First, the Big Banks got bigger, then Sonoma County residents and businesses started pouring money mainly into local and regional financial institutions.
In the past two years, two of the county's largest local lenders, Exchange Bank and Redwood Credit Union, each saw double-digit growth in deposits. The two belong to a small group of banks and credit unions that increased their share of the nearly $12 billion in deposits held in the local branches of the county's two dozen banks and credit unions.
Among lenders, Wells Fargo remains the bank with the most local deposits — nearly $2.6 billion in 15 county branches as of June 2013, according to records from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. But Wells Fargo's deposits declined 2 percent in Sonoma County between June 2011 and June 2013, the most recent data available.
Exchange Bank ranks second among lenders, with local deposits climbing 17percent in two years to nearly $1.5 billion. Redwood Credit Union ranks third, with its county deposits increasing 19 percent to almost $1.3 billion.
Bankers at local institutions insist that "go local" retailing efforts and the 2011 Bank Transfer Day struck a chord with consumers who want their money working in their own communities.
"We're seeing more new members and people moving away from the big banks," said Brett Martinez, Redwood's president and CEO. The nonprofit credit union's membership has grown 25 percent in the past three years to 232,000members.
In contrast to gains by Exchange Bank and Redwood, Bank of America fell two spots on the list, making it the fourth-largest bank in Sonoma County after its local deposits declined 19 percent during the past two years to nearly $1.1 billion.
Even so, Bank of America's deposits grew 9 percent in the county last year. A company spokeswoman said that deposits declined from 2010 to 2012 mainly due to the sale of the bank's First Republic branches and to the reclassification of certain business banking and wealth management balances that resulted in their movement to out-of-county offices.
Experts noted that the nation's top banks remain formidable competitors. For example, JPMorgan Chase experienced double-digit growth in deposits in Sonoma County in the past two years.
"Now the big guys are back on their feet," said Steve Reider, president of Bancography, a financial services consulting firm in Birmingham, Ala. In those places where the top banks are concentrating, he said, "they are absolutely gaining" in market share.
Rounding out the top 10 for county deposits are, in order: Luther Burbank Savings, JPMorgan Chase, Westamerica, Argent, Bank of the West and First Community. Of those six institutions, only Chase and Bank of the West saw significant growth in deposits over the last two years, with each increasing by 19 percent.
Overall, deposits in county branches grew 3 percent in two years to $11.9 billion.
The nation's "Big Four" banks — Wells Fargo, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Citibank — saw their combined share of county deposits greatly increase through acquisitions during the financial crisis. Wells acquired Wachovia; Chase took over Washington Mutual; and Bank of America acquired Merrill Lynch. All the acquired institutions had local bank deposits.
By June 2011, the four banks together had captured nearly 42 percent of deposits in Sonoma County. Five years earlier, the four had less than a quarter of such deposits.