Roughly half of the customers leaving a large bank in the past year ended up moving their money to another large bank, according to data from J.D. Power and Associates.

That's despite Bank Transfer Day, Occupy Wall Street and other popular movements that bubbled up last fall urging people to switch their accounts to smaller institutions.

"The convenience factor is still very large," Michael Beird, director of the banking services practice at J.D. Power, told American Banker in an interview on Friday. He adds that branch location is still a key factor, along with customer service and fees charged, for people making decisions about where to bank.

But smaller banks and credit unions did see drastically fewer customers leave in 2011 than they did in prior years: just 0.9% of customers left those institutions on average, down from 8.8% a year earlier.

By comparison, 10% to 11.3% of customers at large, mid-sized and regional banks switched financial institutions, according to J.D. Power's 2012 U.S. Bank Customer Switching and Acquisition Study, released Monday. The study was conducted in November and December 2011.

Defection rates at the bigger institutions were closer to between 7% and 10% in 2010, Beird says.

In 2011 overall, 9.6% of customers indicated they switched their primary bank account during the past year to a new company, up from 8.7% a year ago.

The study also found that promotions and other incentives banks offered did not garner as much consumer loyalty as good service.

Only 32% of customers who chose a new bank based on a promotion said they would "definitely not" switch banks again in the next year, while close to half of customers who said they switched because of good service or a positive recommendation said they wouldn't switch. 

"At some point the customer realizes the institution is going to have to meet more needs than just providing incentives," says Beird.

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