Some call it the Fourth Industrial Revolution, others call it Industry 4.0. Independent of the label, digital disruption and artificial intelligence (AI) have the potential to be a transformative component of the local and global economy in the next decade. The Wisconsin Bankers Association (WBA), the Wisconsin Bankers Foundation (WBF), and a small group of bankers are in the middle of this technological shift, performing research and analysis to create a groundswell of awareness for the potential applications of this new technology.

WBA and WBF are collaborating with two organizations—Curate Solutions and Advancing AI Wisconsin—to determine just how AI will fit within your bank, help your customers, provide value to your shareholders, and give your bank a competitive advantage. WBF, with the help of these partners, hopes to provide valuable insight through research based on real examples of AI and other disruptive technologies. 

Curate Solutions

In September, WBF began working with Curate Solutions and its AI software to provide business intelligence in the areas of commercial/residential development, consumer sentiment, municipal activity, and banking market opportunities. What does Curate do? In the words of co-founder Taralinda Willis, Curate's AI program "finds actionable market intelligence from publicly available data."

Curate's software provides this intelligence by scanning agendas and public minutes from cities, counties, villages, and school board websites to reveal upcoming business opportunities. Using web-scraping and cutting-edge artificial intelligence software Curate and the Foundation identify projects, people, and business issues being discussed across our entire state (or by region). WBF and Curate selected over 50 different keywords for the AI to focus on, including "RFP," "Bond," and "Blight." Using these keywords, the AI program uncovers projects before they go to bid, information important to an association's members, and hot-button issues as they take place. For example, using the term "blight," in the first week the software uncovered a municipality in southeastern Wisconsin discussing a potential new ordinance and fee related to vacant property registration programs.

Does this sound like a far-fetched magical solution? It's not. "AI is not magic, it's math," explained Dale Willis, a computer scientist and co-founder of Curate Solutions. "Curate's software scans through hundreds of thousands of URLs in Wisconsin." Prior to AI, it would have taken a team of people to create rules to accomplish the same task, which would have been very difficult because each municipal website is structured so differently. AI takes common patterns with a volume of data, so it can start making decisions. The keyword "addition" is a good example, according to Willis. "We know that from a construction perspective 'addition' is a key word, but in plain English there are a few uses. Based on real examples, AI 'learns' certain uses of the word are valuable and others are not," he explained.

Curate's AI uses what it learns to pinpoint important information amidst a massive sea of data, Taralinda explained. "What we're doing is more of a numbers game," she said. "Any individual can track one particular municipality or data set, but AI allows a business to focus on a large data set distributed over a region. In that way, we're ahead of the game." The incredible part is, Curate's AI—and AI programs, in general—will only grow faster and more accurate with time as they digest more and more data. "It [AI] is continuing to improve and get faster," said Taralinda. "It's valuable in its current state and it is only getting better."

Advancing AI Wisconsin

Earlier this year, Oliver Buechse and Kurt Hahlbeck created Advancing AI Wisconsin, a coalition of business and industry leaders, to increase awareness of the set of technologies often referred to as "Digital Disruption Technologies" and their impact on Wisconsin businesses, workforce needs, educational programming, and the state overall. While several large companies have already launched their own efforts to adopt or develop AI-based solutions, midsized and smaller players have more limited opportunities to get into the game. That's why the WBF is working with industry solutions providers (like Curate and other technology providers) to initiate dialogue with the smaller players and jointly explore how to create access to the benefits of these new technologies. 

To that end, the Foundation presents the following "AI Primer for Bankers" based on initial market research and analysis performed by Advancing AI Wisconsin. We hope you'll find it helpful as you begin exploring AI's potential in the financial services arena. 

AI Primer for Banks

 

With these changes come not only threats, but also opportunities for increased competitiveness of those who embrace AI and adapt to the new environment faster than others. The goal of AI is not to entirely replace the human aspect, but to empower human decisions with data and insights. Curate's AI program (described earlier in this article) is just one example of how the advent of AI can positively impact Wisconsin's banking industry. 

Buechse is the founder of My Strategy Source and an active member of the Advancing AI Wisconsin coalition.
Semmann is WBA executive vice president – chief operations officer and executive director of the Wisconsin Bankers Foundation.

By, Amber Seitz

The Shift from Historian to Strategic Partner

Across industries, the function of the Chief Financial Officer is transforming, and the broad, rapid change in the banking industry over the past decade has accelerated that evolution. "The CFO's role a decade ago was more behind-the-scenes," said Ed Sloane, CFO of First Business Bank, Madison, comparing it to today's dynamic, collaborative functions. "The CFO role has evolved over the years, but it's really the result of an evolving industry." The shift in focus from clerical to strategic has not necessarily changed the job descriptions of bank CFOs, but rather the expectations placed on them. "The definition of a CFO hasn't changed much, but the role and expectations have changed," said Nicholas Hahn, director of Financial Institutions Risk Advisory Services at RSM US, LLP.* "Typical CFO duties have transitioned to Controllers to allow CFOs to focus on more strategic initiatives." 

That transition means today's CFOs must keep their eyes on the future as well as the past, with the emphasis on forecasting. "The emphasis of what a CFO is to do has changed, and that's a good thing," said Gary J. Young, president & CEO of Young & Associates, Inc.** He explained that in the past, CFOs were simply very good at telling the CEO and the Board what had happened to the bank (ratios, growth, margins, etc.)—a vast underutilization of the CFO role, which should focus on improving profitability. "The role of the CFO is to lead and direct the organization financially," said Bob Makowski, CFO of Park Bank, Milwaukee. "That's so broad compared to what it used to be. The role used to be looking backward, focused totally on financials." Park Bank president/CEO Dave P. Werner agreed: "The role has changed from being that of a historian to being a forward-looking strategist, looking at the financial impact of the decisions we make operationally."

Prognosticator and Storyteller

No longer confined to number-crunching in a back room, today's bank CFO is a strategic partner to the rest of the management team, acting as both a forward-looking advisor and strategy advocate. As the primary source of financial information for the CEO and board—particularly relating to interest rate risk modeling, capital, and asset/liability management—the CFO is well-positioned to help design and execute the bank's strategic plan. According to Makowski, on a macro level this involves identifying the best balance sheet composition for the bank in terms of liquidity, investments, loans, etc. "Make liquidity and balance sheet composition a top priority," he said. "That's what you can impact every day, also looking at it long-term." Werner described it as being the "balance sheet strategist," that is, answer the question of how to best position the bank to lend to its customers while maximizing profitability, boosting capital, and providing a return to shareholders. Another significant duty of the CFO as the primary financial informer for the CEO and directors is regarding merger activity; regardless of whether the bank is actively seeking a purchase or sale, the board has a fiduciary responsibility to evaluate any opportunities that arise. "The ability of the CFO to understand and communicate critical valuation and accounting issues is very important," Hahn explained. "CFOs must be able to assist directors with that." Despite this emphasis on forecasting and planning, Young cautioned against forgetting to look at the bank's historical financial data as a source of information. "The CFO still needs to be looking back, but the emphasis should be on looking forward," he explained. One example of this is conducting a risk/reward study for every new endeavor the institution considers, Young said, pointing out that regulators now require banks to do such an analysis for significant technological or product offering changes.

CFOs: Expand Your Expertise at the WBA CFO Conference
"There are lots of different hats that CFOs are wearing today that they haven't traditionally worn. Their sphere of influence continues to grow." – Nicholas Hahn, director of Financial Institutions Risk Advisory Services at RSM US, LLP. 

Hahn will be speaking at WBA's upcoming CFO Conference, along with several other expert speakers. Join them and your fellow bank CFOs on November 16 in Madison for a full day of professional development and valuable networking opportunities. Visit www.wisbank.com/CFO for more information and to register.

The other facet of the CFO's role as strategic partner is to be an advocate for the bank's strategy, both internally (to staff) and externally (to shareholders and customers). "A CFO is more of a storyteller now," said Sloane. "We're constantly communicating and furthering the strategy of the organization and making sure employees at all levels understand what that is." This requires CFOs to be dynamic communicators—much like salespeople, which is a vastly different mindset from the past. "When you come into the bank each day, be thinking of what is happening today that will get you where you want to be in a year or two," Young advised. The strategic plan must be the ultimate guide for all day-to-day activities. "Every decision that you make as a CFO needs to support the long-term vision of the company," said Sloane. "You need to truly believe in it and push it out, both externally and internally."

How to Pivot

For bank CFOs still wearing the 'head accountant' hat, there are four key actions to consider that will help you effectively transition into a strategic partner. Fair warning: as the CFOs' role and responsibilities have expanded, most of these steps require CFOs to venture outside of their comfort zones.

1: Minimize the Minutia

"Like with any c-suite position, when a CFO gets caught up in the minutia they're not leading, not managing the bank; they're managing details," said Young. "If you're caught up in the details every day, the CFO becomes a bookkeeper." Not only does this detract from the CFO role, it's also highly inefficient: no company should pay an individual $120,000 per year to spend six or seven hours every day doing $50,000 per year work. Makowski pointed out that sometimes minutia comes disguised as operational requests from other departments, since the CFO and their team are generally viewed as financial problem-solvers. However, CFOs must be careful not to take on work that could be performed in other areas. "You want to be helpful and a team player, but that's not where you maximize value for the organization," he said.

2: Assemble a Top Team

Knowing when to delegate is closely related to avoiding minutia, and it first requires having a capable team to delegate to. "One of the top priorities for a CFO should be to assemble a team with the right mix of expertise to address the wide variety of areas necessary for the institution's success," said Hahn. The breadth and depth of a CFO's oversight has expanded dramatically; CFOs must be able to rely on their team. "CFOs need to be increasingly involved in attracting, growing, and retaining talent," said Hahn. Sloane pointed out that having the right staff can help the CFO avoid distractions. For example, he explained that First Business Bank has a designated Chief Accounting Officer—which is unique in banks of their size—and that allows Sloane to focus on the bigger picture. "Having a top-notch staff is critical to allowing the CFO to be a strategic partner," he said. 

3: Utilize Technology

Long gone are the days of handwritten ledgers, but some institutions still cling to their trusted Excel spreadsheets; upgrading that technology can streamline strategic initiatives. "Having a robust profitability system that can break down the company in a number of meaningful ways is incredibly important for a CFO," said Sloane. "That technology is essential. Having robust systems and infrastructures in place to allow you to dive into the details is really critical." Two of the most significant ways a CFO can impact their institution's profitability is being proactive about liquidity management and effectively modeling interest rate risk, according to Young, and technology facilitates those tasks. "To a CFO, the technology changes that have taken place only make the job easier," said Young. "There's so much information at your fingertips now. The key is to look forward."

4: Build Relationships

Finally, today's CFO must escape the back room and interact with a wide variety of stakeholders: other bank staff, shareholders, regulators, vendors, and peers. "CFOs need to be relationship-builders," said Hahn. "Effectively identify the people you need to bring together and then manage them." He cited CECL as a good example of something that requires the CFO to assemble an internal team; it impacts accounting, risk management, lending, and even IT. Outside of the bank, CFOs have become much more engaged with shareholders. "The CFO plays a huge role in investor relations," Werner explained. "Investors need to have confidence in your CFO." Regulators should share that confidence, too; fostering relationships with regulators is an important piece of the CFO's compliance responsibilities. "You need to develop those relationships and fully understand what the hot topics are so you can be responsive to regulators," said Sloane. When it comes to highly technical areas outside of the CFO's areas of expertise, Hahn recommends developing relationships with vendors who are experts in that area (whether their assistance is contracted or on an ad hoc basis). "Don't hesitate to leverage third parties to help in emerging or technical areas," he advised. "There is a wealth of industry information available to help make those decisions." Finally, today's CFOs need to build and sustain a wide network of peers they can lean on for advice. "Get out of the vacuum of your organization," Werner advised, recommending seminars and conferences as ideal places to both network with peers and stay educated. 

Seitz is WBA operations manager and senior writer. 

*RSM US, LLP is a WBA Bronze Associate Member.
**Young & Associates, Inc. is a WBA Associate Member.

By, Amber Seitz

The September 2017 edition of the WBA Compliance Journal has been published.

This month's Special Focus features an article on Wisconsin's Unclaimed Property Act, as well as consumer information regarding the Equifax Data Breach. CFPB's lawsuit of TCF Bank in Minnesota is the topic of the Judicial SpotlightRegulatory Spotlight features final rules on Equal Credit Opportunity Act ethnicity and race information collection, and the Telemarketing Sales Rule.

Click here to download the full issue.

By, Ally Bates

Security considerations for modern branch technology

As branch networks evolve from brick-and-mortar transaction centers into technology-friendly customer interaction spaces, banks must also be diligent in their work to update their security strategy. A 20th-century security plan won't protect a 21st-century branch network. Unfortunately, there's no universal approach that will work for every institution. "Any time you're adding new technology or moving to something new, there's no easy answer," said Randy Phillips, vice president of security management at Thompson Consulting Group, LLC. "It's really a case-by-case basis because it depends on how much technology you're adding." Instead, bank security officers should align their current strategy to their branch network with a close look at their vulnerabilities from a holistic perspective. 

Adopt a Holistic Perspective

Modern branch networks are less a collection of separate buildings and more a true network, a group of interconnected pieces working in tandem. Therefore, updating the security strategy to accommodate modern networks requires a perspective shift. "It doesn't require changes so much as it requires looking at security concerns from the past in a different way, as an ecosystem rather than as separate pieces," said Jim Stanger, FI solutions team leader at Edge One, Inc. "You need to look at your security more holistically." Protecting innovative branch networks that rely on more automation than past models requires reviewing security in a new way, according to Barry Thompson, managing partner at Thompson Consulting Group, LLC. 

That holistic view necessitates an understanding of how each piece of the network interacts with the others, whether it's an ATM at a remote location, a complimentary Wi-Fi connection, or a new mobile app. "Any time you're looking at new technology, you need to look at the interoperability, how all the parts will work together," said Phillips. "Research it and spend the time to choose wisely, because the last thing you want is to make a purchase and then discover that it's not as efficient as you'd anticipated or it opens you up to new vulnerabilities you hadn't expected." Bank security officers must identify and defend against new and transforming vulnerabilities related to both physical security and information security, and the best way to do so is to evaluate current security from the perspective of a criminal. "Everybody's probably heard it before, but any situation where you're the security officer you have to think like the bad guy," Phillips said. "What are they doing and how are they trying to do it?"

Information Security

With today's rapidly evolving technology landscape, keeping up with the industry is vital for information security, which is one of the most common security concerns today, according to Dawn Staples, president/CEO of Superior Savings Bank. "These concerns evolve as quickly as the previous vulnerability has been addressed. Maintaining an effective information security policy that is frequently updated and followed, along with a vigilant eye on emerging trends is essential." An ongoing system for monitoring and improving security is especially critical as the machines banks use to deliver services to their customers become more complex, such as video ATMs and interactive teller machines. "Protect the terminals today but also have a system for protecting them on an ongoing basis," Stanger advised. Having a system in place to regularly install security updates is vital, as modern machines are far more complex than their past counterparts. "These solutions are just as much software as they are hardware, today," said Stanger, referring to ATMs. 

Even entirely digital system components such as Wi-Fi and electronic banking products should be reviewed and monitored as part of the overall branch network, since they can become gateways for criminals to access other areas of the network. "Layered security is a primary focus with all of our electronic banking products," said Staples. "Multifactor authentication, firewalls, and VPNs are just a few of the strategies that are commonly used." When it comes to offering internet access to customers, the best protection is to separate it from the connection used by branch network components and internal processes. "If you're providing free Wi-Fi for visitors and customers, you must ensure that the connection is completely separate from the connection used by the bank's internal computers and systems," Thompson stressed. "Otherwise someone in the parking lot can start using your internet." The good news is, safer and more secure technology is developed as rapidly as criminals find ways to exploit current technology. "As technology advances, additional protections are available for personal transactions, whether it's banking or any other cloud-based activity," said Staples. 

Physical Security

When it comes to physical security, a holistic perspective requires banks to consider how the new devices impact customer safety, even as they provide additional convenience. "The biggest change is to give more consideration to the fact that we're moving some of our security exposure to the customer," Phillips said. He explained that self-service machines such as interactive ATMs place the responsibility for cash handling on the customer, and many people still don't trust machines to dispense the correct amount. "They're still going to stand there and count the money," he said. "So, look at the surroundings."

This customer-centric view also applies when considering the physical layout of the branch, including the placement of teller pods (if they are being installed). "The size of the teller pod and how you position it within the branch creates issues for physical security," said Thompson. For example, he cautioned banks against positioning pods in such a way that would allow customers to view the computer screens on nearby pods, potentially revealing other customers' account information. "It's crime prevention through environmental design," he explained. Fortunately, as with many information security components, improvements are constantly being made to the physical elements of branch networks. "Many of these new technologies have self-monitoring capabilities, detecting skimming devices on ATMs, for example," Phillips said. 

One thing that hasn't changed, and isn't likely to: prevention and preparation are critical elements in an effective bank security strategy. "Vigilance for what's happening today, with an eye for what's happening tomorrow," said Stanger. "It's best to buy umbrellas before it starts raining."

Edge One, Inc is a WBA Associate Member

By, Amber Seitz

Barriers to entry, reasons to overcome them, and why it's important for the industry

In 2005, the FDIC reviewed 299 applications to start new banks (237 were approved). From 2009 to 2016, they approved just five. Meanwhile, the U.S. economy in general has recovered from the financial crisis of 2008 and subsequent recession, with employment levels back to their 2005 numbers and housing markets back to booming. So, where have all the de novos gone? "It's a combination of factors," said Attorney James Sheriff, partner at Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren, s.c. "It's not a simple, easy answer." The credit crisis alone did not cause the current dearth in de novos, but its lingering effects have created several barriers to entry that discourage the formation of new banks. "This didn't go from a lot to a few; it went from a whole bunch to nearly none. That's very telling," said Andy Guzikowski, Attorney and Shareholder at von Briesen & Roper, s.c. "It's all related to barriers to entry, both real and perceived."

Barriers to Entry

Compliance | One obvious headwind to starting up a bank is the current regulatory environment, which is far more onerous than it was a decade ago. "Practically speaking, the regulatory environment is much more complex with regard to de novo banks," said Tim Kosiek, CPA, partner at Baker Tilly Virchow Krause, LLP. "There's still overlay from the credit crisis and recession." Unfortunately for de novos—which are almost always small community banks, at least at first—community banks shoulder a disproportionate regulatory load in today's industry, and the costs of that add up quickly. "Community banks in particular need to spend more time and money on compliance than they ever have before," Sheriff explained. There have been recent indications, however, that the federal regulatory agencies are willing to compromise in order to foster new banks. "The regulators are always collaborative, very willing to meet and spend time and provide resources to answer questions," said Pete Wilder, attorney and shareholder at Godfrey & Kahn, S.C. He pointed out that the FDIC has been holding meetings on how to encourage de novo activity and has updated its manuals for applications. 

Capital | Another commonly cited barrier to entry is today's higher capital requirements. "The capital requirements today are significantly greater than they were 20 years ago," said Mark Koehl, partner at Wipfli LLP. "That's certainly a big hurdle." In the de novo heydays of the late 1980s and early 1990s, a group of investors could start a bank for $6M. Today, most estimates hover around $15-$20M. However, that number can vary depending on the new bank's specific circumstances. "There is a lot of misinformation out there related to capital," Wilder explained. "The regulators don't take a one-size-fits-all approach." He says DFI and FDIC both determine capital requirements based on the new bank's intended market, products and services, and growth strategy.

ROI | The general decline in bank profitability since the crisis is another barrier to entry for potential new banks; it means lower returns for investors. "The returns available in the banking business are measurably reduced compared to what they were prior to the credit crisis," said Kosiek. "We're in a measurably different landscape when it comes to economic reward for entering the industry." He also pointed out that the amount of time it takes for a de novo to reach "critical mass" and begin generating returns for its investors is much longer today than it used to be—7-10 years instead of 5-7. The current prolonged low interest rate environment compounds this problem, lengthening the time it takes for a nascent bank to become profitable. "Investors hope a bank will become profitable within two years, and with the interest rate environment we're in it's difficult for investors to see banks making money," Sheriff explained. This less-than-appealing timeline plus the current regulatory environment makes purchasing a bank much more attractive to investors than starting one from scratch. "It's much easier for a group of people who want to start a bank to buy a bank than to form a new one," said Sheriff. "It's faster, and the process of getting approval is far less complicated. You also don't have to go find talent, in many cases."

Talent | The cost of talent is another factor that gives potential de novos pause. "There's still a bit of malaise from the crisis, where the entrepreneurial spirit has been dampened," said Wilder. That lack of leadership combined with the higher prices commanded by experienced compliance and lending professionals makes building a staff difficult. "There's a notably lower supply of high-quality bank talent on the marketplace in comparison to what you had 10-20 years ago," said Kosiek. "There are just fewer people out there who think banking is the right place for their career."

Competition | Finally, the competitive environment in the financial services industry is wider and more complex than it used to be, for a variety of factors. First, small businesses no longer feel underserved when local banks merge with larger institutions, according to Koehl. "Many larger institutions have done a good job serving communities, and fintech companies are also helping to fill in the gaps," he explained. "In addition, millennial business owners don't necessarily want the same level of relationship development." The more relaxed regulatory environment and exciting startup culture makes investing in fintech companies more attractive to most investors than a de novo community bank. "There are other options within the banking industry and within the financial services industry that are more appealing to the investor and a better answer for customers and business owners," said Kosiek.

Impact on the Industry

Wisconsin is fortunate to have a diverse, thriving financial services industry, so the Badger State hasn't been as heavily affected by the national lack of de novo activity as states with fewer banks. However, underserved markets are typically where de novo activity happens, so they are the first to feel the impact when it doesn't. "Most important is the availability of credit to rural areas," Guzikowski explained. "Larger banks can achieve that true community contact, character-based lending if they have the right people, but that's specifically what de novos and community banks are designed to do." In rural states like Wisconsin, merger activity without de novo activity often results in fewer financing options for businesses and consumers outside of metropolitan areas. "If the current trend continues without the ability to encourage de novos in the future, we're at risk of having a good chunk of our state where the local economy suffers because of a lack of community bank presence," said Koehl. 

The lack of new banks also impacts M&A activity. "It deprives the industry of new opportunities for growth," Guzikowski said, explaining that many investors consider growing through acquisition and then selling a bank to be a good exit strategy. The lack of de novos means there are fewer acquisitions to be made, making that strategy more difficult. Instead, many investors see purchasing an existing bank as a better opportunity. "If you're interested in the banking industry from the investor standpoint, dropping your money into a de novo is not as appealing as investing in an existing franchise, enhancing it and getting ready for acquisition by a larger enterprise," said Kosiek. According to Koehl, another major factor is that acquired banks used to have younger management teams who wanted to stay in the industry and did so by starting their own bank. "Today, there's still a lot of M&A, but it's often with banks with older management teams who are looking for an exit strategy," he explained. 

Finally, startups—in any industry—are the most likely source of excitement and innovation. "Traditionally new banks have more innovative ideas," said Sheriff. "They're looking to make a statement." New entrants to the market can prevent other banks from stagnating. "For the industry overall, having a few new banks pop up here and there means there's more room for new ideas, new products, and more creativity and excitement in the industry," said Wilder. 

Looking Forward

While de novos have been rare over the past decade, there are signs the tide is turning. In the final quarter of 2016, the FDIC approved two new bank charters. In April 2016, FDIC Chairman Martin Gruenberg announced the reduction of the period of heightened scrutiny for newly chartered institutions from seven years to three, the same level it was before the financial crisis. Since then, FDIC has published a handbook for prospective de novo applicants and held outreach meetings on the topic. Other federal regulators are taking steps to reduce some of the friction in the de novo process, as well. "The OCC in particular has recognized that new banks are the lifeblood of a robust banking industry," said Guzikowski. Acting Comptroller of the Currency Keith Noreika has gone so far as to suggest the OCC be granted authority to approve de novo applications. Considering these ongoing efforts, Guzikowski suggests the next step is test cases. "With the easing of the interest rate environment, what the regulators need now are more applications so they can start putting some of their initiatives into practice," he explained.

In combination with this (slightly) softening regulatory environment, Wisconsin's robust, steady economy could be fertile ground for new banks. "Our economy tends to be pretty stable compared to the big swings you see on the coasts, so it's a good environment for banking," said Wilder. Since 1990, Wisconsin has had 33 de novos and only three of them failed, while on average the new banks turned a profit within six quarters. The recently announced Foxconn development planned for the southeastern corner of the state also brightens prospects for potential new banks. "If all that comes to fruition, it could be an opportunity," said Koehl. "Community banks, whether they're in existence today or a de novo, they're always driven by how their local economy is doing. So, if you have a vibrant economy in a local market that doesn't have a community bank, that's an opportunity for a de novo."

Baker Tilly Virchow Krause, LLP and Wipfli LLP are WBA Silver Associate Members. 
Godfrey & Kahn, s.c. and von Briesen & Roper, s.c. are WBA Bronze Associate Members.

 

By, Amber Seitz

The Equifax data breach will affect millions of consumers, and Wisconsin’s banking industry stands ready to assist their customers. It is the banks in Wisconsin and across the nation that shield their customers from the financial harm caused by data breaches. It is as simple as this: when a breach occurs, banks often bear the brunt of the costs so their customers won’t have to.
 
“Have I been compromised?” is the biggest question on consumers’ minds.  The Wisconsin Bankers Association offers the following tips for consumers who are not sure if their information has been compromised, as well as steps for consumers who know their information was stolen:
 
Not sure if your information has been compromised?
  1. Visit www.equifaxsecurity2017.com, an online service Equifax has set up, to check if your information has been compromised. 
  2. Check all of your accounts via online services provided by your bank or credit card provider. If you don’t have access to or haven’t set up an online account, you can call the company directly for assistance in reviewing your accounts. Consumers should be looking for any discrepancies in their purchasing habits. Be sure to do this over the next few months! Just because the bad guys have your information now, it doesn’t mean they will use it immediately.
  3. Monitor your accounts closely and frequently. Balance your checkbook monthly and match credit card statements with receipts. By viewing accounts online and checking throughout the month, you’ll be able to identify possible problems sooner.
  4. Review your credit report every three or four months. You are entitled to one free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus per year. Request a single report from one of the bureaus every three or four months. By staggering these requests, you will be able to monitor your credit throughout the year.
  5. 5. Register for eNotify from the Wisconsin Department of Motor Vehicles. This service, among other things, will allow you to set up alerts confirming transactions regarding your drivers license. If you didn’t request the transaction, this serves as an early alert system that someone is making unauthorized changes.
You know your information has been compromised:
  1. Contact the security departments of your creditors or bank to close the compromised account(s). Explain that you are a victim of identity theft and this particular card or account has been compromised. Ask them to provide documentation that the account has been closed. You should also follow up with a letter to the agency documenting your request.
  2. Contact the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Trans Union and Equifax) via phone immediately to request a fraud alert be placed on your file. Once again, explain that you are a victim of identity theft and ask that they grant no new credit without your approval. Again, follow up with a letter to the agency documenting your request.
  3. File a report with your local police department and request a copy of the report. This is good documentation to have on hand to prove your identity has been stolen as you begin the process of restoring your credit and good name.
  4. Document all of your actions and keep copies of everything.
Whether you are sure or unsure your financial information has been compromised, one of your first calls should be to your bank. Your bank has a variety of resources available for customers that can help with situations like these. Their staff are also knowledgeable and more than willing to help.
 
Contact information for the three major credit bureaus.
 
Experian
Order credit report: 888-397-3742
Report fraud: 888-397-3742
 
Trans Union
Order credit report: 800-888-4213
Report fraud: 800-680-7289
 
Equifax
Order credit report: 800-685-1111
Report fraud: 800-525-6285

By, Eric Skrum