Indie Banks, Credit Unions Still Seeing Surge in New Accounts

At least two local financial institutions have experienced an increase over the last month — a result of the "Occupy" movements sweeping across the country and Bank Transfer Day.

Local banks and credit unions are still seeing an uptick in new accounts, even with Bank Transfer Day officially behind us.

Redwood Credit Union and Exchange Bank — the two largest, independent financial institutions in Rohnert Park — are reporting on average between 20 and 50 new accounts a day, according to managers.

, the parking lot at Redwood Credit Union was jam-packed. People shuffeled in five, sometimes 10 at a time.

Branch manager Amy Ahanotu, said 281 new members joined Redwood Credit Union that day, 24 of which were in Rohnert Park, and Exchange Bank saw about 50 new accounts last Saturday.

"Bank Transfer Day wasn't an extraordinary event for us, but it contributed to what already differentiates us in the marketplace, which is that we're local," said Rolff Nelson, the senior vice president of retail banking for Exchange Bank, headquartered in Santa Rosa. "But we've definitely been seeing new account activity from people leaving major banks. There's no question that this movement has raised awareness and increased dialogue."

Nelson said Exchange Bank opened 1,036 new accounts in September — the lastest data available.

"We do expect that to be higher for October," he said.

At Redwood Credit Union, Ahanotu said 122 new members joined so far this month, and as a whole the company saw an increase of 1,733 new accounts.

"We are still seeing a lot of people coming in," Ahanotu said. "The credit union is a cooperative, so people are realizing that — that there are benefits of the members as shareholders. Any profits we earn go right back to the members of our community in the form of lower interest on loans and lower or no fees."

Ahanotu said he's also noticed people who have personal accounts at Redwood Credit Union moving their business accounts over too.

"Those accounts aren't counted in our new members, so when you factor in those people, the number of accounts start to multiply — four, five, six times," he said. "They're not new members, but they're bringing their full business here."

This is a scenerio being repeated across the country.

On Bank Transfer Day, nationwide credit unions reported 40,000 new accounts, according to a recent article in Credit Union Times, and since September, 650,000 have moved from large financial institutions to small banks and credit unions.

An showed that of 302 people who voted, 261 said they supported what Bank Transfer Day stands for. Twenty-six people said they were staying with their local bank.

One reader said, "I already bank at Exchange Bank, which is a local Sonoma County bank. I love it there; I feel important when I do my banking and everyone there knows me. I have done business with the Redwood Credit Union in the past and they have provided excellent service when I had my auto loan with them."

Another said: "Pulled most of our assets out of national banks years ago, and have banked with local banks and credit unions whenever possible. Sure wish we could have had our home mortgage stay in the hands of a local bank, where it started!"

About the Movement:

Bank Transfer Day is a largely social media-driven push that encourages consumers to move their money out of banks and deposit it in credit unions by November 5. It’s not officially linked with the Occupy Wall Street movement, but motivations are similar. From the Huffington Post:

Consumers are tired of relying on big banks that they argue take advantage of them through lending practices and fees. Though the push for the bank transfer movement began with Kristen Christian, a 27-year-old Los Angeles-based entrepreneur, Occupy Wall Street protesters have become some of the most visible supporters of Bank Transfer Day, allowing them to drive the conversation surrounding Saturday's deadline.

The idea is that banks like Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Chase and others were the main institutions behind the financial collapse. The fact that they were eventually bailed out only fanned the flames. 

Bank of America recently announced a plan for $5 debit card fees, angering a whole new sector of customers. They took a ton of heat, and then .

Guy Thompson November 13, 2011 at 02:42 PM
I used to use big banks but they consistently nickel and dime you to death with fees and charges you are unaware of until they hit and overdraw you then you get penalized, etc. But the beauty of Redwood Credit Union is no fees for just about everything. Even using ATMs out of the area usually doesn't trigger any fee if you do it at another credit union. And a benefit people may not know about is their credit cards. All those young people with no credit history wanting to get started should join the credit union by opening a savings account - even a $5 minimum. Then apply for a credit card there and you'll get it and start your credit history. Many, many good benefits at RCU and nearly universal good customer service.


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