Conister Bank transforming finance for a greener future.
Conister Bank transforming finance for a greener future.
Conister Bank wants to make a difference and is pushing ahead firmly with its aim to be the Island’s leading provider within the local sustainable and renewables sector.
Its mission, as part of its Green Finance Strategy, is to drive sustainable and renewable finance and make it possible for individuals and businesses to achieve their own goals.
Individual choices make an impact, and it is important to keep the conversation alive as to what people can do to reduce their own impact on our beloved island.
Andy Bass, Isle of Man Head of Sales, said: ‘We have already witnessed how this is making a difference for some of our business clients – and their customers.
‘At Conister Bank we see our role as a changemaker. We want to embrace and champion the development within the sustainability agenda shifting how the bank and our clients do business to increase all of our sustainability.’
One such area where the changes have begun to have an impact is in the motor trade, something with which Conister Bank has had close associations throughout its 86 years of business.
Moves to digitisation have already seen benefits in terms of the service offered – a quicker and less paper-intensive system – and, with the increase in the electric vehicle market, Conister is geared up to support its clients to keep up with developments.
‘We introduced an online lending platform about 18 months ago,’ said Andy. ‘One of the key areas was with our car dealership clients to assist with providing faster access to finance.
‘The online platform really came into play during the first lockdown as customers were able to apply online and had the ability to e-sign documents.
‘It allowed us and our business clients to carry on in trade whilst never compromising safety. In the retail sector, it allowed businesses to set up click and collect. It really helped with local services.’
The team at Conister Bank knew it had the right systems in place to roll out across sectors, and the upgrade dovetails neatly with the Green Finance Strategy, which will see the bank supporting businesses that want to develop their own green policies.
The motor trade is going to see major changes and it is important for Conister Bank that it is ready to help those businesses, with the growth of the electric vehicle market, while embracing the changes itself.
‘At Conister Bank, we have purchased e-bikes for our staff to use and familiarise themselves with this new traveling experience. We are hopeful that it will encourage our staff to leave their car at home and commute by bicycle where possible or simply explore our beautiful island. An eBike makes cycling more accessible and certainly more appealing! We have also seen some of our staff purchase electric vehicles which is very promising and good for our customers to see that we believe in the same things that we are hoping they will embrace.
‘We are working hard with our Approved Partners to see where electric vehicles and eBikes can play a part in the future. There was a surge in sales of eBikes bikes last year. Initially, Covid-19 brought about a dramatic increase in bicycle sales in response to the pandemic with suppliers struggling to keep up with demand, but the demand for eBikes has continued.’
He added: ‘Conister Bank, forever, has been associated with the local motor trade and the landscape is certainly changing as we pivot towards a carbon-neutral way of life.
‘We speak to our suppliers and dealers who are changing their market profile and including electric vehicles for customers who are looking to switch.
‘Conister Bank wants to lead this change. We want to stand out as the go-to finance company for anything green, anything sustainable.’
That extends to individual clients. Lending rates are at an all-time low for green projects and the bank has increased its lending terms from a maximum of 5 to 10 years.
A huge sector that we can assist with is home improvements ‘retrofit’. ‘Some of these projects, such as modernising your house to make it more energy efficient are quite expensive,’ said Andy.
‘People can be sometimes put off from what they consider to be a “nice-to-have” by the cost, but by extending the lending terms it can make these jobs affordable and mean that, by the time the loan has been paid off, the financial benefits to the customer have already had an effect.
One area that it will help individual clients is in the housing market, where sustainability brings with it an added value to a property.
‘Houses are selling quickly, especially those that have green qualities, which bring with them, additional benefits,’ said Andy. ‘It is going to make the sale more attractive if your house has low running costs in terms of electricity and heating. If a house costs less to run, a buyer is much more likely to go for that.’
Andy said the bank was expecting to see large growth in the area of refurbishing existing properties. The house-building booms of previous generations mean that modernisation is an option that is being taken up, increasingly, by owners, whether to increase the sell-on potential or just to reduce the costs in their home.
He added: ‘We are looking at working in collaboration with suppliers of roofing and insulation and also those who can install smart heating systems and replace boilers with more efficient models.
‘All of these things in your house that can save you money and make your house more sustainable require a significant initial outlay, but by offering finance deals over up to 10 years, we make it a more viable option for customers.
‘That’s good news for them, it’s good news for us and, ultimately it’s good news for the planet.’
Whether it is in the office, the home or on the road, Conister Bank wants to work with clients to embrace the Green Finance culture.
It has signed Approved Partner terms with a number of electric vehicle and renewables specialists and is keen to expand in these areas.
As an independent bank, Conister can adapt to client and market needs quickly, which is why it is in a strong position to adopt Green Finance policies.
‘We are small and extremely nimble,’ said Andy. ‘But we are also very well connected on the international stage. It means we can make decisions quickly and connect with the right players.’While there is a focus on the future, Conister Bank is also aware that such changes take time. So it will continue to support all businesses while offering advice and direction about how to make moves to a more sustainable model.
‘We are not walking away from our current supplier base,’ said Andy. ‘We are still there for them and we will help them to evolve their own business, so they become more sustainable and in a strong position for the future.
‘The lockdowns may have accelerated changes towards greater sustainability and, in the long-term, that should help businesses to become even more resilient.
‘We have had many more inquiries about electric vehicles while working from home has become much more widespread. For those people spending more time in the home, they obviously want to increase the efficiency of heating and electricity consumption – and the same applies to workplaces.’
Earlier this year Conister Bank announced it was mapping out a pathway to reduce its own carbon footprint. It followed the findings of a consultants’ report that Conister Bank’s total carbon emissions in 2019 came to 135.9 tonnes – the equivalent to the average annual energy use in 40 homes, or driving 350,000 miles in an average size car.
The report set a target for Conister Bank of reducing the 2019 emissions figure by 42% by 2029, which would see the amount come down to 78.9 tonnes.
That is coupled with the longer-term target for the Isle of Man as a whole, of net zero emissions by 2050.
Conister Bank has set up a Green Team to explore opportunities that impact their carbon footprint, such as reducing the number of flights by arranging more video conferences, examining the practicality of car-sharing and active travel to work, promoting energy saving in the workplace and decarbonising electric vehicles.
Conister Bank is committed to promoting clean energy, both in the working practices at its Douglas offices and in encouraging other businesses to follow suit and aims to be an active participant in reducing the environmental impact of how we live and work.
Andy said: ‘We cannot change the entire world, but we can certainly change how we act and how we influence others. The development of our Green Finance Strategy is a key part of that. It will benefit ourselves as a business but, more importantly, our customers and the environment we all live and work in.’
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