Categorized | FEATURED

Sunrise Banks uses business as a force for good

Posted on 10 January 2017 by Calvin

Sunrise Banks is one of only 28 banks in the world that belongs to the Global Alliance for Banking on Values—and they are on a mission. According to bank president Nichol Beckstrand, “Our mission is to be the most innovative bank empowering the underserved to achieve.”

“Sunrise Banks is really a social enterprise—our business just happens to be banking,” Beckstrand continued.

sunrise-banks-06Photo left: Sunrise Banks President Nichol Beckstrand. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Current bank owner and CEO David Reiling merged the former Franklin, Park Midway, and University Bank charters to become Sunrise Banks in 2013.

Continuing the family banking tradition begun by his father Bill Reiling, he has built Sunrise Banks into one of the state’s largest community financial institutions with more than $900,000,000 in assets in 2015.

There are six branches of Sunrise Banks in the Twin Cities: four in St. Paul and two in Minneapolis. Of those, four are located in low to moderate income neighborhoods, and all are easily accessible by public transportation. Beckstrand explained that they locate their branches “in the urban core in hopes of attracting jobs and stable businesses there through community development.“

What does that look like and how does it work? Two examples in the Hamline-Midway neighborhood are Habitat for Humanity (1954 University Ave. W.) and the Midway YMCA (1761 University Ave. W.)— both are large-scale, high-impact community development projects financed by Sunrise Banks.

According to Beckstrand, it isn’t always easy to find investors for projects in the heart of the city. Through a US Treasury program called New Market Tax Credits, Sunrise Banks can attract investors for projects like these by offering them tax credits. The purpose of the New Market Tax Credits is to spur or increase investment in the inner city by attracting investors who might not otherwise be interested.

Sunrise is one of 100 community banks nationally recognized by the US Treasury Department for spearheading urban renewal, and individual customers can be involved in supporting community development too.

“We offer all of the consumer and commercial products of a mega-bank,” Beckstrand explained. “We compete very well and with some products, like our Impact Deposit Funds, the customer has the added option of banking according to their values.”

When opening a savings, checking, or certificate of deposit account, the customer can choose to designate account balances toward affordable housing, small business growth, community services and economic development by signing up for an Impact Deposit Fund. “When you bank with us,” Beckstrand said, “you’re choosing to invest meaningfully in our surrounding urban neighborhoods. It really does matter where your money sleeps at night.”

She explained her own dedication to the work of Sunrise Banks saying, “As an accountant, I started in community banking right after college. I climbed the ladder fast and went from being an intern to a partner in six years. I didn’t like the bank I worked for though and the type of accounting I did, called public accounting, felt greed driven. I knew I needed a change. I identified Sunrise Banks as a place where I could put my skill set to use and still work within my values. I started in the back room as chief operating officer. Now in my role as bank president, I’m out in the community every single day.”

This connection to the community is the driving force behind Sunrise Banks. A policy was recently approved to give each of their 200+ employees 40 hours of paid time off annually for community volunteering. Beckstrand said, “We’re effective at delivering socially responsible banking because we haven’t lost touch with our neighborhoods, or with the impact our decisions and actions have on the people who live there.”

To illustrate, Beckstrand noted, “One of our greatest successes has been partnering with Habitat for Humanity to build a house from start to finish. Sunrise donated $120,000 to jump-start the project and another $70,000 in community donations rolled in. With the help of our employees, we engaged 700 additional volunteers, and the house was completed last October. It’s only three blocks from our main bank branch near the Capitol. We were able to create a hands-on experience in community building and, most importantly, a home for a family that needed it.”

Sunrise Banks’ innovative approach to corporate philanthropy also benefits smaller-scale projects that align with its mission. Community-based initiatives that help create affordable housing, narrow the achievement gap, or increase diversity and inclusion will be considered for grants up to $10,000 in 2017. Go to www.sunrisebanks.com and click on the social responsibility tab at the top of the page to check eligibility and apply.

Lastly, Sunrise Banks give a minimum of 2% of pretax earnings each year to neighborhood organizations through corporate donations and sponsorships.

Organizations that have received funding in the past include Ally People Solutions, Episcopal Homes Foundation of MN, Interact Center for Performing Arts, Midway YMCA, Twin Cities RISE, Small Sums, Women Venture and many others.

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