Banks step up ‘green’ practices

BRADENTON — There’s another kind of “green” that’s becoming popular at banks these days — green initiatives.

Banks are stepping up eco-friendly practices in an attempt to be more environmentally sensitive businesses.

The going green trend has banks encouraging more clients to transition to paperless statements, online banking and direct deposit.

“Green is in, green is very popular and green is here to stay,” said Frank Knautz, local banking consultant. “Customers are in the mindset to bank with companies that promote the green agenda so to speak.”

Gateway Bank of Southwest Florida is the most recent local bank to introduce a green practices consumers can adopt.

The bank, with three branches in Manatee and Sarasota counties, started the “Make it Green” program in which Gateway clients are being given incentives to use electronic-only banking services such as electronic statements, Internet banking, debit cards and direct deposit.

Shaun Merriman, president and chief executive officer of Gateway Bank, said the program, which started this month, was an ideal fit for the bank as its newest branch at 6204 N. Lockwood Ridge Road has a pending LEED certification.

“Banking generates a lot of paper, and we see very simple ways to reduce paper consumption by using electronic banking features,” Merriman said.

Banks typically print 40,000-80,000 documents a day, according to an industry case study. Piling paper costs and trails have some banks trying initiatives to entice clients to go paperless with the bank.

“We will reward clients who help reduce the impact that traditional banking has on the environment,” Merriman said.

Gateway is using free gifts such as reusable shopping bags and document shredding services to lure clients to electronic banks services.

Other banks to are in on the game. Community Bank is hoping a trip to Hawaii and cash prizes are enough to convince consumers to switch to online banking. While a host others are just promoting the good old rewards of security, convenience and eco-friendliness.

According to the financial research and consulting firm Javelin Strategy and Research, those who practice online banking reduce their risk of identity theft by 10 percent.

“I think overall people are getting to feel more secure receiving online statements,” said Jan Hyink, vice president of marketing for Synovus Bank.

Synovus Bank introduced e-statements this year for its branches that span across five states in the southeast.

Hyink said 160,000 customers have signed up for the online statement option. The program is currently only offered for personal customers but there are plans to extend the option to commercial clients.

“We’re really trying to do all that we can to be more environmentally friendly and reduce the amount of paper,” Hyink said.