The Washington Post

Americans angered by big banks turn to local alternatives

Molly Hawkey, who moved her money from a bank to a credit union this week, carries a sign during the the Move Your Money March in Los Angeles on Saturday. (David McNew/Getty Images)

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.”

J.D. Harrison covers startups, small business and entrepreneurship, with a focus on public policy, and he runs the On Small Business blog.


Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read


Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Videos curated for you.
Play Videos
Sleep advice you won't find in baby books
In defense of dads
Scenes from Brazil's Carajás Railway
Play Videos
For good coffee, sniff, slurp and spit
How to keep your child safe in the water
How your online data can get hijacked
Play Videos
How to avoid harmful chemicals in school supplies
Full disclosure: 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, 1 ghoul
How much can one woman eat?
Play Videos
What you need to know about Legionnaires' disease
How to get organized for back to school
Pandas, from birth to milk to mom