A group of citizens from Sainte-Anne-du-Lac, in the Hautes-Laurentides, is furious to see that the Mouvement Desjardins will close their caisse on June 2 after 77 years of activity and are asking the cooperative to reconsider its decision.
• Read also: Desjardins: significant drop in earnings before member dividends compared to 2021
" It's a disaster. I cannot believe that we are going to fall without a cash register when we depend on it, especially the elderly, merchants and tourists, ”worries Mayor Jocelyne Lafond.
In recent days, the management of the Caisse Desjardins du Cœur des Hautes-Laurentides announced the closure of the service center in the municipality of nearly 600 inhabitants, which caused a shock wave.
Citizens have decided to come together to convince the management to review its plans. They especially fear the impact this decision will have on older people who are less familiar with digital tools and without a vehicle.
Unless the situation changes, the inhabitants of Sainte-Anne-du-Lac will have to travel to Ferme-Neuve after June 2 to carry out a banking transaction or to obtain a service in person. This municipality is located about sixty kilometers round trip.
No other financial institution is present in the municipality, confirmed Ms. Lafond, who deplores a lack of communication from the fund.
"It's going to kill the village, downright," she replied to the Journal, adding that during the summer season, more than 2,000 people stay there as tourists or live there.
Decline in traffic
On the side of the Caisse Desjardins du Cœur des Hautes-Laurentides, the general manager Miguel Gauthier affirms that this decision was taken by the board of directors because of the decrease in the use of the services.
“The traffic at the cashier counter of this center has decreased by 37% between 2019 and 2021”, he argued, specifying that “members will be supported in this transition”.
For Réal Richer, spokesperson for the citizens' group, this argument does not hold water since these data have been influenced by the pandemic. He recalls that this cash register has been closed for weeks and that the opening hours have been reduced.
"There are plenty of people who don't have a computer or a cell phone," he noted. Their figure is during COVID-19. Of course it wasn't profitable. »
Mr. Richer is of the opinion that with its harvest of surplus earnings before member dividends of a record amount of $2.94 billion in 2021, Desjardins has the financial means to maintain this point of service.
For the first quarter of 2022, however, the cooperative saw its surpluses reach $519 million, a decline of 35% compared to a year earlier.
Not a first
The municipality of Sainte-Anne-du-Lac is not the first to see its service center disappear in 2022. Since the start of the year, 15 caisses have closed their doors.
In February, Le Journal wrote that the Mouvement had closed 69 service centers last year. Since 2015, the network has grown from 1122 to 775.
Several of these cash desks have been converted into automated centers with only ATMs.
The number of ATMs also fell from 2152 to 1665 between 2015 and 2022 as digital tools continued to grow in popularity. During this period, all of the counters were modernized.