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RBC closing two Sault branches, builds new one on Great Northern

'We're not going to have a bank in the west end,' – Prince Township Mayor Ken Lamming
Forthcoming Royal Bank location at 439 Great Northern Road

Royal Bank of Canada is preparing to permanently close its branches at 602 Queen St. E. and 312 Second Line W. at 5 p.m. on Thursday, July 15, SooToday has learned. 

The following Monday, July 19, opening ceremonies are planned for a new "state-of-the-art" RBC branch in the heart of Sault Ste. Marie's big-box retail district on Great Northern Road.

The Churchill Plaza RBC branch at Wellington and Lake will remain open, unaffected by the consolidation, Scott Simon, the bank's regional vice president for northern Ontario, tells SooToday.

Letters will be sent to customers next week advising of the forthcoming changes, Simon said.

The new branch is currently under construction at 439 Great Northern Road, across the street from local foodie favourite Superior Home Bakery.

It will have 11 offices and will offer drive-through ATMs, more touch-screens inside and lots of parking near Ben Pino's planned hypermarket development between Second Line and Industrial Park Crescent.

RBC is Canada's largest bank by market capitalization, with more Canadian branches than any of its competitors.

The new branch is one of two being built in Northern Ontario by RBC at a time when branch openings are pretty much unheard of as financial institutions scramble to close existing branches to adjust to the popularity of online banking.

The other is in Hanmer in the Valley East district of Greater Sudbury, Simon said.

Word of the Second Line Royal Bank closure was leaked on Tuesday night by Prince Township Mayor Ken Lamming at a Township Council meeting.

"I got clarification today that the Royal Bank is closing on Second Line, by Korah Road," Lamming said.

The news came on the heels of last month's announcement that Northern Credit Union (NCU) will permanently dead-bolt its branch at 612 Second Line West by May 3.

"That bank's closing too, so we're not going to have a bank in the west end," Lamming lamented.

Last week, the mayor was wanting to transfer five Prince accounts from the COVID-closed and soon-to-be-permanently-shuttered NCU branch to the Royal Bank branch up the street.

But after learning that RBC was also similarly pulling up its west end stakes, township councillors voted Tuesday to continue driving their cheques to the credit union.

Peggy Greco, Prince Township's chief administrative officer and clerk-treasurer, said NCU had applied no service charges to Prince accounts and sometimes reversed or reduced other fees.

"I have not had the same courtesy with our museum account that is at the Royal Bank," Greco said.

"They charge $40 to confirm the bank balance for the auditor. They also charge us 50 cents per cheque written. Furthermore, there is a new RBC being built on Great Northern Road, across from Walmart. There is no announcement yet, but with the trend happening with other financial institutions, (BMO, TD, NCU) it is quite possible that the Second Line branch of the RBC could close as well."

By the time of Tuesday's Township Council meeting, Mayor Lamming had confirmed Greco was right about the pending closure at Second Line and Korah Road.

In announcing the closure of seven Northern Credit Union branches last month, president and chief executive officer Richard Adam said: "Over the past decade, credit unions and other financial institutions focused on opening more branches. Today, most are decreasing their physical footprints because of the emergence of additional banking solutions, most notably online and digital tools."

RBC vice president Simon tells SooToday that the local consolidation was planned prior to the coronavirus pandemic.

"All of our branches are profitable," he said, but the bank was anxious to have a greater presence in Great Northern Road retail district.

Local RBC employees have been advised of the changes. Simon said no layoffs are planned. Any reductions in staff will be accomplished through attrition.

Letters will be sent to customers sometime over the next week or two.

For decades, the Royal Bank's flagship presence in the Sault was at 298 Queen St. East, a building occupied by SooToday/Village Media since late 2019.