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‘Values-based’ Climate First Bank with focus on environment will open in St. Petersburg

Margie Manning

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Ken LaRoe is organizing Climate First Bank (Photo credit: kenlaroe.com)

Climate First Bank, a financial institution in organization, plans to open in St. Petersburg in 2021.

Climate First Bank will be a full-service community bank with a triple bottom line focus, positively impacting people, planet and prosperity, a news release said.

The bank is being organized by veteran banker Ken LaRoe, who previously founded and sold Florida Choice Bank and First GREEN Bank, which also had a values-based business model.

“My experience has shown there is a strong need and significant customer demand for an impact-based financial institution, which inspired me to launch Climate First Bank (I/O),” LaRoe said. “The St. Pete community is already moving toward green initiatives, and I want to propel that movement with the opening of Climate First Bank (I/O) as a new and conscious way of banking. I truly believe that businesses do well by doing good for their employees, environment and community.”

Just one community bank, First Home Bank, is currently headquartered in St. Petersburg, following the sale of Freedom Bank to Seacoast Bank in August.

Information on the bank’s planned location and other organizers was not immediately available.

Climate First Bank will offer standard banking services with a special emphasis on non-governmental organizations and businesses committed to sustainability, the news release said. The bank expects to offer dedicated loan options for solar photo voltaic, energy retrofits, and infrastructure to combat the climate crisis.

LaRoe founded Florida Choice Bank in Mount Dora in 1999 and was the bank’s largest shareholder, chairman and CEO. The bank had more than $400 million in assets when it sold in 2006 to Alabama National Bancorp.

He launched First GREEN Bank in Orlando three years later. First Green was one of the first banks in the nation to promote positive environmental and social responsibility.  That bank had about $799 million in assets and seven branches in Orlando, Daytona and Fort Lauderdale when it was acquired by Seacoast Banking Corp. of Florida (Nasdaq: SBCF) in 2018 for about $115 million.

LaRoe is a founding member of the North American chapter of the Global Alliance for Banking on Values and served on that organization’s board of directors from 2014 to 2017. He also chaired a Green Works Orlando Task Force in 2017, where he promoted environmental initiatives such as energy-efficient buildings, green transportation, water conservation and overall livability. LaRoe is a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) accredited professional.

In 2018, the Independent Community Bankers of America named LaRoe as its 2018 National Community Banker of the Year.

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