for sale.



roger@vernonmorningstar.com

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