Dollars & Change Ken LaRoe

Green Banking Revolution: Ken LaRoe’s Journey to Founding Climate First Bank

In the latest episode of Dollars & Change: The Experts Guide to Sustainable & Responsible Investing, host Peter Krull welcomes Ken LaRoe, founder, CEO, and Chairman of Climate First Bank, to discuss the evolution and impacts of green banking. 

Broadcasting from Earth Equity Offices in Asheville, North Carolina, the conversation begins with LaRoe tracing his unconventional path from banking to law school and ultimately back to founding a values-based institution, inspired by Yvon Chouinard’s autobiography, Let My People Go Surfing, and an awakening to sustainable practices. 

LaRoe’s green banking venture began when he founded Florida Choice Bank in 2008. In 2018, he stepped back from his Chairman and CEO duties and laid the foundation for what became Climate First Bank, which launched in 2020. Climate First’s mission is to make substantive, positive environmental impacts, and at the heart of its approach is its residential solar finance program, marking a significant step towards making green solutions accessible and mainstream. 

Beyond its core banking services, LaRoe emphasizes the importance of a values-driven operation, recognizing the influence of young employees and interns motivated by Climate First’s mission. In light of recent regulatory challenges in Florida, LaRoe insists on remaining true to the bank’s core values, regardless of the political landscape. 

LaRoe further reveals ambitious plans for the future, including taking Climate First public in a bid to balance investor appeal with a sustainable mission. As Climate First eyes expansion, its success symbolizes a notable pivot in the banking industry, one geared towards environmental stewardship and community engagement. LaRoe sees this as part of a broader, necessary transition towards what he terms the “next economy,” showcasing the capacity of niche, values-driven banks to thrive by aligning their operations with the principles of sustainability. 

This candid conversation not only sheds light on LaRoe’s personal and professional evolution, but also underscores the imperative for the banking sector to pivot towards practices that ensure environmental well-being and social equity.

If you are interested in learning more about Ken’s story and the evolution of green banking, listen to the full episode here.

If you haven’t had the chance, be sure to catch our previous episodes with our distinguished guests:

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Be good. Invest better.

The Earth Equity Team.