Times Square Trees: 5 Questions With LightStream SVP Kristin Shuff


LightStream forest Times Square October 2017

LightStream wanted to make a statement about its commitment to sustainability and create more brand awareness. That inspiration led to an event that’s happening in New York as we write this—a forest of trees is being “planted” in the heart of Times Square.

LightStream forest Times Square October 2017

LightStream logoThe top five US online consumer lending company owned by Atlanta-based SunTrust Bank plans to construct a forest of living trees overnight tonight in Times Square—a lush Forest of Dreams, complete with live trees and rescued wildlife, right in the heart of one of the world’s busiest intersections.

The goal is to celebrate and bring to life its devotion to America’s forest renewal and preservation. The financial services firm has planted a tree for every loan funded since 2013, totaling 1,000 acres so far, and it’s hoping to plant another 500 acres by the end of the year. (As part of offering competitive fixed rates up to $100,000 per loan, LightStream also gives a $100 thank you per loan as part of its customer guarantee if the customer isn’t completely satisfied.)

On Wednesday, Times Square visitors will awake to the Forest of Dreams, with more than 150 trees and other foliage arranged, forest-like, right in front of the Good Morning America Plaza between 43rd and 44th streets.

They can stroll through the area, interact with rescued wildlife, opt to have a tree planted on their behalf, and have their photo taken against a forest background which can be shared on a Times Square billboard. (Take a look below.)

Not in New York on Wednesday? Submit a photo online and receive an email with a customized picture as if you’re at the Forest of Dreams event and you may be featured on a billboard in Times Square.

Non-profit partner American Forests will livestream the event on its Facebook page, while a portion of the Forest of Dreams’ donations will benefit areas recently decimated by hurricanes, including Houston and Miami.

“The Forest of Dreams is LightStream’s way of celebrating the hundreds of thousands of dreams we’ve helped make a reality for our customers,” Todd Nelson, LightStream’s business-development officer, stated in a press release.

The company offers simple, quick, virtually paperless loans for a wide range of unusual and often hard-to-fit purposes including home improvement, child adoptions, fertility treatments and classic cars. Such loans “empower people and give them the financial confidence to make their goals come true,” Nelson said.

Kristin Shuff - SVP of Marketing, LightStreamFor more, we spoke with Kristin Shuff, LightStream’s senior vice president of marketing (right), about the activation.

For those who don’t know LightStream, can you explain what it is?

We’re an online lending division of SunTrust, but not the only way consumers can transact online with SunTrust. There are other things that a SunTrust consumer can do online. We’re national in scope, and the reason LightStream was sub-branded was to help us facilitate that: a national footprint versus the historic geographic footprint of SunTrust. We lend in all 50 states.

And what was the inspiration behind this brand activation in Times Square?

Lightstream plants a tree with every loan that we fund, historically. We’ve done that even back when we operated prior to becoming part of SunTrust. As part of SunTrust, we started in March 2013.

We wanted to do something unexpected to tell that story and to celebrate the 1,000 acres we’ve planted so far, and all the dreams we’ve facilitated for all our customers. And to mark the additional push we want to make to have planted another 500 acres by the end of the year.

Does this also connect to being a digital lender?

We have a paperless process; we were one of the first online paperless lenders. It’s super-efficient, saves costs and saves trees. To symbolize that we wanted to tell that satory subtly and highlight the dreams of people who get loans.

LightStream forest Times Square October 2017

What will visitors see in Times Square?

By the time the sun comes up there will be a forest in Times Square. When we first came up with the idea, the first question and answer was that these need to be live trees. They’ll be there with foliage and ground cover, and some animals that have been rescued from forests: hawks, owls, bunnies, squirrels.

The rescued wildlife all have handlers; they won’t be running free. Afterward, all the live trees will be donated to New York City parks, and a portion of donations will be going to hurricane recovery in Miami and Houston, and to other areas.

LightStream forest Times Square October 2017

How will the LightStream brand be incorporated in this natural setting?

We’ll have signage and folks there to explain what’s going on. People will be able to walk through the forest. We won’t have set up anything specifically there to apply for loans but if [visitors] want to apply on any phone or mobile device, they could. If it inspires them and connects with a need they have, that would be a wonderful thing.

The event commemorates what we’re trying to do in planting trees. We have the goal of planting 10,000 trees from this event, part of the 500 acres we want to plant yet this year. Visitors can walk through the forest; they can have a photo taken on a forest background to share as they see fit on social media; and that may be pushed up to a Times Square billboard.

They can choose from any number of images they want to be placed in—either the actual background or green-screen images that are beautiful too. People can also go to LightStreamForests.com to sign up to have a tree planted. They don’t have to get a loan (to do so), it’s free to them.

Below, LightStream’s urban forest pop-up:

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