Protesting Wall Street
11:39 am
Fri November 4, 2011

Movement to divest from big banks has its day Saturday

Frustrated consumers have something to say to big banks: It’s not me ... it’s you.  

And they plan to make it official on Bank Transfer Day Saturday.

Lashawna Bowman says it was just like dating a guy you know is no good…

“You know, there’s just no caring. It’s just money, money, money and greed, greed, greed. And enough is enough. I’m done,” Bowman said.

That’s why – after 3 and half years – she’s taking her money and leaving Chase in honor of Bank Transfer Day.

An Occupy spin-off

The message, born out of the Occupy Los Angeles movement, is basic relationship advice: if you’re feeling taken for granted, break up and find someone new. Someone who’ll appreciate what you’re worth.

In this case, a smaller, local bank or a credit union, which Bowman says make you feel like they understand you.

“We’re there for you. So now that this opportunity on Saturday has come up, I want to be a part of that,” she said.

Local credit union feeling the love

It’s tough to gauge how much will be divested and the impact it’ll have on big banks – Chase, Wells Fargo or Bank of America – but so far, it’s made local credit unions like BECU especially attractive.

Todd Pietzche is a spokesman for the credit union.

“Typically in a normal month we would see anywhere between 6,000 and 7,000 new members. And just in October we finished with almost 16,000 new members,” Pietzche said.  

He added they started noticing a swelling migration to BECU back in August. It’s meant longer wait times but they’ve hired more staff and customers are willing to be patient.

Big banks step back from charges

new survey from the Credit Union National Association that at least 650,000 consumers across the nation have joined credit unions in the past four weeks. As the Los Angeles Times notes, that’s more than the 600,000 customers who joined credit unions during the entirety of 2010.  
 
The association declares:

“They have joined credit unions since Sept. 29, when Bank of America (BofA)  unveiled its plans to charge $5 a month for debit cards. The public outcry the past month has forced BofA and other big banks to reconsider their debit fees. CUNA estimates that credit unions have added $4.5 billion in new savings accounts.”

More data

A story on Slate’s blog states:

A second poll by Harris Interactive highlights the disparity between customers' loyalty to the respective financial institutions. Nearly 90 percent of credit union customers said they were extremely or very likely to stick with their current institution, compared to only 40 percent of BofA customers. Other big banks didn't fare much better: Only 46 percent of JP Morgan Chase's customers and 54 percent of Wells Fargo/Wachovia's customers indicated a strong intention to stay put.

John Hall, an American Bankers Association spokesperson, told Reuters that there might be options for angry customers at their current institution, and urged would-be account-closers to first search for a "better product at your own bank."

Meanwhile, a number of big banks this week canceled plans to charge monthly debit card fees. In a press release, Bank of America noted the changing competitive marketplace and acknowledged the need to listen to customer concerns.