Service You Can Bank On
At the dawn of the decade, CIBC started the Western Hemisphere’s first airborne bank service. Its office sat in place of the front four seats of a Northwest Territorial Airways DC-3, and on the last Wednesday of every month it would depart from Yellowknife on a 12-hour, 2,500-kilometre tour of the North.
Alex Sinclair, then-manager of the Yellowknife branch, credited the idea to Bob Engle, founder and owner of the airline. Sinclair told the Montreal Gazette it took about two weeks to turn the idea from a flight of whimsy into a full-fledged flying bank branch, and it soon opened up new business. “Before we began this service ... we never had an application for a loan to purchase dogs for a dog team,” said Sinclair.
The first leg of the trip took tellers to Port Radium, a townsite that hosted uranium miners on the eastern shore of Great Bear Lake. It would then fly north to Coppermine (now Kugluktuk) and then on to Holman (now Ulukhaktok). From there, it travelled east to Cambridge Bay on Victoria Island, and to a DEW Line post on the island’s southwestern coast, before returning to Yellowknife. “There’s a real fight among the staff as to which one gets to go,” said Sinclair. “Many of them—none are from the North originally—want to see the places they’ve only read about.”