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Banking green: checking, deposits and solar

The country’s first green bank officially launched in San Francisco. New Resource Bank is both a traditional local bank and an investor in green ventures.

“Part of our strategy is to meet head-on the growing green business market—while giving our depositors a safe and sound way for their money to work consistently with their values,” explains bank founder and vice chairman Peter Liu.

With 240 founding investors from top firms like Lotus Development, Sybase and WR Hambrecht, New Resource raised $24.75 million in just two months which, even after returning over $10 million in over-subscriptions, is one of the largest initial capitalizations for a start-up bank in Northern California.

Green Loans

The bank will target their loans to green areas, like alternative energy, organic farms and green real estate development- areas in which they have plenty of expertise.

“The bank has a good network to draw upon to make such connections. Among its 240 founding investors are national green building experts, clean tech venture capitalists and even the former president of the Organic Trade Association.”

Delivering “Green Ideas”

New Resource has already attracted clients from their target community, including SunPower, Veritable Vegetable, Berkeley Mills, Pacific Community Ventures and the Social Venture Network, but the bank is not just limiting itself to sustainable investments, instead, they will bring “green ideas” to their more conventional business clients.

“As an example, the bank’s senior vice president for construction and real estate recently took conventional developer clients to the West Coast Green building conference to expose them to new green building options. ‘Fostering connections to help clients reduce waste, design for efficiency, and improve the health and wellness of their work or home environments can improve their bottom line,’ says Liu.”

Paperless Banking and Accessible Solar

Consistent with their business model, the New Resource encourages paperless banking with free online banking and statements, they offer a Visa Check Card where users can earn cash rewards for non-profit partners (the first partner is local sustainable agriculture group Marin Organics), and their offices were built to Gold LEED standards using recycled and renewable materials, low consuming lighting and low or no VOC paints.

Going beyond the standard green, in partnership with solar panel manufacturer SunPower the bank has launched a more ground-breaking residential solar financing program. With no initial investment, homeowners can own solar systems with just a monthly payment as low as $100/month, what the bank claims is an amount “in the same order as the reduction in their electricity bill.”

A Successful Precedent

While the bank encourages mobility with free ATM access nationally and internet banking, the bank is now based in San Francisco, though they hope to expand to other US cities if the business model is a success. If their European counterpart, and founding partner, Triodos Bank, is any indication, it may not be long before they go national.

Sustainable bank Triodos has doubled its assets during the past five years to $3.7 billion. “We have proven that a bank can attract deposits broadly if customers identify with the mission of the bank,” says Peter Blom, chief executive officer of Triodos.