By Christopher Marquis
In establishing Beneficial State Bank as a financial institution with social and environmental impact in mind, co-founders Kat Taylor and Tom Steyer saw an opportunity to serve as an example for others in the U.S. financial industry, which handles trillions of dollars in finances daily. The potential for positive change is great in a system where, and even smaller financial institutions oversee millions.
“It’s a very powerful system that has monopolistic tendencies. Banking is really a utility that should be governed in the public interest,” Taylor says. “We had a hunch that this powerful positive public system was going terribly awry, and somebody had to set an example for the banking industry that said, ‘You can be financially sustainable without trashing people or the planet.’”
They launched Beneficial State Bank in 2007, just before the Great Recession, as a foundation-owned, for-profit bank as well as a Community Development Financial Institution and Certified B Corporation. All of that adds up to a mission-focused bank committed to doing good in its communities — so the money goes toward community, environmental, and social benefit. With about $1.5 billion in assets, Beneficial State Bank has offices in California, Oregon, and Washington, and an eye on expansion of its services to provide more people a banking option with positive impact.
By establishing Beneficial State Foundation as the owner of the bank’s economic rights and a public charity, Taylor and Steyer sought to ensure that no entity would use its resources for self-serving interests and instill the community connection from the start. The foundation works with coalitions, campaigns, and other partnerships to advance social and economic justice, and environmental advocacy.
In 2020, Taylor shifted from her role as CEO to a member of the bank’s Board of Directors, and Randell Leach was named to succeed her. As a longtime COO at Beneficial State Bank, Leach is familiar with its unique value set that helps it envision and provide new products, services, and outcomes for its customers and community partners.