The communities of Lake Lenore and Muenster will be losing their sole community based banking institutions following the decision of Affinity Credit Union to establish a regional service centre in Humboldt. A release dated March 31 from Affinity Credit Union states that the plan is to open a new consolidated location at Humboldt’s Quill Centre.
“We already have over 800 members in the Humboldt area, so this is a great opportunity to deepen those relationships while positioning our credit union for growth in new markets,” said Louis Cho, Affinity Credit Union Chief Experience Officer. “With an advice centre in Humboldt, we’re able to provide enhanced banking services, including longer business hours (37 hours per week versus 25 hours per week that we currently offer), as well as the convenience of a walk-up and drive-thru ATM.”
The release notes that all employees currently working in the Lake Lenore and Muenster centres will have an opportunity for employment in the Humboldt office.
The scenario is a replay of what happened in Middle Lake when Conexus Credit Union folded the Middle Lake operation into its Humboldt office. Residents in Middle Lake rallied behind their local establishment with community meetings and petitions, to no avail.
The situation is a bit different for Affinity Credit Union in that it currently has local sites only in Muenster and Lake Lenore, and not in Humboldt. The existing centres are to remain in operation until the new Humboldt location is established.
The situation is just unfolding in Lake Lenore, and as residents become aware, there are questions, says Lake Lenore’s Deputy Mayor Lee Poppl.
“The general feeling is that people are concerned, but it’s still pretty new, so I think it’s still setting in for a lot of people. Obviously our seniors are a concern, and the businesses are going to notice a big change.”
Small businesses and service organizations have long relied on their local credit unions as secured drops for cash deposits. Now with an additional distance to travel, the notion is those same services are going to come at an increased cost.
For Muenster Mayor Scott Davis, the feedback has been a bit more immediate as residents are reluctant to see a long term institution in their community vanish.
“As a community, you want to have as many amenities as you can for your residents, and when you lose one, it takes a pretty good sting, especially an important one like a bank. For seniors, the bank has been here for 80 years, and a lot of our seniors have been using it for 50 or 60 years, and you take that away. For businesses and local organizations with convenience, they’ll notice a difference. With travelling, it’s not the cheapest now because of fuel prices.”
From Affinity’s perspective, there are benefits to be had with the upcoming move, says Senior Director of Advisor Services, Corey Tomporowski.
“Humboldt serves as an economic hub for the surrounding communities, and it provides access to services that we might not have in some of the surrounding communities. For us, it's already home to over 800 of our existing members.”
Tomporowski echoed the organization’s promises of enhanced banking services. He notes the new centre will welcome both existing and new members. To that end, Affinity has launched communication efforts with its existing members about the changes. Tomporowski responded to the question about larger scale meetings, if community members demanded them.
“That’s something we are absolutely committed to. It takes a little bit of time for us to get the message out and about, and then we’re more than willing down the road to gather folks together to have a conversation about what’s happening.”
In Lake Lenore, Lee Poppl says there are no immediate plans for a community gathering given the recency of the news. In Muenster, while there is some talk of a petition, there is some signalling of resignation. While residents of both communities are hopeful about at least an accessible ATM left in the wake of the closure, Mayor Davis of Muenster the signs are clear about the demise of the service centre.
“From my understanding, this is pretty much a done deal. I guess we’ve got to realize this is a business decision, and it’s benefiting Affinity to do it this way. I don’t know if there’s much we can do about it.”
For Davis’s part, he’s hopeful this is not a harbinger for other small businesses in the community, and he reminds residents to take advantage of the services remaining and support local stores and services.