In an editorial last June, Winning Workplaces described the parity that existed at the time between the country’s big banks, which were saved from apparent disaster with a taxpayer-funded bailout, and other industries and institutions which have also sought much-needed assistance, but have been largely denied.
Yet, while the economy has improved since then, that parity still exists, and taxpayer anger has risen to almost historic levels. Leveraging this anger, at the end of December 2009 The Huffington Post partnered with Institutional Risk Analytics (IRA) to launch and promote a web-based tool to help consumers identify smaller, community banks to which they could “move their money,” in protest to practices and activities at the big banks. Earlier this month IRA CEO and Managing Director Dennis Santiago touted the success of this grassroots-y initiative, reporting that people have used the tool to search all zip codes in U.S. states where the FDIC lists an active bank branch.
But while, according to the FAQ at MoveYourMoney.info, small and midsize businesses are a target demographic of the site (the community banks in the database primarily serve small, local businesses in addition to families and farmers), it would seem there is still much work to be done to reach and convince small business leaders to actually shift their firms’ accounts from large to small banks, vis-à-vis the website.
Since our role is to raise issues we think will impact small business, last quarter Winning Workplaces conducted a “Move Your Money” survey of our registered users and others in our network. Only a third of the respondents, from across the country and parts of Canada, were very or somewhat familiar with Move Your Money; two-thirds heard about it for the first time from us. And even among those who were familiar with the movement, only 17 percent have actually moved their business accounts from larger to smaller banks, or know another business leader who has done so.
What’s Behind the Change to Smaller Banks
Looking closer at this active and engaged 17 percent, we asked some questions designed to get at the motivation to move from a big bank to a smaller bank, as well as their deadline to determine if they made the right decision and the factors that inform that decision.
Factors that motivated them to move their business accounts included the following (note that since they could choose more than one option, the totals add up to more than 100 percent):
A majority (69 percent) of those who have moved their business’ money don’t have a deadline in mind to decide whether their new, smaller bank is working out best for their company. Among the 31 percent who do, most say it’s six months; the rest are split between giving it one year or three or more years.
We asked these folks about the criteria they’re using to help determine if their new bank is working out best for their business. They responded as follows (again, multiple answers were accepted so totals add up to more than 100 percent):
Move Your Money’s Larger Impact
Finally, we asked all our respondents – whether they’ve moved their money or not – to share their thoughts on this movement’s potential to help small businesses grow, and the impact that would have on the U.S. economy. Here is some of their selected feedback:
|Impact Level||Specific Feedback|
|Low||It is a nice thought and may cause some slight movement to the local community, but in the end I don’t think it will have much of an impact.|
|Low||Helping small business grow is not the point of Move Your Money. The point is to send a message to the banks that received taxpayer bailouts which were used to fund executive bonuses that that sort of behavior is not going to be tolerated.|
|Low||There will be minimal effect until small businesses return to profitability and feel comfortable hiring more employees. It is not that banks aren’t making loans, but that businesses aren’t applying for loans when they feel unsure about what the tax structure and health care costs/fees/taxes could be.|
|Low||May sensitize behemoth banks about pressing concerns affecting small business. Overall impact on small business will be low.|
|Moderate||May help local banks in short run, and will pressure large banks to make greater appeal to locals/community.|
|Moderate||I think it will help some.|
|Moderate||I’m not sure. I think it is largely punitive – and deservedly so – to bigger banks and a good idea to keep money in communities.|
|High||I think the Move Your Money movement is picking up and will definitely help us improve the economy.|
|High||I think this will help empower the people to fight back against Big Banks who fee people to death. Americans are fed up and finally taking action against the out of control Big Business and the government that enables it to practically wipe out the middle class.|
|High||It’s a critical strategy to support the capital and operating needs of small businesses.|
- Two-thirds of those we surveyed are not familiar with the movement. To truly have an impact in the small business community, therefore, those behind the tool need to do more to reach and educate company leaders.
- Frustration with big banks is the #1 factor that led those who’ve moved their money (or know someone who has) to do so.
- Better service is the #1 factor to help Move Your Money participants determine if they made the right decision.
- Respondents are split between thinking Move Your Money will not have much that much impact, and alternatively that it will reshape small business lending and grow the economy.