For big banks, the pain of Bank Transfer Day might depend on how much their customers tend to put things off.
It also depends on whether you are Bank of America Corp., according to an online survey conducted in November by TNS, a custom research unit of WPP PLC.
About 12% of 2,500 respondents said they had closed their accounts or planned to do so in response to a populist push to get people to take their business from big banks on Nov. 5 and give it to credit unions and community banks. About 41% of the group that reported changing banks said they were walking away from B of A.
Most of the defectors said they had yet to make the switch, however, and instead reported that they expected to do so in the future. About 2.3% of the survey respondents said they had actually closed an account with a big bank and moved to a credit union, and roughly 1.8% said they moved to a community bank.
Altogether, a defection of 12% of account holders would be a big reaction to an initiative designed as a mass demonstration of anger over bank bailouts, wealth inequality and debit card fees.
However, data on dollar amounts of deposits published by regulators continued to show growth at big banks outstripping growth at small banks in the aftermath of the Occupy Wall Street protests, and did not support the view that such a movement was under way.
In any event, B of A, whose aborted debit card transaction fee was widely regarded as disastrous for the company’s image, is bearing the lion’s share of the fallout, according to the TNS survey.
Among respondents who reported closing accounts or plans to do so, the 41% share that said they were leaving B of A compared with 13.7% for JPMorgan Chase & Co., 10% for Wells Fargo & Co. and 3.1% for Citigroup Inc. (About 1.9% said they had left or planned to leave a local credit union, and about 2.2% said a small community bank.)
Interestingly, while older respondents were more likely to be aware of Bank Transfer Day (44% of those 60 years old or older said they were "very" or "somewhat" familiar with it, compared with 22.7% of those under 30), younger respondents were more likely to report having closed accounts or planning to do so. About 22.7% of respondents under 30 (the same proportion of the age group that said they were "very" or "somewhat" familiar with Bank Transfer Day) said they were changing banks, compared with just 8.6% of those 60 or older.
Perhaps more worrying for big banks, wealthier customers were also more likely to report that they were changing banks. About 13.8% of respondents who said they had incomes of $75,000 or more reported they had closed their accounts or were planning to do so, compared with 10.2% of respondents with incomes of less than $30,000.