The San Francisco Chronicle recently reported on a new bank that has emerged in the Bay Area. The bank is called New Resource Bank. NRB is a FDIC-insured and state-chartered institution, which means they must offer banking services to anyone that comes to their bank. However, NRB's expertise in "green" industries and issues will help lower the bank's overall risk when loaning funds to sustainable businesses and environmental entrepreneurs. "We have a better understanding of the green industry, which should allow us to deliver better value," said Peter Liu, co-founder and vice chairman of NRB. Growth in emerging markets like alternative energy, green building and sustainable architecture provides the perfect opportunity for a bank like New Resource. Many analysts feel that the niche market and customized service will allow New Resource Bank to get its foot in the door to the growth industries of tomorrow. They have already teamed with Sun Power Corporation of San Jose by offering financing to customers who install solar panels for their homes. New Resource Bank will try to make the finance payments for the solar panels equal to the energy savings that result from the installation of the panels.
I really think that New Resource Bank will find success in their approach. When you have big banks like Wells Fargo and Washington Mutual out there with billions of dollars in assets, you are not going to win by stealing market share or offering commoditized services (i.e., free checking, online bill pay, home equity loans, other online services). Any bank can do that. You have to offer something different and/or specialize in serving a niche market (like loaning to green businesses) and in return, customers will be willing to pay a fair price for those services because they can't get them anywhere else. By understaning green issues and technology, New Resource Bank will be able to underwrite loans for green businesses, which other banks may have turned away because they don't understand the issues (missed opportunity? YES).