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50 Fastest Growing Companies of the Year 2018

Empowering Communities Through Business Growth and Job Creation to Stimulate Financial Wellness: Sunrise Banks

thesiliconreview-david-reiling-ceo-sunrise-banks-2018Compassion is the bank’s motivation, its mission is to empower, its spirit is to achieve.

Headquartered in St. Paul, Sunrise Banks seeks to radically change the way urban communities thrive by empowering them to achieve their aspirations.

The bank has a dynamic social entrepreneur at its helm, leading a team that innovates in the financial services industry and strives for financial inclusion for all. With over 220 employees, the bank’s 6 branches are primarily located in the urban core of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Certified by the U.S. Treasury as a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), Sunrise is a member of the Global Alliance for Banking on Values and is a certified B Corp for its demonstrated commitment to transparent corporate governance and positive community impact.

Dawn of Sunrise Banks

The Minnesota based Sunrise Banks was established in 1986. After honing his banking skills in inner city LA, founder and CEO, David Reiling passed on a high profile promotion with CitiBank to come back to Minnesota and purchase the first of the banks that would become Sunrise with his father, Bill Reiling. The idea was, they would purchase what was an unsuccessful bank, in a neighborhood known for its poverty and struggling businesses and work with the community. The bank’s success hinged on the success of the community, if the community succeeded, the bank would thrive.

Reiling noticed that even though bank branches were in the customers’ neighborhood, many customers were using check cashers and taking out payday loans with huge interest rates. He wanted to get to the bottom of the problem, so he purchased a local check casher to get a look at their books and see first-hand how they operated. He realized that they had to meet customers in their comfort zone because they didn’t want the fancy bank lobbies; rather they preferred something familiar.

The bank looked to the fintech sector to find a partner to collaborate with to meet the needs of many customers. Finally Sunrise got together with a company called Employee Loan Solutions who offered a product called TrueConnect.

TrueConnect: Be There When Your Employees Need You Most

TrueConnect is a safe alternative to payday loans and rather than come into a bank, people can apply for the loan through their employer. It gives people a way to take control of their financial wellness where they are and on their own time, without having to involve a bank directly.

Sunrise offered TrueConnect to the bank’s employees and their technology partner, Employee Loan Solutions first, as a beta test. After the success of that testing, it has grown very quickly and continues to do so. It wasn’t automatic, the bank tested and monitored, adjusting various parts of the process to make sure it was exactly right and it fit what the customers wanted. Not only did it have to be quick and simple, there were risk management and regulatory challenges that needed to be juggled.

Today, TrueConnect is offered by over 2,500 companies across the country serving more than 100,000 employees. Sunrise is able to service all TrueConnect loans and take care of the behind the scenes systems and processes, taking the bank lobby out of the picture. By moving away from the center stage and working behind the scenes, the bank serves the needs of many people who may not trust banks and otherwise would fall victim to the cycle of debt that comes with payday lending.

Sunrise: A Social Enterprise Rather than a Traditional Bank

From the beginning, Sunrise has been more of a social enterprise than a traditional bank. Its close ties with customers have remained, even as a nationally chartered organization. Sunrise is known for its strong brand which was built throughout the years. Even before social responsibility became a trend, the bank had a prime focus on it. Social responsibility isn’t an initiative Sunrise took on; it was the foundation for its business in the beginning and continues to live in every product it offers.

The bank faced challenges in its early stages. Particularly in the Midwest, because while there is a strong entrepreneurial spirit there aren’t as many sources for investors as in larger markets. The people in the Midwest are traditionally very risk-averse and look more for proven solutions than the next big thing. Thankfully, that has shifted dramatically since Sunrise’s inception. Minneapolis/St Paul is now thriving with successful technology startups and entrepreneurs with a passion to make a difference. Without large venture backing that some organizations have, the bank had to face the challenge of focus. Additionally, as a socially responsible bank, it took longer to find partnerships with values-aligned organizations, but once Sunrise found those partners, things were able to move smoothly and grow very quickly.

The Roadmap Ahead

The next couple of years are very exciting for Sunrise Banks. The bank is working to keep building partnerships, especially with fintech companies, that allow Sunrise to serve customers’ needs where they are and when they are available, moving away from banker’s hours.

Through its partnerships, Sunrise plans to become a resource and curate the best socially-responsible fintech companies and solutions, paving the way for others to continue to push the envelope with them. Furthermore, the bank has made investments in its infrastructure to promote continuing agility and innovation to revolutionize the customer experience associated with banking.

Meet the Thought Leader

David Reiling, Chairman, and CEO: Reiling is a social entrepreneur with a long history of innovation in community development finance. Under Reiling’s leadership, Sunrise Banks became the first Minnesota bank certified as a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), the first Minnesota B Corp, the first Minnesota bank to join the Global Alliance of Banking on Values and one of the first Minnesota Benefit Corporations.

David has been recognized by Trust across America as one of “Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business” for the past four years, earned an Ernst & Young “Entrepreneur of the Year” award, been named Finance & Commerce’s “Innovator of the Year,” and won a Stevie Award for Best Corporate Social Responsibility Program among other awards.

David is a graduate of the University of San Diego, University of Southern California – Graduate School of Business, and the University of Wisconsin, Madison – Graduate School of Banking, and has been in the financial services industry for more than 25 years.

“We maintain a personal connection with customers by always listening to our customers and meeting them where they are, even though banking and business are increasingly detached.”