A familiar face in Elmira packed up her office and retired from the Bank of Montreal this week after spending nearly her entire career at the same branch. Thirty-nine years, to be exact.
Sandy Ladd says this makes her an “oddity” in the banking world, but she enjoyed where she was. Why mess with a good thing?
Her first job after high school was with CIBC. She moved to TD for a year and then switched to Canada Trust. The Elmira branch of Canada Trust was bought by BMO in September of 2000.
“When I started with Canada Trust having come from a bank, their systems there were already kind of advanced in comparison to the banks,” Ladd said. “They were already ahead in technology.”
She started as a full-time teller and then went to part-time when she had her first child, then onto lending. She didn’t come back to full-time until 1988, but some of that part-time work included full-time hours. She leaves the bank as a financial service manager, which means she did lending and investing.
“In the earlier days you either did lending or you did investing,” Ladd said. “But then that evolved and they expect you to do everything. Jack-of-all-trades in banking is, I guess, what it would be.”
She lived in Elmira when she worked at Canada Trust but moved to Goldstone in 1980. She said what’s kept her at the same branch for so many years is the small-town connection. She had opportunities to go to the city branches but nobody made her switch and she didn’t really want to go.
“I prefer the clients in small towns and the Mennonite clients,” Ladd said. “We’ve had staff that have come here for a while from the city and then they’ve had to move back. You’d be amazed at how much they enjoyed their time here.”
Working at a small branch seems more rewarding for her. In Elmira, she says, you get to know your customers because they become repeat clients. Some of hers are on their third generation. Whereas at the city branches there’s another branch not that far away so people go in wherever is convenient.
“I have always preferred lending, doing mortgages and such,” Ladd said. “Helping a young couple get their first house I’d have to say is the most rewarding because their excitement sort of spills over.”
During her time at BMO, there’s been several renovations. At one point when she was with Canada Trust they had realtors too. Another way of looking at it is, she jokes, is that she’s been there longer than the furniture has.
Ladd says the way of banking has certainly changed during her career. When she started there weren’t bank machines and it was a big deal when they got their first ATM.
She notes that because of online banking, walk-in traffic has decreased.
“The seniors still come in a lot but online banking has certainly grown,” Ladd said.
Banking has also become more challenging in the past couple years because of an increase in fraud. Not with their branch so much, but city branches get a lot of it she said. All the banks have had to tighten control.
“I think you’re still going to have a bank,” Ladd said. “There are still some people who prefer to sit down with someone. Sometime it’s hard to get through on a 1-800 number if you have a problem.”
What she’ll miss the most are staff and a lot of her clients, especially the Mennonite community.
“I’m certainly going to miss a lot of them. Some of the staff are more friends, not just fellow employees.”
As for her retirement she hopes to increase her involvement with the Woolwich Community Lions and help do eye screenings for kindergarten students, since she won’t be working in the daytime anymore.
“I’ve got one grandchild here in town and they’re expecting a second one in January,” Ladd said. “And then I have grandchildren in Alberta. And then there’s that to do list. And maybe a little travel.”