(Dow Jones) Even before the Huffington Post launched its "Move Your Money" campaign, investors-many with the blessings of their financial advisors-had begun to shift their assets from the Wall Street financial institutions to the little guys on Main Street.
"There's an anger in the country about the bailouts of large banks," says Cheryl Smith, president of Trillium Asset Management Corp. in Boston, who has fielded in the last six months a lot more questions than usual from clients about whether to abandon the big banks.
A 2009 J.D. Power and Associates study found consumer perceptions of banks had declined for the third consecutive year and that only 35% of customers were "highly committed to their retail bank."
The big institutions play down those kinds of numbers. "People change accounts all the time," says Scott E. Talbott, senior vice president of governmental affairs for The Financial Services Roundtable. "We're going to work hard to restore customer trust."
But a growing number of community banks and credit unions are capitalizing on this frustration with campaigns encouraging customers to switch to a smaller bank and promising better service.
"Almost daily someone will call and say, 'I'm bringing my accounts to you,'" says Mike Menzies, president and CEO of Easton Bank and Trust in Easton, Md.
Gregory Heller, who had banked with WaMu before it was taken over by Chase, says he made the change because he was "fed up with the big banks and the way they've been behaving."
"I wanted to send someone a message about the bank bailouts and bonuses," he said. He moved his accounts to the BECU credit union in Seattle.
Some financial advisors approve of the move, particularly for clients who like the idea of their deposits being loaned locally or who are shopping for loans themselves.
Smith tells clients not to switch without making sure that deposits at the new institution are insured by Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. or the National Credit Union Administration. Additionally, the credit union or community bank must provide the necessary services. "Are they a member of an ATM network so that, if you travel, you can access money without high ATM fees?" says Smith.