Whatever the amount moved from the big banks on one day, the Move Your Money protest is clearly striking a chord—the organization has more than 45,000 “likes” on Facebook. Asking consumers to “Invest in Main Street, not Wall Street,” the website notes that smaller banks spur job growth because they do much more lending to small businesses than bigger banks.
Many people have stayed with their banks, despite the rising fees and dissatisfaction with customer service because it seemed daunting to switch, says Frank Sorrentino, CEO of North Jersey Community Bank. He says he has seen an uptick in new customers ever since the economy started to go bad, starting around 2007. By offering free debit cards, online banking and free checking, he says, he is able to build lasting relationships with clients.
“The big banks think [when they raise fees] ‘what we lose in people, we gain in fees,’” he says. “Community banks don’t think like that. We do well because of our relationship with customers. We have clients who actually cost us money. But they bring in good will and good PR and [maybe they’ll bring in] their family.”
Credit unions, while different from banks, can offer the same level of customer service.
Hava Gurevich, an artist and director of a traveling exhibitions company, recently moved her funds to a credit union on Long Island. She was impressed with the manager who sat down to help set up her account, stayed until after closing to answer her questions, and gave Gurevich a certificate promising no fees for life. “It was a really wonderful experience,” she said. “With my other banks, especially Chase, there was always this push to get me to sign up for something more. I felt no such pressure here.”