The Independent Community Bankers of America reports that its online community bank locator experienced a whopping 500 percent increase in traffic this past weekend over the one prior, evidence that Americans are actively searching for alternative banking institutions. The upswing coincided with Bank Transfer Day, an initiative promoted by Occupy Wall Street and Move Your Money activists who urged consumers to transfer their money from large institutions to local banks and credit unions.
“When you keep your money in a local financial institution, that money in turn is reinvested in local businesses, which is important for building a stable economy and encouraging local growth,” protest organizers wrote on the Move Your Money Web site. “Put your money in the big Wall Street banks, however, and they will use your deposits to make risky investments, gambling at the expense of the economy as a whole.”
The protests stem from mounting consumer frustration over corporate banks’ ever changing fees, rules and lending practices, with a considerable amount of the outrage aimed at Bank of America — in particular, its attempted $5 monthly fee for using debit cards. In response to widespread consumer backlash headed by a young, underemployed college graduate, the company already reversed those plans last week.
The reversal came too late for some customers, though, as at least one independent, family-owned bank in Washington DC has been luring new clients in the wake of its big competitor’s struggles. National Capital Bank of Washington signed 100 new accounts in October, according to Vice President David Glaser, marking a 47 percent increase over September and a 41 percent increase over the same period last year - and he doesn’t hesitate to mention where they are all coming from.
“One hundred percent of the money that came to us last month came from the super-regional and national banks,” Glaser said. “And if I were to ballpark it, 80 percent of that came from Bank of America.”
ICBA data also suggests that consumers have been showing increased interest in local banks for several weeks now. The group reports that the community bank locator has seen an 832 percent rise in traffic in the past month, and in an October poll, the group found that nearly three out of five members were gaining new customers who had left large banks out of growing frustration.
“By going local with your community bank, you can rest assured that your banking needs will be taken care of and that your money will be put to work where it belongs — in your community in the form of loans to local residents and small business owners,” Sal Marranca, ICBA chairman and president and chief executive of Cattaraugus County Bank in New York, said recently in a statement. “It’s a hometown investment you can be proud of — not scared of.”