From June 2011 to June 2012, credit unions reported a year-to-year increase of more than 2.16 million memberships — the largest influx of members in the past decade, according to data by the Credit Union National Association.
In the prior year, there was only a 552,890-membership increase at credit unions.
The four-fold jump in new memberships is easily attributed to last year’s Bank Transfer Day (held Nov. 5), the consumer movement that rallied fed-up bank customers to close their fee-riddled accounts and move their money to credit unions.
The exact number of consumers who made the switch because of Bank Transfer Day is difficult to determine, but the movement did push credit unions into the spotlight.
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This year, however, there will be no official Bank Transfer Day to give banks a run for their customers and deposits, said Kristen Christian, the creator of Bank Transfer Day.
Christian, a former art-gallery owner, now spends most of her time attached to her notebook PC while she journeys throughout the country, and other parts of the world, as a speaker/consultant for credit unions.
For instance, earlier this month, Christian attended a credit-union conference in Pennsylvania and spoke on ways that credit unions can market to younger generations through social media.
“It’s been such an incredible opportunity to promote consumer empowerment and economic sustainability while helping cooperatives [financial institutions owned and operated by its members] reach the next generation of members,” Christian said.
But, her new role isn’t the main reason that there won’t be another Bank Transfer Day this year. Rather, given that 2012 is an election year, Christian does not want to distract consumers from exercising their right to vote.
“While we’ve seen significant media attention dedicated to the Presidential race, I’ve yet to see significant steam for Senate elections,” said Christian, who aims to draw support for Senate bill S. 2231. The bill is an amendment to the Federal Credit Union Act that would more than double the lending cap for credit unions from 12.25 percent of assets to 27.5 percent. Christian says this would enable credit unions to promote the growth of local small businesses through low-interest rate loans. “This piece of legislation has a potential to create 140,000 jobs at no cost, yet lacks the support in Senate many voters feel it deserves.”
Additionally, Christian does not want any violence to break out during the promotion of another Bank Transfer Day.
Last year, Bank Transfer Day happened to coincide with Occupy Wall Street, another non-affiliated consumer movement. OWS protesters organized a “March on the Banks” event that gathered bank customers to close their accounts, which occurred in a less-than-civil fashion at some banks. At one Citibank branch in New York City, protesters were locked in the branch — until police arrived — because they were holding a protest in the middle of the bank.
“Being a pacifist by nature, I was disgusted by the disruption caused last year in the name of Bank Transfer Day,” Christian added. She encourages consumers to close their bank accounts independently and respectfully. “These front line employees have absolutely no control over bank policies and certainly didn’t deserve the abuse heaped upon them.”
Occupy Wall Street has been unable to rebuild momentum this year and its impact has diminished significantly. If the movement fails to return in the future, would Christian promote Bank Transfer Day again? Probably not.
“As people constantly evolve, I think social movements should as well,” said Christian, who’ll commemorate Bank Transfer Day for many years to come. “In many ways, it’s a celebration of the principles that bore the American revolution: rallying together to inform one another and defend the communities we’ve worked so hard to build.”
This Nov. 5, Christian will be in Baton Rouge, La. to raise awareness for Senate bill S. 2331.
Consumers don’t need an official day to move their money from banks that are treating them unfairly. As Christian and credit unions would say, “Every day is Bank Transfer Day.”
To anyone or any organization that seeks to effect a similar consumer-advocacy campaign, Christian preaches: “The best advice I can give to anyone who seeks to implement significant change is to approach their efforts with patience, reason, love and a sense of humor. I’ve found love to be far more effective than hatred.”
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