16 September 2008

Is It Time to Green Financial Services?

"I'm hoping the financial services sector catches on to the green trend," Frank Baldassarre, president and CEO of e3bank, told the crowd at today's forum sponsored by the Pennsylvania Green Growth Partnership in Hershey.

Green building has caught on in a major way over the past decade. Now, 14 percent of US municipalities over 50,000 in population have programs promoting green development, according to Shari Shapiro, a lawyer with Obermayer, Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel in Philadelphia.

But the financing of those projects hasn't caught up with the building community.

"Until two years ago, I didn't know what LEED certification was," Baldassarre, a former senior vice president with Fox Chase Bank, who is launching one of the first green banks in the country. "It just wasn't something bankers were thinking about."

Baldassarre and others, such as Florida's First Green Bank, Shore Bank of Chicago, and New Resource Bank in San Francisco, are trying to change that.

"Bankers lack the knowledge to go green," says Baldasarre, who referred to "building as the bones and financial services as the circulatory system" of our economic body.

Perhaps the time is coming for the blood running through that circulatory system to turn from red to green.

My 3 Take-Aways:

1. The knowledge gap is a niche worth exploring;
2. There is another emerging niche associated with the real need for a diversity of green financial products and services; and
3. The tipping point is upon us.


Addendum: Something Howard Lindzon (it's Howard's birthday tomorrow, so I'm giving him a shout-out) pointed me to today seems to support the idea of mining this niche. It comes from Roger Ehrenberg of InformationArbitrage.com:

"Investment Banking 2.0 will be the re-emergence of the boutique, the focused, nimble, high-touch firm that was the bedrock of capital formation in the early years of the stock market boom.

"Because these mega-firms being created at the urging of the Treasury are not sustainable. They'll live just long enough for investment banking losses to be absorbed by the commercial bank's larger capital base, after which the best talent will flee for greener pastures."

Greener pastures, indeed.

(Composed on BlackBerry; updated with links 9:29 PM)
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