A young American woman caused quite much havoc in banks. Her online appeal met with the respond from nearly 700 thousand people, and 4.5 milliard dollars disappeared from commercial bank accounts.

A few months ago nearly nobody heard about Kristen Christian yet. Today the activists of the worldly financiers are saying about her and the prestigious magazine ‘More’ has included her into a group of the most influential and dynamically acting women of the world, including the British queen Elizabeth II or Angela Merkel. How did it happen that the owner of a small gallery in Los Angeles is a new heroine of America now?

The power of Facebook

Popularity and social trustfulness towards big financial corporations has radically decreased with the arrival of the present economic crisis. Stock Quotes and the income of banks have also decreased. One of the ways of solving this problem was to be introducing fees for using a debit card. What is more, the costs were to be taken only by the poorest Americans. – I had already been fed up with other fees. I decided it was a wrong situation in which a big and rich corporation takes away money from ordinary people. On the one hand banks got gigantic funds from the government of the USA, but on the other hand – they want to throw the responsibility for their bad decisions onto citizens. While looking for a solution on Internet, she found an offer of Credit Unions acting on the basis of cooperatives such as the Polish Credit Unions SKOK. They turned out to be an excellent antidote against aggressive policy of the bank sector. For, the Credit Union offered much more advantageous conditions than commercialised corporations. – So, I set up a profile called Bank Transfer Day on the social portal Facebook and I sent a short message to 200 acquaintances: ‘If you do not want to pay 5 dollars to the Bank of America monthly for the access to your money, transfer simply your savings into a friendly local Credit Union’ – explained Kristen Christian during her stay in Warsaw. She arrived in Poland especially to the invitation of the Savings and Credit Unions which are the polish equivalent of the American Credit Union.

Bank Transfer Day

The respond of the net-surfers has gone beyond any expectations. The message of the young American woman was creating bigger groups of the interested. A number of people who decided to oppose the dictates of banks were growing like avalanche. During nearly a few weeks 650 thousand Americans transferred their savings into the Credit Union. This process is still going on because 2.5 million Americans have gone to the unions with their deposits till today, and milliards of dollars with them.

The successful action of Bank Transfer Day is an excellent example of the power of social media which – as the example of Egypt showed – can serve both to the revolution and putting pressure on the powerful corporations. - I am not a kind of a political rebel. Our action showed only that the growth of the consciousness among consumers and the opposition to the aggressive policy of banks may initiate a permanent process – explains Christian. The internet American community made a step further. Now the Bank Transfer Day is caring in the USA Congress about the abolition of the limits of the amount of loans which are imposed on the Union Credits. – These attempts will probably finish with a success-says proudly the young American woman.

Kristen Christian, and rather the action initiated by her, has achieved a spectacular success in a short time. The initiator has assumed not to take any grants. She wants to be fully independent, apart from – as she states – social media and generally internet create possibilities in order to achieve great aims for little money. However, it turned out that some people spend millions in order to exist socially and influence politicians and she showed that a lot can be achieved without any financial outlay.

Market regulation

Thanks to 28-year-old Kristen milliards of dollars evaporated from banks. And this means that she must also have powerful enemies. A proof for it can also be an attempt of slandering her on Internet. However, it turned out that bank employees stood behind the so-called black Public Relations. I sent questions to their managers whether they did it on their own or they had received this command. Although I have not received an answer till now, media got to know about this issue, which brought more harm to the reputation of these institutions – emphasized Christian. Bank Transfer Day shows that the society of the 21st century has excellent instruments to defend itself against corporations which have become a possessor of the market and are maximally trying to use their clients. – Commercial financial institutions are directed onto their own benefit, so the care about clients has a secondary importance. – explains Grzegorz Bierecki, a chairman of the National Credit Union SKOK; whereas in the Credit Unions, such as for example SKOK, a client must show respect because he is also a co-owner. The appetites of the commercial institutions can be prevented only in two ways – by the inner regulations of the country and a competitive alternative in the market.

– If consumers have somewhere to go, they can use this possibility. It prevents banks from offering too expensive products. The cooperative financial sector is regulating the market quite well, so its existence lies also in the interest of commercial bank clients – emphasizes Bierecki.

An example of the pathology in the Polish market is a very high fee for using a debit card. Shops have been bearing the direct costs till now, which is eventually connected with higher prices. In our country the fees for electronic transactions are twice higher than the average in the European Union and eight times higher than in Hungary or in Finland. When the Office of Competition and Consumers’ Protection and the National Bank of Poland started to endeavour for decreasing this fee, bank corporations stated that after the decrease of fees taken from shops they would introduce extra fees for clients of debit cards. Banks in the USA were trying to introduce a similar solution. Its result was just Bank Transfer Day.

An American mystery

During her visit in Poland, Kristen Christian also noticed one danger in our country. For, Polish banks are under the possession of foreign institutions in nearly 70%. Benefits which they gain thanks to the Polish consumers are assigned for funding companies-mother abroad. – I see that Poles work hard, are successful and later they send their money abroad. Export of your savings is a nonsense – emphasizes Christian. – It is high time you took responsibility for yourselves. If you notice that an economic subject does not contribute to the development of your country, you should simply stop investing in it.

In the contrary to banks, savings and credit unions do not pay out dividends. The whole excess of payment is assigned for one’s own capital. Thanks to it, its members have a better interest rate of their savings and cheaper credits. It differs from the chairman of bank in the fact that every year during a general meeting attended by the representatives of credit unions, I say an amount which our members and also owners gained by virtue of saving in SKOK but not in banks – explains Bierecki.

More and more Poles notice the merits of these alternative financial services. Therefore, we observe in our country similar tendencies to the American ones. Only in the first quarter of this year 170 thousand new members have joined SKOK. It is estimated that till the end of the year, about half a million new people will have joined it.

In the USA over 90 million Americans belong to similar Credit Unions. Local communities and labour groups have their credit unions. For example, Kristen Christian is cooperating with a Credit Union of fire station in San Francisco. – During the darkest period for the Americans, during a big crisis, it was the Credit Unions which supported local communities – says Christian.

– Despite these traditions, merits and social range, these financial institutions were a ‘strictly concealed’ mystery in American media. However, thanks to the action Bank Transfer Day this situation has radically changed.


"Niedziela" 26/2012

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: