The folks at Fremont Bank, located throughout the greater Bay Area in Northern California, are all about the community. They care about people and the environment. In the mid ’90s, Fremont Bank was at the forefront of check-imaging. Today, bank employees are doing whatever they can — from developing an initiative to create a completely paperless business environment to recycling ink cartridges and computers to minimize their impact on the environment.

The family-owned and managed Fremont Bank also has what the staff calls their “mobile service courier.” Essentially, Fremont Bank brings its business to customers, driving to them to deliver reports and pick up documents or deposits. The 300-plus customers who use the service can now eliminate frequent trips to one of Fremont Bank’s 24 branches or four additional ATMs.

Given the bank’s concern for the environment, it may not come as a surprise that its drivers arrive at their destinations in hybrid vehicles.

Savings Balance Initial Costs
Although the plan began a few years ago, driven by the passion of Fremont Bank’s chairman, Alan Hyman (who drives a hybrid), the cost of upgrading the new fleet to hybrids wasn’t an economically attractive option. But last September, his dream became a reality. The bank has seen several benefits from switching six main fleet vehicles to Prius hybrids. Fuel efficiency has increased from the previous vehicles’ 30 mpg highway and 26 mpg city, to 45 mpg highway and 50 mpg city. Not only has the bank saved $1,000 per month for gasoline, but California HOV lane passes have been secured for each driver (which means speedier service for the customers).

With saving fuel costs, bidding off the previous fleet vehicles, receiving federal tax credits, and obtaining a volume purchase discount, it didn’t take long for Fremont Bank to balance the more expensive hybrid-vehicle buy.

Hybrid Model Offers Safety
The Prius hybrids are safer, too. “Besides having front- and side-impact air bags, there’s a warning system on the car to alert drivers that they’re getting too close to an object while they’re backing up,” says Kevi Grier, Fremont Bank’s director of central operations and logistic services. “The drivers really like the visibility. The windows are wide and, even though they’re compact cars, they have more interior room than our previous vehicle, which allows drivers to carry more.”

Fremont Bank’s fleet isn’t totally hybrid yet. A Toyota Matrix is available as a spare car for special runs, and two vans are used to move equipment. However, the bank plans to replace the Matrix soon and is waiting for an appropriate hybrid van replacement to become available.

Grier notes that a Fremont Bank motto states, “Creating success through partnership.” Using hybrid vehicles is only a small part of a broad, simple, and wide-ranging goal of good corporate citizenship. “We’re committed to lifetime relationships with our clients,” says Grier.

“We’re not a transactional bank. We look for the whole relationship, and that includes being involved in the community. The fleet is a beginning for us.”