Eight months after Bank Transfer Day, Kristen Christian, its California founder, reiterated her gratitude to both industry leaders as well as frontline staffers for providing her a life-changing appreciation of credit unions, something that she said has made her a better American.
Christian, whose Facebook postings last fall helped ignite the Nov. 5 anti-bank fervor triggering a flood of new accounts flowing into credit unions, told Credit Union Times the intervening months have been filled with national and international speech making, but the experiences have been humbling.
“Some days I can't believe how fortunate I am to work with such a fantastic group of people,” said Christian, previously the 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 Bank Transfer Day creator, who has been stumping for CUNA and various trade groups in support of member business lending, received sharp criticism from a Vermont Occupy contingent that made headlines recently 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 Transfer Day 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 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 joiner and University of Vermont research assistant, who was elected in a member vote.
In criticizing Christian, Cropp accused the Transfer Day founder of promoting “a misleading and self-serving narrative of why the event unfolded as it did, attributing its success to her marketing skills and understanding of Gen Y.” Rather, charges Cropp, Occupy Wall Street groups involved in Arianna Huffington’s “Move Your Money” campaign had years before sown the social movement seeds for Transfer Day.
In expressing his frustration with Christian, Cropp said, “Her story has gotten her some good paid speaking gigs, but left many misinformed about the actual dynamics in play.”
In rejecting the Cropp charges, Christian said while she appreciates Occupy Wall Street’s spreading the word on Transfer Day in the viral media and its support for the concept, Occupy never followed through in telling consumers precisely “what to do with their money by placing it into local credit unions or community banks.” Moreover, Christian who described herself as a “pacifist” said she could not identify with nor did she ever participate in Occupy protests.
“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,” said Christian.“Attempts to subdivide supporters of the initiative are counterproductive and contradicts the very foundation of the credit union mission.”
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 the leagues.
Christian noted that her efforts on behalf of Transfer Day began in September 201. She said she has endured many sleepless nights and much hard work in organizing the event 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 jaunts as well as work for CUInsight, an online information bureau servicing credit unions, Christian also traveled to Poland to meet with Grzegorz Bierecki, president/ 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.