Left without a bank, N.B. island looks to start a credit union

Click to play video: 'Grand Manan residents look to create credit union after only bank closes'
Grand Manan residents look to create credit union after only bank closes
WATCH: Residents on the island of Grand Manan, N.B. are getting creative to solve their banking woes. Months after Scotiabank shut its doors, a group is spearheading the creation of a credit union. Robert Lothian reports. – Jan 18, 2023

Almost five months after Scotiabank departed Grand Manan, N.B., devastating the rural island of 2,400, residents are looking to start their own credit union.

Michael Munro told Global News that along with his partner Lauren Martin, the Village of Grand Manan, and a group of investors, he has been working behind the scenes in recent months on the matter.

“We’ve been going through this process without being public for a couple of months because the last thing we wanted to do is get the community’s hopes up,” Munro said.

Plans to transform the previous Scotiabank location into a credit union became public at a recent village council meeting when Munro and Martin presented the vision.

“The loss of the bank kind of was a negative for the community, but presented an opportunity to try and add something new, breathe new life into the space,” Munro said.

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“There’s been great response for a small island to having 700 people sign up, hundreds put in forms looking to invest, looking to help, looking to volunteer.”

Read more: Only bank in Grand Manan, N.B. closes up despite efforts of residents

Scotiabank packed up its operations in August 2022, at the time saying it regularly reviews its branch network, customer base and banking methods.

This left residents stranded, requiring several hours on the ferry and a drive to the nearest mainland bank to use in-person services.

“I know for some of our seniors, some of our elderly, some of our less tech-savvy or more vulnerable have a hard time dealing with (online banking),” Munro said.

According to the Financial Consumers and Services Commission New Brunswick, a credit union is a financial institution owned and operated by members.

Governed by a volunteer board of directors, it provides savings, credit and other financial products.

“It really is a co-operative and, you know, neighbours helping neighbours,” Munro said.

Read more: ‘Save our bank’ — Residents protest closure of only bank on N.B. island

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In addition to the credit union, Munro, the owner of the only island pharmacy, said they plan to use part of the building for a health centre.

This would include different mainland health specialists who would travel to the island, such as an osteopath, a physiotherapist and acupuncture.

“Maybe there’s not enough of a population base to have them set up here full-time, but many would probably be happy to visit the island on a rotational basis,” Munro said.

While Munro said the health centre could open by the summer, the goal for the credit union is to open by the end of the year.

However, he noted there is far more background work and requirements to be completed.

“We’d rather have it done correct and offer a great service than try and rush it with a deadline.”

Click to play video: 'Grand Manan Island’s only bank closes'
Grand Manan Island’s only bank closes

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