Closure Action Raises Ire of Local Residents
– Gabriel Paulson
The small convenient bank on the corner of Manitou Avenue across from City Hall will close in May, marking the passing of another Manitou Springs institution: the Chase Bank.
Although closing May 21, the drive-up ATM will still be available.
Chase has operated the branch at 484 Manitou Ave. since 2004 when it purchased Bank One, formerly known as First National Bank of Colorado Springs. It is the only bank in Manitou Springs and officials with the Manitou Springs Chamber of Commerce estimate that up to 70 percent of businesses in Manitou use it as their bank. They say the bank’s closure will be a great loss for the community.
Customers wanting to maintain an active account with Chase, once the closure becomes official, need to bank at either 402 Tejon Street downtown or 3306 Centennial Blvd. on the Northwest side.
According to J.P. Morgan Chase and Company’s regional office in Phoenix, anyone who is currently a customer will not lose access to their accounts, debit cards or credit cards once the branch closes.
Maura Cordova, vice president for media and community involvement for Chase, said the decision to close the branch came from a study based on customer needs. One reason for closure cited by Cordova was changing technologies within the banking industry.
Coronavirus closures statewide could force closure of the branch earlier than the May 21 date.
“Like any good retailer,” Cordova said, “we constantly evaluate our branch network to ensure we’re in the right locations as the needs of our customers change. Sometimes we consolidate a branch when another is nearby or traffic is low. This allows us to provide a strong, successful branch network that can serve our community for the long term.”
Petition Drive Launched to Save Bank
Officials with the local chamber of commerce drafted a petition asking for signatures from residents and businesses to urge the bank to reconsider their decision. The letter, which is three pages long, was written by Manitou Springs resident Eric Frederickson, and was submitted to Chamber Director Leslie Lewis to gather signatures.
The letter argues that the branch should remain open for customer convenience, financial incentives for the bank and customers, safety, accessibility and corporate integrity.
Frederickson writes, “The removal of this institution from our community would cause tremendous, long lasting and irreparable disruption to our community.” He argues that the branch is essential to the town’s tourism economy
“We are not asking you to keep open a failing bank that is convenient for the local residents,” he continues. “We are asking you to keep open a successful and profitable bank staffed with caring, competent and considerate people who care about the community they work in and happen to be an integral part of our community, providing security, safety, stability and convenience to residents and the large and small businesses in this town.”
He later writes, “We are asking you to live up to your marketing and to the commitment to the communities of our nation that you espouse.”
Chase’s marketing director, Joshua Snyder, stated that he was interested in listening to the concerns when he was contacted by Lewis at the Chamber, but did not say plans would change regarding the branch leaving Manitou Springs.
“Chase talks about wanting to be a big bank with a small-town feel and that customer service is important and that’s what this branch is,” Lewis said on behalf of residents and businesses. “Everybody knows your name. It’s a convenience to have business banking and personal service.”
Among businesses of Chase in Manitou are the Chamber of Commerce; the City of Manitou Springs; School District 14; the U.S. Post Office; and the Cog Railroad.
Natalie Johnson, head of the Manitou Springs Creative District, director of the Manitou Art Center and member of District 14 Board of Education, compared the closure of the branch to a food desert, where there are places without grocery stores.
“Where are people going to go?” said Johnson. “If a business owner runs out of change, they can lock up, run to the branch and be back in 10 minutes. With the branch gone, it could take up to an hour.”
New businesses interested in opening up in Manitou might lose interest once they find out there is no bank branch nearby, she added.
“Banking is no longer a one-size fits all approach,” Cordova said, in response to these concerns. “Our customers are rapidly adapting new technologies and innovations that allow them to bank how, where and when they want for everyday banking activities.”
Chase has more than 50 million active digital users and a top-rated banking app in Chase Mobile, she added.
The closure will still create a hardship for many, because many people are not comfortable with on-line banking and the bank employees really know their customers, Lewis stated. “We will be losing the home-town feel,” she said.
According to bank officials, the current employees will still have jobs. They will just be reassigned to existing branches within Colorado Springs.
But local officials say there are no winners when the only bank in town shuts its door in the name of consolidation.