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2011 Exploring Innovation David C Relling

Presenter: David C. Reiling, CEO, Sunrise Community Banks, St. Paul, Minn.

From local to national to possibly global? Session participants learned how Sunrise Community Banks has leveraged technology to work with unbanked and underbanked individuals and families. Now armed with a portfolio of prepaid products, Sunrise is better positioned to promote financial services to individuals looking for an alternative to a traditional bank account as well as businesses looking for ways to reduce costs related to payroll, commission or incentive payments.

Major Themes

  1. Community investing approach for Sunrise Banks combines:
    • Social entrepreneurship resulting in social impact and financial sustainability
    • Practicality and action
  2. Need to focus on what the community actually needs and not what you think they need. Ask and listen. Understanding leads to positive change.
  3. Use innovation to bank the unbanked. Innovation involves associating, questioning, observing, experimenting, networking and practice (Harvard Business Review).
  4. Technology is key for LMI/unbanked to access financial transactions via mobile payments, prepaid cards, Square (a mobile payment system that enables users to pay for products by swiping their credit card on their smart phones or mobile devices), etc.


  • Remain community-focused and engaged. Listen to the customer you are serving. Advocate.
  • Create unique partnerships and programs to help people get access to credit and to create new trade lines.
  • Understand organizational growth from the entrepreneurial stage to growth and expansion to maturity.
  • Leverage your existing strengths (examples: 3x Sunrise Secure Solution, Sunrise Homeownership Alliance using new markets tax credits, CDFI, B corporation, etc.).
  • Use technology to help innovate – communicate (the square, prepaid card, etc.). No need to be brick-and-mortar; banks can be everywhere without personnel, space, operations, etc.
  • Study trends to find opportunity. Prepaid card industry is the fastest growing in the industry. By 2014: $100 billion, non-banks issue over 60 percent; opportunity to capture some of the market.

Memorable Quote

"Challenge the unquestionable. That's what innovators do."

Questions that Remain

  • What's the carrot to get more banks to do more to meet the financial service needs of LMI people?
  • Can nonprofits and financial institutions develop meaningful partnerships to address the needs of LMI people?