Do Credit Unions Need A Bank Transfer Day 2012?

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Credit Union Times recently reported that Bank Transfer Day (BTD) creator Kristen Christian “came in for sharp criticism from a Vermont Occupy contingent which made headlines this week by electing one of its own to the board of the $346 million Vermont Federal Credit Union of Burlington.” According to the article:

“Christian has taken undue credit away from the broader Occupy movement in starting BTD as well as ignoring the phenomenon’s umbrella mission of hitting hard on bank practices. [Occupy Burlington activist Matt] Cropp accused Christian of promoting “a misleading and self-serving narrative of why BTD unfolded as it did, attributing its success to her marketing skills and understanding of Gen Y.”

Personally, I have no clue whether Cropp’s claims are accurate or not, nor do I care. The two questions that I’m more concerned with are: 1) Was Bank Transfer Day 2011 successful? and 2) Should CUs create a Bank Transfer Day 2012?

If it was a success, then regardless of who gets (or takes) credit for it, credit unions should figure out how to recreate the efforts again this year. If it wasn’t successful, then credit unions shouldn’t care less who gets the “credit” for what happened last year.

So, was BTD 2012 a success?

My take: The results are inconclusive.

Aite Group research found that 10% of banked consumers switched primary FIs in 2011. When asked what factors influenced their decision to switch, 8% cited BTD transfer day.

Taken by itself, that statistic isn’t very impressive.

But of those that switched primary providers, about half were Gen Yers. And of switching Gen Yers, 12% said that they were influenced by BTD (if you want to quantipulate, you could say that 12% is 50% higher than 8%).

Before dismissing BTD as…well, not as a failure, but as a “less-than-rousing success”….we should keep in mind that, for the most part, credit unions themselves did diddly-squat to create or promote BTD. Which means that their ROI on BTD with a 8% influence rate was huge. (It’s always a great marketing tactic when you can get someone else to do all the work while you reap the benefits).

If 10% of households switch primary FIs again this year, and if  BTD 2012 influences 8% of them to switch to a credit union, is it worth CUs’ investment? We are talking about 1 million credit union members here.

But it seems highly unlikely that someone else is going to pick up the ball and tab for a BTD 2012. Credit unions will need to make a concerted, well-planned effort to pull off a BTD 2012.

Could CUs Pull Off a BTD 2012?

The credit union blogosphere has forever debated the merits of a national branding campaign for CUs, without coming to many conclusions, little agreement, and no action (I think). So how will they pull off a BTD 2012?

And is consumer sentiment the same in 2012 as it was in 2011? I don’t think so. That’s the problem with these “movements”: Short shelf-life.

We Americans like to have our villains to blame all the evils of society on, but those villains come and go. Are banks still the Satan-incarnate?

Maybe, but the hatred is winding down (as it always does. Anybody remember BP?) BTD 2011 needed a trigger, which it got in the form of new fees introduced by the big banks. This year hasn’t produced that trigger.

Bottom line: The parties involved can argue all they want over who gets credit for BTD 2011’s success. Credit union executives would be wise to focus on the future, and determine if a BTD 2012 is in their best interest. 

As far as I’m concerned, BTD 2011 was a passing phenomenon. A one-time shot. The pieces came together at a moment in time in 2011, and those pieces aren’t there for 2012. 

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