Remember, Remember, the 5th of... May?
The same people who urged U.K. residents to "Move Your Money" in the month of March are now encouraging people to take action on the day of their banks' annual general meeting. In theory, it's capitalism at its best; by choosing where and how they bank, customers have the power to change the industry.
Remember, remember, the 5th of November
It was less than six months ago that a social media campaign in the United States urged customers to do the same thing.
Outraged by the fees that JPMorgan Chase (NYS: JPM) , Wells Fargo (NYS: WFC) , and Bank of America (NYS: BAC) were looking at charging customers, a social media movement declared Nov. 5 the day on which all customers should switch to a local bank or credit union. Dubbed Bank Transfer Day, it was supposed to sound the death knell for the big banking industry.
The day arrived with fanfare; credit unions offered special promotions, protesters participated with mixed results throughout the country, and the Credit Union National Association reported high levels of participation among its members. The numbers eventually were found to have been exaggerated, with accounting or human error misrepresenting the actual number of new customers versus existing customers with new accounts.
When the smoke cleared and the final count came in, an estimated 5.6 million people changed banks in the 90 days leading up to Bank Transfer Day. Only 11% credited Bank Transfer Day, while 26% cited excessive bank fees and poor customer service as the reason. During the quarterly earnings call following the event, Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan admitted that account closures were up by approximately 20%.
More likely to leave your spouse than your bank
And now it's the U.K.'s turn.
An op-ed in the Guardian on the Move Your Money movement evoked the cheeky adage that people are more likely to leave their marriages than leave their banks. And it's true that the idea of building the banking system to suit its customers is a new philosophy in the U.K., which traditionally has some of the lowest switching rates in all of Europe.
But it appears that frustration with the banking system is far greater than that with the institution of marriage, because Move Your Money has set out a list of complaints.
The list includes taxpayer bailouts that didn't change the culture, reduced lending to small- and medium-sized businesses, large executive bonuses, unethical investments, and unfair tax laws -- all of which are issues that we are currently debating on this side of the pond.
With a toolkit, a handy e-book, and partnerships throughout the U.K., the campaign reported 1,000 people had pledged to change banks, and small banks did indeed report an increase in new accounts. Now that the initial Move Your Money push has passed, the campaign is continuing by urging folks who haven't already changed banks to do so on the day of their banks' annual general meeting.
While the U.K. movement is small, and like Bank Transfer Day in the U.S. it is unlikely to impart real change in the global financial system, it is perhaps likely to have the same complementary outcome. Informed customers are empowered customers. As I wrote about Bank Transfer Day, opting out of the big bank system might not affect it much. And that's OK. The savings that customers may see as a result of switching to a small bank may be minuscule. And that's also OK. These protests are part of a swelling tide of customers who simply refuse to play. While the campaigns may take different names and have different homes, they are the same.
And they are far from the last ones.
Have you transferred your banking as a result of an online campaign? Staying where you are? Tell me about it below.
At the time this article was published
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