Thanks to Peter Liu, those who want to do right by the environment have a bank that will help them. Liu is financing environmentally savvy, resource-efficient ventures at the nation's first commercial bank aimed at green businesses, New Resource Bank in San Francisco. "Sustainability has become a major market force," says Liu, 41, the bank's founder and vice chairman.
New Resource operates as a full-service community bank, and anyone is welcome to walk through its recycled-glass doors. But the deposits are used to finance loans for environmentally conscious projects, including alternative energy, clean tech, organic farming and sustainable home and office construction. A special lending program enables green builders to get lower interest rates, while home owners can finance solar-power installations for about the same cost as their monthly electricity bill.
Not surprisingly, San Francisco's new bank appeals first to customers who have already earned their green credentials. "We want to be working with people who have similar ideals," says Michelle Kaufmann, an architect known for her stylish prefab homes made from environmentally sound materials.
Just six months old and with nearly $60 million in assets so far, the community bank is already attracting like-minded depositors in states as far away as New York, Massachusetts, Virginia and Texas, and Liu has plans to expand throughout the U.S.
The bank has the deep pockets to fund expansion. Its initial $24.75 million stock offering was vastly oversubscribed. No wonder: funding green startups has become as popular in Silicon Valley as luxury SUVs, so New Resource has inside investors like Bob Hambrecht, managing director of WR Hambrecht & Co.; Daniel Yohannes, U.S. Bank's former vice chairman; and the founders of Sybase and Lotus Development.
And after all, nothing is as green as money.