Banks find room to expand in Central Okanagan market

Despite an increased appetite for online banking, financial institutions are finding reasons to open new branches in the Central Okanagan.

(From left) Westbank First Nation Coun. Mic Werstuik, Valley First president Paulette Rennie, West Kelowna Mayor Doug Findlater, Valley First branch manager Kevin McCarron and Valley First supervisor of cash services Donna Breisch cut the ribbon in front of Valley First's newest credit union at Vintage Hills in West Kelowna.

(From left) Westbank First Nation Coun. Mic Werstuik, Valley First president Paulette Rennie, West Kelowna Mayor Doug Findlater, Valley First branch manager Kevin McCarron and Valley First supervisor of cash services Donna Breisch cut the ribbon in front of Valley First's newest credit union at Vintage Hills in West Kelowna.

For residents of the Central Okanagan, it shouldn’t be too hard to find a bank.

An online Canpages search suggests there are at least 96 banks from Vernon to Penticton.

And several more are on the way.

Valley First credit union opened the region’s newest bank at Vintage Hills in West Kelowna this past Friday. Another Valley First branch will be opening in Rutland this November.

A few weeks before that, RBC opened its newest branch at Okanagan Lake Shopping Centre in West Kelowna.

In a time when more banking services are available online than ever before, some might find it puzzling that ribbons are still being cut in front of brand new financial institutions.

But according to Paulette Rennie, president of Valley First, there is still a need for the traditional banking experience.

“A constant focus for us is to keep a strategy in place to balance between online services and face-to-face services. We believe there’s room in the market today for both,” said Rennie.

Rennie noted the older generation is a key customer base that utilizes branches for most of its banking needs; therefore, many banks are needed for the Okanagan’s retirement community.

“They enjoy the interaction with the staff—they have long-term relationships that they’ve built over the years. A lot of them don’t have the access to online services that (younger generations) do.”

The Valley First president added that the current trend of several bank openings may not continue down the road.

“We have different demographics that require different services. I think we will find that over time we will get smarter at recognizing (whether or not) our footprint needs to be as big.

“It’s a tremendous investment for businesses to keep up with growing technology, and at the same time, look after branches and make sure they keep up with the times as well.”

No matter how much online banking increases in popularity, Rennie said there will always be room for a certain number of branches.

“We always believe that we will need to have that face-to-face presence with our membership.”

wpaterson@kelownacapnews.com

Kelowna Capital News

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