As it preps for an early 2010 debut, de novo GreenChoice Bank is running a little light on office space. But the bank's founders aren't worried; using environmentally-focused IT to reduce office space is of the plan.

"We're running a full-service community bank and we have no backroom," says Harold Sherman, president and CEO of the bank. "I've been around a long time and I can remember when we would have had a huge backroom to store checks and a processing room."

One of the first "green" banks in the Midwest, GreenChoice will initially be a community bank focused in the Chicago metro area, though it's getting a federal charter with aims of expansion. It will offer a number of environmentally-focused financial products such as rate and financing perks for clients that make "green" choices like opting out of paper statements, but its IT and infrastructure focus are also a large part of building an environmentally-focused brand. "We're investing back into green, so consumers and businesses who deposit with us will know that deposits are being leveraged more positively," says Steve Sherman, the bank's COO. "If you're not building green, you're building obsolete."

The bank has chosen a multi-product suite from Fiserv covering processing, channel and customer management, business intelligence and optimization, risk, compliance and payments. The bank will share processing on an outsourced basis with other banks, enabling reduction in back office waste, check imaging, remote deposit capture, online banking, electronic signatures and paperless statements. "This impacts the amount of paper that gets pushed around the bank. Just think about the amount of paper that a bank generates in a given [period when producing paper] statements," says Mike Young, president of the bank and credit union solutions group at Fiserv.

While the bank did not discuss specific volume of paper it was hoping to eliminate, paper use can be reduced substantially through electronic billing and statements - NACHA estimates the average household receives 20 bills and financial statements monthly - each including envelopes, statements, support documents and often return envelopes.

As a result of its focus on using processing technology to reduce paper, the bank's initial location will be about 3,700 square feet, whereas Sherman says bank of the same size would traditionally require about 10,000 square feet of space. It's headquarters will be in the Green Exchange, a converted factory in Chicago's Logan Square neighborhood that will be one of the country's largest sustainable business communities when completed.

The institution's strategy also includes LEED-certified branch construction and employee policies that encourage public transit use, purchasing hybrids or other low emission vehicles and community volunteerism. While these policies are internal, it can also be effective public posture. "It is imperative for any company seeking to position itself as a green or sustainable choice for its customers to have its internal act together," says Christopher Mines, an svp at Forrester Research, who says a bank's IT department is its "factory" and occupies a prominent position in its internal green initiatives. "To be credible, any company must be able to demonstrate that it follows sustainable business practices across all its internal operations."

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