New bank may move into Safeway

In the wake of merger announcements and the McKay task force report, there could be another bank moving into town.
Canada Safeway confirmed it was “looking closely” at setting up a Bank of Montreal branch in its renovated store in Fort Frances. It all depends on the cost, available floor space, and the desire of the bank to open its doors here.
“The go or no-go will be decided within the next two weeks,” John Graham, Safeway’s public affairs manager, said Monday, noting the two sides were still in discussions.
“But the conditions do look fairly favourable,” he added, explaining if it did occur, the bank would be up-and-running here by the end of the year.
“That’s possible but I don’t know that the determination has been made yet,” Harold Chornoboy, senior urban manager with Bank of Montreal, said yesterday.
He noted Bank of Montreal earlier this month announced plans to set up branches in 100 Safeway stores across western Canada over the next four years.
Those branches would include on-site trained financial professionals and be open longer hours, matching more closely the supermarket’s hours of operation.
But no tellers would be there, Chornoboy said. Everyday banking services would be done through ATMs.
“All the locations across the country are being evaluated right now to determine the best sites,” he added.
If the branch opens here, it would mean the opening of the first Bank of Montreal branch in a Safeway store east of Calgary.
Meanwhile, the Royal Bank, which is proposing to merge with Bank of Montreal, knew nothing about the possibility the new bank might set up shop a block away until contacted Monday by the Times.
Dawn Nash, manager of personal banking at the Royal Bank here, said because the federal government hasn’t–and may never–approve the proposed merger, the two banks are prevented from exchanging information about their business plans by the Competition Bureau.
“This is news to us. As far as we’re looking at, they’re competitors. We don’t share information,” she said yesterday, with Chornoboy agreeing the two sides hadn’t exchanged any information on the issue.
“We’ll be working hard to keep our customers happy–we don’t want to lose even one of them to Bank of Montreal,” Nash stressed.
And she admitted employees were concerned about who would keep their jobs and location if the proposed merger is approved.
“With the jobs and the location, if the proposed merger is approved, it will take three to five years to happen,” Nash noted.
She added the bank’s position was that through rate of attrition, together with a major investment in training and creation of new opportunities, few people–if any–will lose their jobs.