How Ken LaRoe turned vision into opportunity and changed lives through First Green Bank

Kenneth E. LaRoe, chairman and CEO, First Green Bank

Kenneth E. LaRoe, chairman and CEO, First Green Bank

Financial Services


Kenneth E. LaRoe
chairman and CEO
First Green Bank

Ken LaRoe thought he was done working. He had just sold Florida Choice Bank in 2006 and set out with his wife on a trip across the United States in a mini-motor home. As they traversed the country, LaRoe began reading a book his brother had given him.

The book was titled, “Let My People Go Surfing,” by Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia.

Patagonia is a highly successful outdoor clothing and equipment company and Chouinard’s philosophical approach to business greatly influenced LaRoe. He began to believe that in addition to making a profit, a business could have a positive impact on society.

When LaRoe returned from his journey, he decided to put his newfound philosophy to work by creating First Green Bank. It’s not that he was a completely changed man. LaRoe had been an environmentalist his whole life and has always been a leader who cares about society and the world around him.

But armed with the knowledge he had gained reading Chouinard’s book, he was now energized to build a bank that took personalized customer service to another level.

He bought a space that had been used as a physical therapy facility and had it retrofitted with many green features to serve as First Green Bank’s first office and headquarters. The second branch office formerly was a restaurant and was retrofitted in a similar way to the first.

In November 2011, the bank’s chairman and CEO opened a new state-of-the-art headquarters in Mount Dora, Fla., that exceeds most if not all of the standards for energy efficiency in the United States.

It includes a butterfly roof, which funnels collected rainwater to a 75,000-gallon subterranean storm vault. The stored rainwater provides 100 percent of the water used to irrigate the landscaping, which was sustainably designed to utilize plants native to the Florida ecosystem.

LaRoe is confident First Green Bank can and will change attitudes about what is possible when it comes to being financially, socially and environmentally responsible.

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