News / Edmonton

Breaking the bank? New branch designed specifically for artists

ATB's new Branch for Arts and Culture, located in the CKUA building, will accommodate fluctuating incomes

Ben Spencer, initiative director for ATB’s The Branch for Arts and Culture.

Kevin Maimann / Metro

Ben Spencer, initiative director for ATB’s The Branch for Arts and Culture.

Artists are making bank at ATB’s new Edmonton branch.

The Branch for Arts and Culture, run by artists for artists, focuses on accommodating individuals and organizations with fluctuating income.

It will officially open Tuesday in the CKUA building on Jasper Avenue.

“Our bankers are stage managers and dancers and musicians as well as expert bankers,” said initiative director Ben Spencer.

Spencer is an Edmonton singer-songwriter who had his own share of experiences being rejected by banks for credit products and mortgages.

He moved to Montreal for 10 years, where he found a bank branch that catered specifically to artists, and brought the idea to ATB when he moved back home to take a marketing job with the organization.

“The recognition was that, because people in the arts don’t always make money in the same kinds of reliable salaried ways that other workers do, banks haven’t historically been particularly useful to people working in that sector,” Spencer said.

“So this all really to address that pain point for artists, in terms of how they deal with their finances, how they access credit, how they get advice about career development, and ultimately how they handle fluctuating income.”

Clients at the branch already include heavy hitters like the Alberta Music Industry Association, Alberta Media Producers Industry and the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium, and the branch aims to cater equally to individual, low-income “starving artists.”

The branch is set up to look and feel more like a clubhouse than a bank, with local artwork all around, and Spencer said bankers will offer non-judgmental advice while focusing less on things like credit scores and more on how people micromanage their finances.

The branch will also host art exhibits and musical performances and offer financial knowledge through grant writing seminars and budgeting sessions.

Spencer said the initiative is another step toward making banking more accessible to everyone, following ATB’s Four Directions branch in Boyle Street that caters to people with no fixed address.

“We don’t treat banking as though it’s an essential service, but it kind of is,” he said. “And if it’s an essential service then why isn’t it more inclusive?”

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