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Sustainable Banking: It is a Wonderful Life

| Monday December 29th, 2008 | 1 Comment

Sitting at home watching It’s a Wonderful Life, I didn’t really feel so wonderful. Mostly, it just reminded me of the banks bailout and the problems with our banking system that brought down the economy this fall. A banker who knows your name? Who cares about you and your family and your wellbeing? Our expectations have slipped so far that we only have hopes that our banks will not go under Depression style. Forget personal attention. Our relationships are with a hungry Automatic Tellers that eat our deposits, we shrug our shoulders at mysterious maintenance fees, and we consider compromised social security numbers and identity theft to be an unfortunate part of doing business in today’s economy. Happily, there are banks our there like New Resource Bank that are trying to do things differently.
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When my former bank, Washington Mutual, failed and was purchased by JP Morgan, and I was lamenting about the insecurity of my savings to Nick he said, “Oh you’ve gotta check out New Resource Bank. I do my personal banking with them and I liked them so much I transferred over the 3P accounts. They’re phenomenal! No ATM fees, no overdrafts, and they have a social mission.”
Personal Connection
Nick put me in touch with his banker, Charlotte Tanaka. I e-mailed her to see about setting up a checking and savings account and she called me at home just to chat. She suggested that I come in in-person to meet her and the NRB staff and drop off the paperwork they would need to process my new accounts. I must admit, I was a bit taken aback. Accustomed to the anonymity of the web and online banking, I wasn’t sure if I really wanted a personal relationship with my banker. I’m a poor student; did I really want a personal relationship with someone who knew how broke I was and saw the transaction when I went a little crazy in the shoe department? But I proceeded since I needed a new bank anyway. I went into the office in downtown San Francisco and met Charlotte and Tracy, my soon-to-be personal banker. I joked to Charlotte that I didn’t have much money to offer them, and she said “do what you love and the money will follow.” I talked to Tracy about my schooling and my work at Triple Pundit and the Union of Concerned Scientists, and she told me about her aspirations. She assured me that I could mail in checks to deposit and that I would never pay ATM fees even in convenience store ATMs. I have come to see that New Resource Bank truly practices what they preach. They see themselves as a financial institution dedicated to supporting the sustainable businesses of the future. Beyond that, they identify as a member of the sustainable business community, and they truly value the personal relationships that make up that community.
Their tagline is “A new standard in customer service, financing sustainable resources in our community, a bank that does more with your money.” Goshdarnit, it’s actually true.
Good Money Management
In addition to great customer service, NRB is leaps and bounds ahead of the competition in terms of fiduciary responsibility. In late September, when other banks were reining in spending and the economy was tanking, NRB was able to raise $13.9 million in its second stock offering, expending its capital base by more than 75%.
“Our ability to add capital and new investors is a direct result of our differentiated focus on green businesses and projects; and on consumers who care more about the impact of their money,” said President and CEO Clay Jones. “This market focus is the key reason why we are able to become one of the fastest growing new banks.”
Since I’ve joined NRB, Charlotte has helped me with my finance homework, I’ve sent some business her way, and Tracy e-mailed me to gently let me know that I’d over drawn my checking account more than the federal limit of 6 times per month. Though I didn’t incur any fees, I could always transfer money from my savings account to avoid interaction with the feds, and she outlined the way to do that through the online system. This is a bank that truly cares about our sustainable community and the well being of their account holders.
If you live in San Francisco, you can visit NRB at 405 Howard Street. If you’d like to talk with them, you can call (415) 995-8100. Or you can always visit them online at http://www.newresourcebank.com.


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  • Ryan Mickle

    Thanks for sharing this on New Resource Bank, Jen. I wholeheartedly agree that the personal touch and real interest in leveraging the power of bank to create a better, more sustainable way of life for us are all to rare in financial services (clearly, look at Wall Street), and of infinite value.

    I would invest in New Resource Bank even if I knew that I wasn’t going to make a dime in return.