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Green Banking


— July 31, 2008 — Eco
e3bank is setting a new standard for environmentally-friendly banking. e3bank, the first green bank on the east coast, is being built inside a sustainable building and will conduct all of its business without paper.

"Our mission is to strengthen enterprise and restore the environment, while increasing social equity," the bank explains.

"We believe that the financial industry has a critical role to play in the societal shift to a sustainable world. Our goal is to help build a vibrant green economy with financial products and services specifically designed to accelerate its growth. Our staff of financial experts are people who 'get it' and who understand the urgency for that shift."

While my initial thought was that all online banks are "green" because digital screens replace paper, that's not the case. In fact, some of the leading online trading companies send tremendous amounts of paper in the form of statements and fliers, bombarding snail mail boxes with unnecessary paper print-outs.

e3bank is already slated to be the first eco-bank in eastern North America, but when the e3bank site goes live, its reach will broaden greatly and will be both consumer and business focused.

Curious for more information, I got Sandy Wiggins, Chairman of e3bank, to answer a few questions.

What inspired you and Frank Baldassarre to launch a green bank?

Frank Baldassarre the CEO and President of e3bank, who has spent his professional life as a banker, came to me late in 2007 to share his story of personal growth and evolution through his connection with the sustainable business green building communities in Philadelphia. He had come to the realization that the banking industry needed to change the way it was operating in order to support and promote sustainable consumer and business practices and had made the decision to leave his prior employer to start a new bank based on these ideas.

I am not a banker. I've spent 30 years in the real estate development and construction industry. For the past decade, I've been deeply involved in the green building movement in this country, and I had just stepped down as Chair of the U.S. Green Building Council when Frank approached me.

I quickly realized that Frank was right. If buildings and infrastructure are the bones and sinew of society, the financial services industry is the circulatory system. It needs to transform in the same way that the building industry is changing, and perhaps even more rapidly, if America is going to successfully transition to a sustainable economy.

Who is e3bank targeting?

They have identified four distinct demographics in different categories:

1. The true believers: those who already try to live in an ecologically conscious and sustainable manner
2. The cautious conservatives: those who are concerned with the dependence on foreign oil and the general rising cost of energy resources
3. The concerned parents: people who are focused on leaving a better world for their children/grandchildren
4. The millennial generation: a group that is already very active in a number of causes

Are there other incentives besides "going green" to switch to e3bank?

Yes. e3bank's products and services are all being designed to incent consumers to "do better." We have developed innovative loan products that offer very competitive rates to invest in sustainable technologies and practices.

Equally as important, e3bank understands sustainable enterprise and green technology. We are a knowledge resource and facilitator. Our bankers are here to help consumers by offering products and services that support their ideas and to make it easy for them to act on those ideas.

Is e3bank doing anything to appeal to younger demographics?

The bank will have a number of technologically advanced interfaces beyond traditional online banking which will appeal to younger consumers. Additionally, they will act not only as a financial institution, but also as a resource center for education and information on sustainable programs, challenges and initiatives.

Why should people go to e3bank rather than do online banking with their current banks?

When you put a dollar in your bank, even in a checking account, your bank is putting that dollar to work. What is it being used for? e3bank is a triple bottom line enterprise, meaning that every dollar we put to work needs to show a return in terms of environmental and social benefit as well as economic profit. Depositors in e3bank are assured that their dollar is being used to support a sustainable future.

Is this an upcoming trend that could spread internationally?

Yes, absolutely. Every business needs to act within its own sphere of influence, but transitioning to a sustainable economy is a global enterprise. The entire human family needs to, and will eventually, engage in this effort.

How do things like the IndyMac collapse affect e3bank?

It actually supports our effort and validates the need for triple bottom line financial services. The existing banking model, based solely on short term financial profits, has put the entire global economy in jeopardy. We are acting like children, seeking immediate gratification without taking into account the long term consequences of our behavior. At e3bank, we are trying to act like adults.

What do you predict future banking to look like? Will it all be online?

No, it won't all be online. Bankers and consumers will always need to have some personal contact, but that interaction should be tuned so that it is appropriate for the kind of transaction in which they are engaged. The need for the real estate intensive branch bank model is dead or dying. The banking industry needs to leverage technology to increase its effectiveness and reduce its environmental footprint.