Wells Fargo Bank beefed up its security Saturday, and only let customers through its doors one at a time. A security guard at the downtown Santa Cruz branch warned customers that protesting would not be allowed inside, even if they were in plain clothes and carried no signs.
This alone may have been enough to spark someone who has already been thinking about transferring their money from a corporate bank into a local bank or credit union into doing so, and an anonymous teller confirmed that the appeared to be "going very well," as many people were coming in to close their accounts — in fact whether or not I was there to close my account was the first question I was posed upon entering.
Meanwhile, the branches of Bay Federal Credit Union were beefed up with a full staff, to help new customers open accounts. Early on Saturday, Executive Vice President Tonee Picard reported 10 people currently opening up accounts while five waited in line to do so.
By the end of the day, Picard reported that over 100 new checking counts were opened that day — the monthly average is about 300 accounts — and fifty more applications were given out to people looking to make the transfer to Bay Federal soon. A final count will be available Monday morning.
“We refinanced many autos as well, saving people hundreds. It was a rewarding day,” said Picard.
It isn’t just one demographic transferring from the corporate banks to credit unions, either, said Picard.
“It’s all across the board. We’ve had people bringing in their kids and opening up accounts for them, we've had men, women, businesses — it would be hard to pin it down to just one demographic, it’s everybody,” said Picard.
Bay Federal has also been doing a lot of loans, too, and averages $120 million per year in community lending.
Protesters outside Wells Fargo Bank stood at the exit handing out fliers with information about the several bank and credit union options for keeping your money local, including , , , , and
“This is probably the best part of the Occupy movement, that we’re inviting everybody to do what we can to change the system, by putting our money in local credit unions,” said Peter Klotz-Chamberlin, who stood outside the River Street branch with an American flag and a sign that read ‘Move your money to local credit unions and local Banks. Support Occupy Wall Street.’
“The response has really been amazing. We’ve probably run into 30 people who are actually closing their accounts over these last two days, and a lot of people who are frustrated with the banks... its pretty encouraging to be out talking to people. I think there are a lot more people in the Occupy movement than the ones you see who are a 24-hour presence,” said Klotz-Chamberlin.
Santa Cruz resident, Sandino Gomez, happened to bike by the Wells Fargo after closing out his Chase bank account.
“It was kind of funny," said Gomez. "The teller went into damage PR mode. She was really nice, trying to tell me they were local too, that they support local contractors and businesses, and that she works there and she’s local.”
Another protestor, Mel Nunez said that he was there because he no longer believed in the United States “manufacturing of debt.”
“Foreclosure of housing and the manufacture of debt, as an industry, is an evil I can’t participate in,” said Nunez.
Nunez talked about the debts his daughter and millions of Americans accrue for graduate school and college as a form of enslavement.
“Her debts are her business in a sense, but I see that this has been accepted by my generation as an acceptable form of slavery thats just not right," said Nunez. "When I went to school I paid $65 a semester, inflation just doesn’t account for the increase since then.”
Many people have already transferred to credit unions, and one man talked about the switch in a local coffee shop in Soquel.
“I thought it would be difficult because all of the big branches have ATMs everywhere," said Juan Pablo. "Then I realized all of the credit unions are linked together to form a wide web. There is that hurdle in the beginning. They approved me for a loan and helped me to improve my credit score —things that no one ever mentioned to me at my former bank.”