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A bank's symbiotic ties with environment

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- While its gargantuan counterparts imploded or were crippled in the aftermath of the credit crisis, New Resource Bank, the first U.S. financial institution to cater to a green niche, had a relatively smooth sailing.

And perhaps, therein foreshadows what's to come in the marketplace. New Resource, just shy of three years-old, is not at the junction simply to help reduce carbon footprints.

"The reason we're in it is emblematic of what a lot of people are seeing — that green is not just about addressing climate or pollution issues," said founder Peter Liu, who was born and raised in Taiwan before moving to California at age 11. "It's really about revitalizing and reinventing the economy."

New Resource is based out of San Francisco and mainly serves the community, although boasts customers from 35 states and five countries. Capitalizing on the no-longer-elusive fact that going green "has moved from a social movement into a market opportunity," the bank has morphed into something of a grassroots magnet that attracts a slew of personal banking clients, who, according to Liu, hope to work more closely towards their values. In the sobered mood following the subprime meltdown "people started to realize that their money at a bank is not passive, but could be active," Liu said.

The depositories in turn become loans underwritten to environmentally-engaged business owners who want to make organic cheese or adopt clean technology, for example. New Resource has also developed innovative financial products that are green, such as its collaboration with SunPower Corporation that enables the affordable financing of solar energy, the monthly payment of which would be no more than the electric bill saved. Assuming similar joint efforts also yield rates competitive to what consumers would otherwise normally pay, "the market would explode," posited Liu, who was invited to Taipei last week by the American Institute in Taiwan to share his expertise with government officials, bankers and business leaders.

The bank couldn't have better timed its entrance. With the American Clean Energy and Security Act given the groundbreaking stamp of approval by the House of Representatives this June, New Resource, having built a stronghold of clients, shareholders and experts with the same focus, is now poised to tap into sustainability thinking in all economic spheres.

"That's what we believe: The green economy holds this opportunity for us, and within almost every economic category there's an opportunity for green options. We know that the consumers are heading in our direction. They want to find more and more green options and they're willing to pay more," Liu remarked.

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