November 5th is an unofficial "Bank Transfer Day" when we're supposed to change banks as a sign of solidarity with Occupy Wall Street. Having changed banks two years ago in order to get away from the big, bad banks, I'd like to offer a note of caution.
In switching to Shorebank Pacific in early 2010, I thought I'd solved all my banking woes - a small, local bank with a big sustainability profile - what could be better? A local branch was even located in the Jean Vollum Center 'Ecotrust' building - a sustainability hive. Well, turns out a well-capitalized small local bank with a big sustainability profile would have been better.
Shorebank Pacific was a great bank - but after its parent bank Shorebank of Chicago was taken over by federal regulators - it was only a matter of time before Shorebank Pacific had to merge with a larger California bank. The new merged bank immediately produced a new fee structure, and seemed to do little to reassure customers that its sustainability leadership might continue.
Over time I felt the new bank, One Pacific Coast, just wasn't working for me. It's unique community focus just wasn't enough. The 'personal' banker that helped me make my original bank switch was laid off in the changeover. WIthout the support of someone I knew, the lack of live teller services in my town, the new fees, and the annoying new rule that I would have limits placed on my debit card, my feelings for the bank soured.
I kept some accounts at the new bank, but switched some back to the old, more mainstream bank. When this same banks started to consider debit card fees, I was ready to ditch in favor of a third bank.
But what will the third bank be? I want green features and desire a banking environment that is relationship-focused, and I need some level of international competence.
Here are five tenets of a green bank, according to the Green Bank Report:
The Five Tenets of Green Banking
1. Environmental Perspective for Investments and Loans
2. A Commitment to Ethical Banking Relationships
3. Promoting Green Banking Account Services to Customers
4. Community Involvement
5. Offering Green Reward Incentives to Customers
While it was hard to learn that my state doesn't have a good green bank now that Shorebank is gone, one of the three internationally-focused green banks might work for me, if I can get over my desire for a live teller.
Before you make the switch, consider how important a green, sustainability focus is to you, and take into account whether you will be able to get all the services you need at a price that you can afford. Once you've covered those two bases, you'll be ready to make the switch following the tips in the video.
It might not happen November 5, of course, but it is better to be happy in the long run, as I discovered switching banks is a lot of time, and work.