BOCA RATON, Fla.-Bob Hoppenstedt doesn't mind expressing his affection for Bank of America.
"Bank of America is my friend. I absolutely adore them," said Hoppenstedt, SVP with Bethpage FCU in New York, referring to the aftermath of BofA's much-ballyhooed 2011 decision to implement a $5 monthly debit card fee; a pricing decision it has since withdrawn.
Speaking as part of a panel discussion at CO-OP Financial Services' THINK 12 Conference during which Bank Transfer Day strategies were discussed, Hoppenstedt noted the $5-billion Bethpage FCU's goal is to double assets every five years, and Bank Transfer Day and all the hoopla that followed has certainly helped.
"Bank Transfer Day was an absolutely wonderful experience for us," said Hoppenstedt. "Not since the '80s has checking provided such an opportunity for growth."
From Oct. 30 to Nov. 5 of 2011, Bethpage signed up 1,645 new members, including 1,471 new checking accounts (672 of which came on Bank Transfer Day itself).
"And that momentum has just kept going and going," said Hoppenstedt.
Bethpage FCU did all it could to leverage that momentum by launching a lifetime no-fee, free-checking offer that includes waiving foreign ATM fees (providing the member meets certain requirements, such as 15 debit transactions per month). That decision cost Bethpage $200,000 per year in interchange, but Hoppenstedt stressed it wanted to emphasize that it truly is free.
"We wanted to make a bold statement, and we did," he said. "We gave out certificates saying this checking account will be free for life. Plus we offered a hundred bucks to buy back old checks from other institutions. The New York media market is one of the most expensive in the country, so we also wanted to get media coverage too. Facebook was a big part of this, and for the first time, social media really played a part."
That media coverage included a national report on ABC News, along with local Fox News coverage, plus the New York Times, Newsday and other outlets.
"We did constant advertising for the no-fee guarantee," said Hoppenstedt. "We wouldn't let it go. It remains relevant with big banks charging fees. We were doing 300 checking accounts per week; now we're doing about 550 per week. For us, Bank Transfer Day has really become Bank Transfer Season."