Friday, October 14, 2011

Big Banks Were Never Our Friends

Reading about the Occupy Wall Street movement I was amazed to see that one of their demands - or requests - is that people should give up their accounts at the big banks and move to smaller banks. This, to me, has always been a no-brainer. Big banks were never the friends of the small guy (the less than rich or well-to-do).

I realize it is almost impossible to avoid the big banks totally. I wrote a post on my other blog way back in July, 2010, Large Financial Institutions are Not Our Friends. What confounds me is the naivete of the kids attempting to change our world (I realize the Wall Street protesters are not really kids, and many of them are older, but a lot of them seem like kids to this aging boomer). 

Financial institutions are in business to make money. There are lots of ways to make money (legally). Some companies actually make things they sell to other people. A lot of companies provide services people need and are willing to pay for. And some companies ensconce bright young graduate degree twenty-somethings in offices in major financial centers like New York, paying them big bucks to devise ways to get their greedy hands on everyone else's money.

These companies most recently decided to charge customers a fee, $3 or $5 depending on the bank, for the privilege of using their debit cards to buy stuff. (Banks are not charging, apparently, to get cash from their ATM machines). This is just one more example of ways the big guys strive to nickel and dime us to death, or at least into genteel poverty.

The big guys do want some of our business and grudgingly accept it to help pay the bills. But they really want the business of the 1% of the population everyone is now talking about. The checking accounts, savings accounts and financial transactions of the majority produce minimal fees. The big bucks come with servicing the wealthy minority.

Most of these banks do not care if middle-class Americans invest their paltry sum of investment dollars with them. They are not really interested unless there is a pot of at least one million dollars - and even that is a meager sum to many firms. They may take your money, but then you get to talk to someone in a call center in Texas or who knows where. Every time you call you probably talk to someone else. These guys (and gals) are eager to work their way out of the boondocks, into the big time and deal with the big money customers.

The Wall Street occupiers and an entire younger generation are disillusioned, frustrated and want change now. I think I can say that, no matter an individual's age or political persuasion, just about everyone is weary of inaction and wants change. We are all dissatisfied and dismayed that the powers who can change things either are not listening, are actually powerless, do not care or do not know how to change things. Or maybe they like the status quo and do not want things to change. Whatever the reason, I  understand the feelings of discouragement and powerlessness of the Wall Street protesters, although doubt if their methods will bring real change soon. But any reaction and response is better than nothing right now.


  1. We're moving our last Bank of America checking account to a friendlier place. We do what we can.

  2. Credit unions are much friendlier places than BofA, for example. I am watching the OWS movement with a great deal of hope. It's already brought things to the surface that needed to be examined by the media.