Some Southern California credit unions are looking to benefit from the Occupy Wall Street and Bank Transfer Day movements.
For one, the $859 million First Entertainment CU said it was happy to hear that Kristen Christian, the Los Angeles art dealer who created the Bank Transfer Day Facebook page and chose Nov. 5 as the day, is moving her business account from Bank of America to First Entertainment.
“We are always pleased when we get mentioned in the press or online but this time was a real surprise,” said Roy MacKinnon, vice president of marketing at the 58,000-member Hollywood credit union. “Kristen has been speaking with us about becoming a member and we are looking forward to welcoming her to First Entertainment.”
Christian, who has said she has sympathy with the Occupy protests but is not part of it, told the Village Voice newspaper last week she has picked First Entertainment after being frustrated with banks and deciding her viral activities “needed to become actionable.”
Separately, a Los Angeles community activist group, One L.A., representing churches, schools and nonprofits which all year have been promoting CUs as an alternative to banks, said it expects to join the Bank Transfer Day event and is planning an additional “followup assembly” in the San Fernando Valley on Nov. 13.
Executive Director Tom Holler said he expects 750 attendees to gather to express their unhappiness with bank practices and encourage patronizing credit unions.
Holler said he has already been in touch with the $2.5 billion Wescom CU in Pasadena and the $467 million Water and Power Community CU in Los Angeles about moving accounts.
Meanwhile, the California/Nevada Credit Union League said that like other industry groups it welcomes the attention and account switching “resulting from the online phenomenon” and is directing consumers to CUNA’s asmarterhoice.org website.
A spokesman said the media attention was particularly gratifying though it has had no contact with the Bank Transfer Day organizers.
A league spokesman did note coverage by a San Diego a newspaper quoting an Occupy San Diego leader of his plans to move funds into the $2.1 billion Mission FCU. Officials of Mission were not immediately available for comment.
Like other CU managers, MacKinnon at First Entertainment said it remains to be seen how many accounts will eventually move from large banks to credit unions as a result of either Bank Transfer Day “Bank Transfer Day” or from “Occupy.”
He told Credit Union Times he has seen projections of 20% to 25% over the next few months but “what really is important is not the volume of new members that come over between now and 11/5 but rather how does the industry capitalize on that to keep the momentum going and growing.”
He added, “If for an entire year we could see new membership rise by 20 to 25% now that would be amazing. On the other hand, if the mega banks want to keep throwing us these easy targets, well then I suppose anything is possible … perhaps even 150 million CU members by the end of 2013.”
Now, “wouldn't that be something,” he quipped. (The NCUA’s annual report released this week said there were 90.5 million members of federally insured credit unions as of June 30.)