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Credit Union Times

Occupy Protesters Reach Out to Credit Unions

Harris Poll Shows Willingness to Switch

Michelle A. Samaad

Occupy Wall Street demonstrations in New York City and across the country continue to grow as organizers seek to keep the momentum going by connecting with credit unions.

Whether they want to be linked or not, credit unions are seen as allies by protestors seeking alternatives to banks.

Organizers with Occupy Toronto said they are seeking out a credit union to park the more than $40,000 in donations they’ve received. In the meantime, the money is currently stashed away in several secret locations, The Toronto Star reported Oct. 29.

The group, which consists of roughly 250 protesters, said it has been getting a steady stream of funds from supporters over the past two weeks. Of the $40,000 received so far, less than $1,000 has been spent, according to the article.

Michael Vessey, one of the persons spearheading Occupy Toronto, told the publication that transparency is important. The group’s various committees do a daily count of the cash donations.

“More people means more problems,” Vessey said. “There’s all this money coming in, and we don’t know what to do with it.”

Occupy Toronto is working to set up a credit union account, the publication reported.

Supporters have dropped off items such as blankets, socks, toothbrushes and baby wipes. A “free store” near the encampment encourages protestors and those passing by to donate or take what they need.

Occupy San Diego is encouraging bank customers to withdraw all their funds and move them to a credit union, Ray Lutz, one of the movement’s organizers here, told East County Magazine Nov. 2.

Oakland, Calif., continues to be a hotbed of activity. Media outlets reported persons blocking entrances to Bank of America, Wells Fargo and other banks as Occupy Oakland demonstrators vowed to shut the city down.

Meanwhile, a new poll from Harris showed that while credit unions enjoy best in class customer retention rates, the nation's largest banks fail to engender the same degree of loyalty from their customers.

According to the poll, which surveyed 2,463 adults between Oct.10-17, 87% were extremely or very likely to continue joining or maintaining their relationships with credit unions. Two in five of Bank of America's customers were extremely or very likely to continue (40%), as are less than half of JP Morgan Chase's customers (46%) and just over half of Wells Fargo/Wachovia's customers (54%).

Credit union members are three times as likely as customers of Bank of America to experience a trustworthy relationship (74% vs. 25%) and feel valued as a customer (72% vs. 24%), the poll showed.

If the social media sites are an indication, those who “like” pages related to Bank Transfer Day, which occurred Nov. 5, 50% are forwarding, discussing and chatting on Facebook about the cause, according to Harris. Thirty-percent were doing the same on Occupy Wall Street-related topics.

“Customers express their loyalty through their actions, but the underlying motivation for these actions is rooted in the degree to which the bank connects with its customers on both a rational and emotional level; which in turn impacts their future intentions of continuing to use and recommend their bank to others,” said Carol Gstalder, executive vice president of Market and Customer Insights at Harris Interactive, in a statement. 

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