BTD Founder Christian Thanks Industry, Rebuffs Vermont Occupy Jab
Eight months after Bank Transfer Day, Kristen Christian, its California founder, reiterated Thursday her gratitude to industry leaders and frontline staffers for providing her a life-changing appreciation of credit unions, something she said that has made her a better American.
Christian, whose Facebook postings last fall helped ignite the Nov. 5 anti-bank holiday – which in turn led to a flood of new credit union accounts – told Credit Union Times the months since have been filled with national and international speech-making and conference appearances that she said she has found humbling.
“Some days I can't believe how fortunate I am to work with such a fantastic group of people,” said Christian, previously owner of a Los Angeles art shop. “With every person I meet at credit union events, my resolve is only strengthened that credit unions offer an opportunity to repair not only our nation's economy but also our morale."
Christian’s comments came as the BTD creator, who has been stumping for CUNA and other trade groups in support of member business lending, came in for sharp criticism from a Vermont Occupy contingent which made headlines this week by electing one of its own to the board of the $346 million Vermont Federal Credit Union of Burlington.
The broadside claiming Christian has taken undue credit away from the broader Occupy movement in starting BTD as well as ignoring the phenomenon’s umbrella mission of hitting hard on bank practices came in an interview with Matt Cropp, a participant in Occupy Burlington and who was defeated in a June 7 election for a Vermont Federal board seat.
Gaining a vacant seat on that board was Eric Davis, an Occupy Burlington activist and University of Vermont research assistant.
Cropp accused Christian of promoting “a misleading and self-serving narrative of why BTD unfolded as it did, attributing its success to her marketing skills and understanding of Gen Y.”
Rather, Cropp told Credit Union Times, Occupy Wall Street groups involved in Arianna Huffington’s “Move Your Money” campaign had years before sown the social movement seeds for BTD.
“Her story has gotten her some good paid speaking gigs, but left many misinformed about the actual dynamics in play,” Cropp said.
Christian replied that while she appreciates the Occupy movement for spreading the word on BTD, the movement never followed through in telling consumers precisely “what to do with their money by placing it into local credit unions or community banks.”
Christian also said she was a pacifist and that she did not identify with Occupy protests or participate in them.
“Rather than conducting a personal attack on me, this man should devote his attention to the dedication and selfless good work credit unions are doing to ensure communities prosper,” she said.
“Attempts to subdivide supporters of the initiative are counterproductive and contradicts the very foundation of the credit union mission,” Christian said.
As for paid speaking engagements, Christian said she did receive a small stipend once after addressing a chapter lunch of the California Credit Union League. But, she stressed, she has no professional relationship or lobbying ties with CUNA or leagues.
Christian noting her efforts on behalf of BTD began in September 2011 said she has endured many sleepless nights and much hard work in organizing BTD in initially signing up Facebook supporters from the online community. .
“It was definitely a labor of love and worth any sacrifices,” said Christian stressing “I’ve never been more proud to be an American.”
Among her speaking appearances and work for CUInsight, an online news aggregator, Christian also traveled to Poland to meet with Grzegorz Bierecki, president and CEO of the National Association of Cooperative Savings & Credit Unions. Bierecki, recently elected to the Polish parliament, is first vice chair of the World Council of Credit Unions.