In a few sentences, can you tell us about First GREEN Bank?
First GREEN Bank, which opened in February 2009, was organized by experienced banking executives and business leaders in Central Florida, and was designed to be the first bank of its kind to promote positive environmental and social responsibility while providing for increased profits for investors and clients. Leading by example, the bank promotes environmentally responsible behavior through its own business and employees.
Can you tell us a bit more about your recent Solar Panel Loan Program?
As electricity bills continue to skyrocket and show no signs of slowing down, First GREEN Bank wanted to help the Central Florida community embrace the future by investing in solar energy. According to a survey performed by Clean Energy Research, switching to solar power will save the average homeowner in Florida more than $30,000 over 20 years. The bank’s Solar Loan Program offers up to 100% financing at a rate of 5.95% over a 20 year term, providing a competitive rate to those who want to switch to solar, while also promoting local green initiatives.
Do you have any other environment-related initiatives?
With a values-based business model committed to doing the right thing for “Our planet, our people, our community, and our shareholders,” First GREEN Bank offers a variety of eco-friendly initiatives. The bank welcomes customers to take advantage of its hybrid and electric car financing program, making environmentally friendly vehicles much more affordable and accessible for those looking to make the switch. Furthering the bank’s commitment to alternative transportation, most branches feature electric car charging stations, including one of the first Nissan Fast Chargers in the State of Florida. First GREEN Bank also offers discounted interest rates for commercial and residential projects that meet green building criteria of LEED certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. Serving as an example of sustainable building, all of the bank’s own branches are built or converted for energy efficiency.
Why did First GREEN Bank decide to create an environmental and social mission?
Since its inception, First GREEN Bank, has led an impactful and successful charge to show people there is a better way to do business—one that is financially, environmentally and socially responsible. After going on a cross-country trip and reading the book, Let My People Go Surfing, by Yvon Chouinard, I was inspired to use my business acumen and expertise to create a customer-driven community bank in Central Florida that would set an example to other entrepreneurs, showing them that is possible to run a business in a way that is both profitable and socially responsible.
Of those who take advantage of this program, what has been their feedback?
First GREEN Bank customers have expressed excitement by the bank’s affordable programs to go solar. Most banks would suggest that homeowners use a home equity loan to finance improvements such as solar panels. Unfortunately, many Florida homeowners are still “underwater” on their mortgages. Innovative loans such as First GREEN Bank’s Solar Loan Program have enabled more people to improve their homes and protect the planet.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
In recognition of the bank’s values-based business model dedicated to the wellbeing of its ecosystem, community, shareholders and employees, First Green Bank was granted membership to the Global Alliance for Banking on Values (GABV) in May of 2012, and it is a founding member of the North American Chapter of the GABV. The bank’s commitment to its employees is demonstrated through its unique and extensive benefit programming including free employee FitBits, paid sabbatical for social mission trips, reimbursement for athletic competition entry fees, and complimentary use of hybrid employee loaner vehicles for personal or business use. Additionally, bank employees are encouraged to attain LEED Green Associate and Accredited Professional certification through the U.S. Green Building Council, and are awarded $1,000 in annual raises for such certifications. In 2014, the bank implemented its Living Wage Program, providing a minimum salary of $30,000 per year, and has committed to raise the minimum living wage by $1,000 each year.
First GREEN Bank CEO and founder, Ken LaRoe, has been dedicated to the economic well-being of Central Florida for more than 30 years. In addition to lending his expertise to area businesses, he has also created numerous banking jobs, supported various non-profit organizations across the region, and helped to grow four well-established Central Florida banks.