Are you an­gry enough to switch banks?

USA TODAY US Edition - - MONEY - Jeanne Lee @jlee_­jeanne NerdWal­let Jeanne Lee is a staff writer at NerdWal­let, a per­sonal fi­nance web­site. Email: jlee@nerdwal­ NerdWal­let is a USA TO­DAY con­tent part­ner pro­vid­ing gen­eral news, com­men­tary and cov­er­age from around the Web. Its conte

Ever thought about us­ing your check­ing ac­count as a force for good?

The idea came to Caleb Buch­binder as he and Sioux ac­tivists in Stand­ing Rock, S.D., tried to block con­struc­tion of the $3.8 bil­lion Dakota Ac­cess Pipe­line. Pro­test­ers say con­struc­tion will bull­doze sa­cred land and the pipe­line could en­dan­ger Stand­ing Rock Reser­va­tion’s wa­ter sup­ply.

Buch­binder de­cided to hit the project in the pock­et­book by clos­ing his ac­count at Wells Fargo af­ter learn­ing the bank was among those pro­vid­ing fi­nanc­ing. His bal­ance of about $800 would be, as he put it, “a drop in the bucket,” but he hoped it would be­come part of some­thing much big­ger. He and other ac­tivists started De­, where vis­i­tors can log the amount of money they’ve pulled from banks linked to the pipe­line.

For some con­sumers, es­pe­cially younger ones, a bank’s check­ing poli­cies or in­ter­est rates mat­ter less than its val­ues. In re­cent months, so­cial me­dia cam­paigns have led other con­sumers to switch banks in re­sponse to con­tro­ver­sial so­cial is­sues.

In an age of brands built on strong cor­po­rate re­spon­si­bil­ity mes­sages, such as Warby Parker eye­wear and Toms Shoes, it’s not sur­pris­ing con­sumers would ex­am­ine banks through a so­cial lens.

“Con­sumers to­day are mak­ing the con­nec­tion be­tween their per­sonal fi­nan­cial ac­tiv­i­ties and how they can align with a fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tion that shares their val­ues,” says Vin­cent Si­cil­iano, pres­i­dent and CEO of New Re­source Bank, a San Fran­cisco firm fo­cused on lend­ing to sus­tain­able com­pa­nies and non-prof­its.


At least one banker sees po­ten­tial for a large con­sumer shift to­ward val­ues-based bank­ing.

“We know how mass move­ments can start and in­crease and ag­gre­gate to some­thing that moves hearts and minds — and mar­kets,” says Kat Taylor, coCEO of Ben­e­fi­cial State Bank, a West Coast firm owned by a foun­da­tion fo­cused on so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pacts of the bank­ing in­dus­try. Taylor pointed to De­, where peo­ple had re­ported with­draw­ing more than $65 mil­lion in protest by mid-Fe­bru­ary.

Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties are join­ing in, too: The City of Seat­tle re­cently voted to di­vest $3 bil­lion from Wells Fargo over its role in the pipe­line.


Pained by news of racially charged killings through­out the U.S. last year, Justin Gar­rett Moore took steps to align his money with his hopes for greater so­cial jus­tice.

Last sum­mer, the New York City-based ur­ban plan­ner closed his ac­count at a na­tional bank and trans­ferred $12,000 to black fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions.

He be­came an ad­vo­cate for the cam­paign per­haps best known as #BankBlack, post­ing in­for­ma­tion about black banks on BankBlack­

In­di­vid­u­als such as Moore have caused an in­flow of funds to mi­nor­ity-owned banks, which have strug­gled in re­cent years.

“The vol­ume of de­posits gen­er­ated from the #BankBlack move­ment to black banks in 2016 is un­prece­dented,” says Teri Wil­liams, pres­i­dent and COO of OneUnited Bank.

The bank, among the largest of the 23 black-owned banks in the U.S., gained $20 mil­lion in de­posits last year as a re­sult of the push, Wil­liams says, al­low­ing it to make $130 mil­lion in loans and in­crease na­tional staff by 10%.


Find­ing a bank that fits your val­ues can take a lit­tle work.

“If you care about the en­vi­ron­ment or so­cial jus­tice, then con­sider a val­ues-based bank that is part of the Global Al­liance for Bank­ing on Val­ues,” Si­cil­iano says.

“If there is no GABV bank in your area … check out one of the six B Corp banks around the U.S.”

B Corp banks are for-profit com­pa­nies that have been vol­un­tar­ily cer­ti­fied by the non­profit group B Lab as meet­ing so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal stan­dards.

Taylor sug­gests con­sumers look for an in­sti­tu­tion that “does not max­i­mize over­draft fees, clearly com­mu­ni­cates pric­ing (and) makes loans to busi­nesses and non­prof­its that you care about.”

Her bank has an on­line tool­kit to help any con­sumers who want to find such a val­ues-based bank.

“Con­sumers to­day are mak­ing the con­nec­tion be­tween their per­sonal fi­nan­cial ac­tiv­i­ties and how they can align with a fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tion that shares their val­ues.” Vin­cent Si­cil­iano, pres­i­dent and CEO of New Re­source Bank


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