Occupy Momentum Lifts Credit Unions

By Chris Roberts
|  Tuesday, Oct 18, 2011  |  Updated 8:34 AM PDT
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Occupy Momentum Lifts Credit Unions

Chris Gordon, NBCWashington.com

While protesters fill parks and streets, it appears a growing number of Bay Area residents are occupying the credit unions.

"Hundreds" of customers have fled large banks like Chase, Wells Fargo and Bank of America in recent weeks, taking their money to locally-based credit unions, the Bay Citizen reported. And ahead of a nationally-organized switching day next month, even more could make the switch.

"This is the tip of the iceberg," Henry Kertman, spokesman for the California Credit Union League, told the Web site.

Spokespeople for banks and the financial industry scoff, saying that customers will stand by their banks. However, policy watchers think this is the beginning of something big.

"This is the biggest grass-roots reaction that we’ve seen from the financial crisis yet," Anne Stuhldreher, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, told the Web site.

The Occupy Wall Street movement -- and citizen anger at the taxpayer bailouts of the banks, some of which are now charging customers more for checking and debit accounts -- is earning at least some of the credit for this sea change the Web site reported, but the credit unions' business model is also more attractive for some.

Instead of rewarding shareholders with profits, credit unions pass on excess revenues back to their customers, an attractive benefit indeed in these lean times.

Many more could make the switch on Nov. 5, which organizers have dubbed "Bank Transfer Day." According to a Facebook page, nearly 50,000 people have pledged to dump their banks and go with credit unions on that day. Nov. 5 just happens to be "Guy Fawkes Day," when a Catholic activist was arrested in an aborted attempt to destroy the English Parliament building in the 17th century.
You know this Guy: Guy Fawkes masks were made famous in the film "V for Vendetta."
 

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