Big Banks Are Thinking Local

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With the economy still struggling and the Occupy Wall Street movement continuing to urge supporters to boycott mainstream financial institutions, major banks are facing more pressure than ever to maintain the trust of customers in the local communities they serve. Campaigns such as the Move Your Money Project, Move Our Money USA and others have encouraged consumers to divest from the big Wall Street banks and move to smaller banking institutions like credit unions, which invest peoples' savings in local economies. The campaigns claim many thousands of people have moved their money out of larger institutions. Despite tales of customer losses, many of the big banks maintain that they have not been significantly affected by such movement. Still, some have bolstered community service and local outreach efforts over the last year. Representatives at HSBC, which currently has 74 branches throughout Manhattan, said that they did not feel that the company has suffered from move your money campaigns. "I would say that we haven't been noticeably impacted," said HSBC spokesperson Neil Brazil. "We have built extremely strong connections in the community." He added that the bank's strategies for community outreach have "not really changed" with the economic downturn. Heather Nesle, vice president of corporate sustainability at HSBC, said the company has expanded and bolstered its local philanthropy programs over the last few years. For instance, this year in New York City, HSBC launched Nontraditional Employment for Women, a workforce development effort that helps prepare low-income women for work in fields such as construction, transportation and facilities maintenance. "As a company, we appreciate the fact that we're doing something that benefits the community. I think that can only have a positive effect on our reputation and image and on our customers," Nesle said. And New York City Bank of America employees contributed more than 34,000 local volunteer hours in 2011, according T.J. Crawford, media relations coordinator. "Keep in mind that many of the thousands we employ in New York City don't just work here, they live here too, and they want to see the city and its communities thrive," Crawford said.

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