- Account openings, online and in-branch, double in October at BECU.
- Randolph-Brooks FCU reports 22% of new funds through ACH are from Bank of America.
- Online account opening up as much as 40% at Andera, Harland and Fiserv.
While Bank Transfer Day, and the dump-your-bank sentiment that serves as its backdrop, has earned a lot of media coverage and promotional dollars among credit unions, are people really switching?
The folks whose job it is to facilitate that move behind the scenes, who manage the so-called “switch kits” of electronic banking, say it’s so.
Several big credit unions and the vendors who supply their technology told Credit Union Times last week they have seen a surge of new memberships that began when Bank of America declared its $5 a month debit fee in late September.
“We’ve more than doubled our usual rate of membership growth in the past 17 or 18 days,” said Howie Wu, vice president of virtual banking at the $9.5 billion, 700,000-member BECU in Tukwila, Wash.
“We usually average about 6,000 to 7,000 new members a month, but from the date of Bank of America’s announcement to today, we’ve totaled 10,400 new members,” Wu said Thursday.
A half a nation away, “We’re on track to open more accounts in one month than we ever have before,” said Mary O’Rourke, vice president of electronic services at the $4.4 billion, 357,000-member Randolph-Brooks FCU in Live Oak, Texas.
Several major and regional banks already had begun raising fees in anticipation of losing income to the new interchange cap, but it seems to be Bank of America’s move that set the stage for a Facebook post by a Los Angeles art dealer to go viral and launch the ad hoc, anti-bank holiday that debuts Nov. 5.
RBFCU already had been sweetening the pot, raising the 10 cents per transaction it was paying back to debit users to 15 cents after the Oct. 1 interchange cap took effect. The Bank of America announcement just made things happen faster, O’Rourke said.
“We were averaging about 700 accounts a month and then saw that go up to about 1,000 a month when we began the cash back, and since the beginning of the month we’ve gone up to about 50 new accounts a day,” she said.
New accounts funded by credit or debit cards don’t reveal their source like ACH transfers do, O’Rourke noted, but she said through that major channel they’ve seen the amount from Bank of America go from averaging about 7% of incoming funds before the announcement to 22% now.
Charlie Kroll is the other part of that “they.” He’s the founder and CEO of Andera Inc., a pioneer in online account opening who’s Providence, R.I., company now hosts the transfer activity, the heart of the switch kit, for more than 500 credit unions and banks.
“We saw a spike in volume the day Bank of America actually announced the fee, which is pretty predictable, but then it went up about 40% the next day and has stayed at that level ever since,” Kroll said.
He also noted, “Those ACH transfers were all from opening new accounts, so that’s a really good barometer.”
Other vendors report similar numbers, including Sam Kilmer, vice president of market development for Harland Financial Solutions in Lake Mary, Fla., the new owner, as of this year, of the uOpen and uSwitch solutions.
Kilmer said his company is hosting those applications for online use by 106 clients and more in branches and that they’ve seen increases in recent days ranging from as little as 10% to as much as 40% “or even higher.”
The maturation of integrated, across-the-enterprise account opening and funding solutions – with cross selling tools built in, too – came at a particularly good time, Kilmer said, because a lot of these new members are bringing more than just a checking account.
“We’re seeing an average of 2.5 accounts in the average opening,” he said. “This is a relationship-building exercise.”
Kilmer’s client, BECU, offers confirmation. “We’re noticing that these are full relationships a lot of the time, rather than just opening up one account or getting a loan. We’re getting multiple accounts, savings and checking and loan products. They’re trying to move their relationships out of Bank of America, a lot of the time, to BECU,” said Wu, the big Seattle credit union’s virtual banking executive.
O’Rourke and others noted that they’re seeing funds from other institutions as well, including Wells Fargo and Chase, and that account openings already naturally spike for some credit unions this time of year.
“For instance, at Notre Dame FCU, one of our clients, when students come back in the fall, they see a huge spike, from maybe a couple hundred a month to over a thousand,” said Scott Bowen, business development manager for the AccountCreate solution from Fiserv Inc.
Bowen did note, however, that application volume among the 180 or so AccountCreate clients has doubled in the past four months.
“The could be 16 reasons for that,” Bowen said, adding that the ease of changing accounts – automating and integrating such disparate functions as OFAC checks, funding, signatures and disclosures – also has made a difference in the number of consumers switching.
And while a lot of credit unions across the land are heavily promoting their attributes, using tried and new avenues of touting the credit union difference – and without mentioning Bank Transfer Day for the most part – some credit union managers say even that’s not necessary to capitalize on the anti-bank sentiment.
The media coverage is one reason. O’Rourke at Randolph-Brooks FCU said one of her colleagues was being interviewed at a branch lobby and the television reporter asked to talk to a new member who happened to be there opening up an account.
“That new member had come from Bank of America,” O’Rourke said.
Wu, the virtual banking boss at BECU, added, “There’s a whole ‘enough-is-enough’ mentality going on out there right now. We don’t necessarily feel like we need to run any massive promotions to get people to switch. People are already doing it anyway.”
But for how long? Nov. 5, Bank Transfer Day, won’t necessarily be the end of it, some say.
“We don’t know how long it will continue, but our guess is that we’ve got some time left,” said Kroll at Andera. “When people get their bank statements in November and realize ‘this is happening to me’, there could be a whole other wave of this.”