New bank coming to St. Pete touts green missionCity's environmental ethos attracts Climate First Bank

A first of its kind banking experience is coming to Tampa Bay in 2021. Climate First Bank, the nation's inaugural climate-focused financial institution, will have its flagship location in St. Petersburg. 

Climate First will be a full-service, Florida state-chartered, FDIC insured, community bank that founder and chief executive officer Ken LaRoe says is "committed to change finance to finance change." The bank’s leading strategy will be to provide services from an Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) perspective and offer an unmatched impactful customer service experience.

They also plan to be the largest values-based financial institution in the country and will be publicly traded.

An Orlando-based banking entrepreneur, LaRoe is implementing a values-based business plan focused on serving the community while highlighting people, the planet, and prosperity. Florida Choice Bank and First GREEN Bank, institutions previously founded under LaRoe, utilized similar frameworks. They established a global impact and found success with the values-based business model while yielding exceptional financial performance. 

"Climate First Bank will seek to elevate the typical banking model by focusing on common values and build meaningful relationships," says LaRoe. "All its members will have a complete, full-service menu of simple and easy-to-use traditional banking products enhanced with modern technology to meet the expectations of today’s increasingly conscious consumers."

LaRoe says Climate First will be the first bank in the state to be a Florida Benefits Corporation, a new legal tool designed to create a solid foundation for long-term mission alignment and value creation. It protects mission through capital raises and leadership changes, creates more flexibility when evaluating potential sale and liquidity options, and prepares businesses to lead a mission-driven life post-IPO.

Inspiration for Climate First Bank’s approach to addressing the climate crisis, Project Drawdown, is based on the book "Drawdown." The book outlines a comprehensive, measurable, and executable plan to reverse the environment's effect on the climate. "Every decision and action we make will be analyzed through the lens of achieving drawdown," LaRoe says. "The status quo of sustainability is no longer an option. The only rational goal to perpetuate humanity, so it reverses the damage done by our carbon addiction."

"Our goal is to determine which of the 80 initiatives outlined in the book we can most effectively affect prudently.  We will then develop and implement products and procedures that meet regulatory bank underwriting guidelines. The initiatives are listed in rank order based upon efficacy as determined by the researchers: Refrigeration, Wind Turbines, Reduced Food Waste, Plant Rich Diet, Rooftop Solar, LED Lighting, Solar Water, Heat Pumps, Building Automation, Smart Thermostats, and Smart Glass. As the list indicates, these improvements fall into specific categories that lend themselves to financings, such as Renewable Energy, Regenerative Agriculture, and Building Upgrades.  

LaRoe was attracted to the environmental ethos that exists in St. Pete. He explains that the Tampa Bay Area is one of the "ground zero" sites for the climate crisis with rising sea levels and increasingly stronger hurricane activity. LaRoe says he was also urged to bring Climate First Bank to St. Pete by his friend, Mayor Rick Kriseman.

"St. Pete is already moving toward green initiatives, and I want to further propel that movement forward with the opening of Climate First Bank as a new and conscious way of banking," LaRoe says. "Climate First Bank’s mission will be to continue fighting the effects of the climate crisis while also bringing prosperity to the community. I truly believe that businesses do well by doing good for their employees, environment, and community.
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Read more articles by Allison Koehler.

Allison Koehler is a Cleveland-area native who now lives in Tampa by way of Detroit. She resides in Seminole Heights with her partner, Phil, and three children -- one human and two cats. When she isn't writing, she's watching pro football, listening to music, or streaming Netflix and Amazon Prime.