OWS: Focus or fail

Bank Transfer DayYesterday was declared “Bank Transfer Day” by the Occupy Wall Street folks. Everyone was supposed to move their money from the giant, greedy national banks to small, local banks and credit unions.

Great idea, but not particularly original. Arianna Huffington, back in 2009, helped launch the Move Your Money campaign, and I wrote about it then. It was exactly the same idea, only better executed. It actually provided resources for finding the most secure local financial institutions — a major consideration when banks everywhere were failing.

In more poor planning, Bank Transfer Day was scheduled on a Saturday, when most banks are open only half a day, if at all. There also seemed to be an assumption that a person would simply walk in, withdraw all his money, and close his account(s). Rarely is it that simple. You need to have a new account in place before closing an old account. It takes time to change direct deposits and automatic withdrawals and time for outstanding checks to clear.

In that old post I did neglect to mention credit unions, which are getting a lot more attention now. I regret that. And at the time my accounts were in transition, so I couldn’t readily practice what I preached. But late last year I did, finally, get established with a highly rated, financially secure community bank that has treated me like family. I’ve had not one incident of weird fees, rude attitude, messed up online banking, or infuriating voice mail (real people answer the phone!).

Like so much of what OWS seems to be doing, Bank Transfer Day was a good idea, poorly planned and executed. I’m still convinced that if they are to succeed in whatever it is they hope to accomplish, they are going to have to get better organized, focus on specific issues, and start thinking and acting like responsible adults. I am nearing the end of my patience with gangs of vagabonds hanging out in public areas, fighting with police, rioting, destroying property, etc. Nor do I have any sympathy for claims of “they’re not with us.” It’s up to OWS to police themselves, get rid of interlopers, and make sure that what we see and hear from them is what they want us to see and hear.

And by the way, I think all the demonstrations should be moved to Washington. That’s where the laws are made, and it’s those laws that determine how the banks and corporations function.

7 comments

  1. Actually, the most recent surge for Bank Transfer Day was started by a disgruntled 27-year-old Bank of America ex-customer by the name of Kristen Christian who got ticked about the proposed $5 fee for using ATM cards. It picked up steam and OWS jumped on it–she has publicly said that her effort had nothing to do with OWS–and then credit unions jumped on it. Between September 29 and November 4, more than 650,000 people have moved more than $4.5 billion from banks to credit unions. That may be a drop in the bucket, as a WSJ article says, but still, that’s a lot of people moving a nice piece of change in general. I’ll be interested in what the numbers are when November 5 is included.

    Also, now small businesses are getting on board and leaving the big banks for smaller community banks. When it’s time for me to set up a new business account, if my credit union won’t do it, I’ll be looking at a small, local bank.

    Tides are shifting. 650,000 people is just the start.

    And Bank of America has dropped plans for the ATM fee.

    1. I knew BofA had relented on the ATM charge, which was great news all around. I’ve no doubt, however, that they’ll just raise some other fee, or invent a new one, to cover the loss. It was just bad marketing on their part to be so open about the ATM fee, since they knew perfectly well they’re going to get their money one way or another.

      Small businesses getting on board would be great. They probably have larger accounts than individuals, so bigger hit to the big banks, bigger boon to the community banks.

      I do love my new bank. It’s been a year, and so far they’ve done absolutely everything right. It’s the way banking used to be and still ought to be. Particularly nice coming on the heels of an absolutely horrible we-can’t-do anything-right six months with Key Bank.

    1. I see on Wikipedia, Kate, that the U.K. does have credit unions. I am a big fan of C.U.’s and would strongly recommend same to you if there’s one near you. Actually, it can be useful at a distance as well – mine, which provides my credit card, is about 1,000 miles distant and is fully and immediately accessible by internet. The couple of occasions I’ve had to call, I’ve gotten a real person to talk to in only a few minutes.

    2. Kate, even if there isn’t a similar movement in the UK, you can still move your money. These big U.S. banks reach worldwide, I think. No need to encourage them. And I’m a firm believer in patronizing local businesses.

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