Residents unhappy with decision to close Scotia’s Black River branch
Errol Lebert, chief executive officer at the St Elizabeth Municipal Corporation (StEMC), is not pleased with the decision by Scotia Group Jamaica to close the Black River branch of the bank, saying it could lead to social unrest in the somewhat low-keyed parish capital.
Lebert, who spoke to The Gleaner in an exclusive interview, made his comment in the aftermath of an announcement that the bank’s Black River and Old Harbour locations will be closed permanently and six other branches – Christiana, Falmouth, Portmore, Port Antonio, Port Maria, and St Ann’s Bay – will be converted to the bank’s digital operating model by early 2021.
“I truly believe that Scotiabank Jamaica should look at other alternatives and reconsider closing the Black River branch. They should instead use the facilities as a sub-branch of the Junction and Santa Cruz Scotiabanks and use the location to carry out smaller business transactions,” said Lebert.
Lebert said that in addition to the disadvantage of losing face-to-face interaction with customers from the town, the new situation will create inconveniences for workers such as employees of the StEMC, who will now have to travel outside of the town to do cheque transactions.
“We at the municipal corporation use that particular outlet where salaries and other monetary business transactions, such as contracts involving the parish council, are concerned,” explained Lebert. “The closure will have a serious cash flow economic effect on Black River as this is the second of three commercial banks in the town which are going. One has already gone, and the National Commercial Bank has gone cashless.”
According to Lebert, small-business operators and other persons who are involved in businesses that entail handling cash daily could experience challenges.
“The small-business operations, self-employed persons, and the fishermen, their businesses involve day-to-day passing exchange of cash from hand to hand. The issue now is that they will have to go to either Santa Cruz or Junction or find other alternatives,” said Lebert. “With this cash in their hands and not in the bank, it could result in an increase in crime as they will now become potential targets for thieves.”
Like Lebert, several residents, including small-business operators, say they are saddened by the decision by Scotia Group Jamaica as the bank was one of the first financial institutions to have been introduced to the town and has become an integral part of the community.
“I have been operating from this location for over 10 years, and each afternoon, I would make the easy trek to the Scotiabank and deposit cash,” said store operator George Garnett, who admitted that he will miss the easy access to banking. “This bank has contributed to the growth of my store over the years, and with the institution gone, it will pose a problem when it comes to lodging funds.”
A fish vendor who has had a long-standing business relationship with the bank compared the impending situation to losing a very good friend.
“Scotiabank is like a partner fi mi because every day as mi sell mi fish dem an mek the little money, mi just rush up a di bank and dump the money inna one account wha mi have deh,” the fish vendor told The Gleaner. “A suh mi a send mi pickney dem go a school fi years. Mi nuh know ‘bout no online banking or bank card. All mi do a bank money. How dem expect seh when wi done sell, wi fi travel go all di way a Santa Cruz? Dem mussa want dem fi rob we.”