In a Nutshell: With their vast reach and access to resources, banks have the ability to affect real change in a community and that’s just what Sunrise Banks does in the Twin Cities region. Founded on a mission of social responsibility, the institution is a Certified B Corporation and Community Development Financial Institution. The spirit of giving back runs through the whole organization’s culture as well, with employees being given 40 hours per year of paid volunteer hours to help out with the organizations of their choosing. Sunrise Banks also supports financial wellness through its educational efforts that include an abundance of resources on its website and active programs in which it partners with area schools.
From its earliest days, Sunrise Banks was a family affair aimed at not only providing quality banking services to the Twin Cities but also giving back to its communities in big ways.
Sunrise Banks has been serving the urban core of Minneapolis and St. Paul since 1986, founded by current CEO David Reiling and his father, William.
Today, David serves as the CEO and guides Sunrise Banks’ mission.
“We really like to think of ourselves as a social enterprise that happens to be a bank,” said Chief Risk Officer Amanda Swoverland. “Even going back to the early years, we really enjoyed a lot of success within the community — serving the urban core of Minneapolis and St. Paul.”
The bank focuses on positive community engagement and partnerships that will help to extend its mission around the world.
Of course, doing good also includes promoting financial wellness in a variety of ways.
“At the end of the day, what it comes down to is empowering financial wellness and trying to make sure that everybody has access to the products they need regardless of where they’re at on their financial journey,” Swoverland said.
She said that, while Sunrise Banks’ focus on the Twin Cities region remains as strong as ever, the bank has been growing as a national bank as well by connecting people with products throughout the U.S.
Tackling Social Responsibility Head On as a B Corp and Aligning with Like-Minded Organizations
From the outset, Sunrise Banks is a company that is clearly committed to making not only the communities in which it operates but the whole world, a better place. The institution’s status as a Certified B Corporation demonstrates this.
“B Corps use the power of business to solve social and environmental problems to build a more inclusive and sustainable economy,” according to the website. “In order to gain B Corp Certification, companies must demonstrate responsible corporate governance and environmental stewardship while being held accountable by the communities they serve.”
For seven years running, Sunrise Banks has been acknowledged as a leading B Corporation with “Best of the World” honors for its social and environmental impact, according to the company.
B Corps use their profits and growth to help bring about positive impact for their employees, communities, and the environment.
Swoverland said the bank also recently teamed up with several nonprofits to preserve 600 units of affordable housing throughout Minneapolis and St. Paul.
“To launch the program, the bank has established a new entity known as Sunrise Banks Community Impact Community Development Corp. (CDC),” according to a Twin Cities Business article. “This enables Sunrise to pool internal and external funds to support the acquisition of existing rental properties.”
Swoverland said it was important to Sunrise Banks to establish the CDC and help find a way to keep people from being displaced if their apartment complexes are bought out and other units go on the market at higher rates.
For this pilot program, Sunrise Banks partnered with Aeon, a housing development nonprofit, and the Minneapolis Foundation, the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation, and the Frey Foundation.
Sunrise Banks is also a member of the Global Alliance for Banking on Values and a Public Benefit Corporation.
A Generous Volunteer Policy and the North4Good Program
Swoverland said giving back is in the DNA of the people the bank hires, and their personal values often align with the bank’s values. And that’s why Sunrise Banks supports a robust volunteer initiative.
“We are committed to volunteerism and give a minimum of 2% net income per year through corporate donations and sponsorships,” according to the company. “We encourage employees to do the same with 40 hours of volunteer paid time off through activities such as our annual Charitable Giving Week, Pay It Forward program, coffee bar donations, donation drives, and Habitat for Humanity.”
Employees can even use these volunteer hours to take part in their kids’ field trips, Swoverland said, or to participate in the Junior Achievement program, which the bank is heavily involved with. Meals on Wheels has been another popular choice to give back among volunteers, she said.
“We really tend to hire people that are really aligned with that social enterprise-type mindest,” she said. “And every time they have a performance review, we evaluate how they’re aligning with those values.”
As if its impressive volunteer program weren’t enough, the bank also established North4Good.
“North4Good is a movement powered by Sunrise Banks to energize and engage the Twin Cities community to interact with each other by volunteering time to local nonprofits,” according to the company. “Simply put, it’s about having fun with old and new friends while making a difference together.”
The initiative was established in 2016 after 750 of the bank’s closest friends, family, partners, and customers came together to build a Habitat for Humanity house.
“We quickly found out that volunteerism was something that our friends, family and community partners wanted to continue to do. From this desire North4Good was born,” according to the North4Good website.
North4Good has partnered with a number of nonprofits in the Twin Cities area and currently hosts a monthly Happy Hour Squared event at Brave New Workshop, a long-running comedy, improv, and satire theater.
“This is a happy hour like no other! Yes it’s the usual happy, but with a focus on feeding the hungry — that’s Happy Hour Squared (HH2)!” according to the website. “Grab a pint, roll up your sleeves and let’s use our collective good to help others in need. Bring your friends and help make a difference!!”
Financial Literacy is a Core Focus of Sunrise Banks’ Mission to Give Back to Its Communities
As efforts to further financial literacy continue in the U.S., Sunrise Banks does its part to deliver educational resources to its communities in a variety of ways.
“On our website, we have a page dedicated to financial literacy so folks can go on there and take different courses,” Swoverland said. “Another cool thing we do is partner with Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota to offer free financial counseling classes if you’re a customer of the bank.”
The bank also partnered with Banzai — an online learning platform — to offer financial literacy courses to hundreds of students in classrooms in the urban core of the Twin Cities, she said.
“If we can start getting better financial literacy tools in the hands of children, that’s the biggest step,” Swoverland said. As a mother and Junior Achievement board member, this is particularly important to Swoverland, she said.
Sunrise Banks is very involved with Junior Achievement of the Upper Midwest, Swoverland said, with bank employees visiting schools in the region and teaching financial literacy.
Not only does Sunrise Banks deliver financial education to the communities where it operates, but it also provides tools for others to teach financial literacy.
“Financial Literacy is important to us at Sunrise Banks. However, without the proper tools and training, even the most robust program can fall short,” according to the institution.
That’s why the bank makes a range of modules available from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to help educators guide others on their journeys to financial wellness. The modules include information on setting financial goals, managing personal finances, and choosing financial products.
Sunrise Banks is an institution clearly dedicated to making not only its communities but the world, a better place. From its B Corp status to generous volunteer program and financial literacy efforts, the bank demonstrates how it is serious in its mission.