South Florida Hospital News
Friday December 13, 2019
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June 2017 - Volume 13 - Issue 12

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First GREEN Bank: A Global Tastemaker for Environmental and Social Change

One of the first banks in the county with an environmental and social mission, First GREEN Bank, a local bank with a global mission, was founded in 2009 by a team of experienced and successful local bankers after being given the last bank charter in the state of Florida. With approximately 100 employees, the financial institution currently has over $600 million in assets and has lent more than $500 million to local businesses and individuals in the communities it serves. As part of its ongoing plans for expansion, the bank recently purchased property in Fort Lauderdale where it is planning to open its new South Florida headquarters in 2018. 

“Our earnings increased by over 40% in the last year, which is really extraordinary if you look at the organic growth of banks,” says Keith Costello, President and CEO of First GREEN Bank. “We're in a great position to be able to continue to invest in the bank further by opening our new headquarters in Fort Lauderdale and continuing our plans for expansion here in South Florida.”
 
While there are a number of banks throughout the region, First GREEN Bank is distinguished by its environmental and social mission. The bank is a member of the Global Alliance for Banking on Values (GABV) and is the founding member of the North American Chapter of the organization. According to its website, Global Alliance for Banking on Values is “an independent network of banks using finance to deliver sustainable economic, social and environmental development.” It is comprised of banking leaders from around the world which are committed to advancing positive change in the banking sector. Only 36 banks in the world are members of GABV.
 
“These banks all must take a pledge to have a triple bottom line: People, Planet, Profit,” explains Costello. All of the banks that are members of this alliance have to meet certain criteria in all three categories in order to continue to be a member. This is a big differentiator in today's banking environment because unfortunately, we see so many banks that are really being bad actors in terms of their ethics.
 
As part of its mission, First GREEN Bank has integrated a program called Mission Specialist into its office culture. Through this unique internal program, each First GREEN Bank employee takes part in a training program where they learn the different ways that individuals and companies can recycle and conserve energy.
 
“We train everyone about the advantages of solar power and about new practices that help build energy efficient buildings,” Costello says. “As a result, when we talk to anyone interested in a loan, we encourage them to use those types of buildings. For instance, if a potential client is constructing a new building, we’ll ask them if they have considered using solar power, or if they have considered using LEED-design to become more energy efficient.”
 
After Amendment 2 – the ballot initiative approved by over 71 percent of Florida voters in November passed allowing non-euphoric cannabis use for a select group of patients -- First GREEN Bank decided to become more involved in the medical marijuana industry. One of the main reasons for their involvement is because the bank’s founder and board chairman, Kenneth LaRoe, has a personal interest. He has family members who are using medical marijuana to relieve seizures and has seen firsthand how they have benefited from the use of medical marijuana prescriptions.
 
Costello says that they met with regulatory agencies, the FDIC, the Federal Reserve, and the Office of Financial Regulation in Tallahassee to develop procedures and policies. He
states, “We have spent a lot of time working with the regulators and we found them to be quite interested and willing to work with us. There are numerous risks to having this money outside of the banking system. There can be criminal activity or robberies involved, and since there is no way to trace the money, money laundering becomes a risk as well. These agencies have an interest in ensuring that this money entering the banking system is safe, sound and well-regulated”.
 
First GREEN Bank executives spoke with executives at banks around the country that were involved in the medical marijuana industry and then developed their own set of policies and procedures. Costello says that this group speaks with regulators every month and updates them regularly on what they’re doing.
 
“We're constantly in dialogue with them and I think that's key,” Costello says. “If you're going to do something like this, it’s important to make sure that the regulators know exactly what you're doing and that you're working hand-in-hand with them.”

To learn more about First GREEN Bank, visit www.firstgreenbank.com

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