Recently, our long-time friend and colleague, Jennifer Harder, passed away after a long, hard-fought journey with cancer.

She was an amazing mother to her two children, Sophia and Nolan, her pride and joy who will remain her greatest legacy.

Her children were not her only legacy. Jen’s positive influence on WBA and Wisconsin’s banking industry will be felt for years to come. She worked for the association and its membership for nearly 18 years, starting after college. Her talent and creativity were exceptional and through her marketing and communication skills, she helped define how WBA served its membership in a variety of ways. Many of WBA’s education marketing pieces, along with other company product brochures were created by Jen. For several years, she represented WBA and the banking industry as a recurring television contributor on consumer finance topics at a local Madison TV station. She was also the staff liaison to the WBA Marketing Committee.

Jen's shining achievement was her work on the WBA Scenes of Wisconsin calendars. She took great pride in her work on the calendars and it showed. Every year she looked forward to working with bankers on the project and every year the project grew. More impressively, it became more beautiful over time. The 2021 edition, her last edition, coincidentally features photos she and her daughter took together.

Jen will be remembered by staff for her positive attitude, strength, and bright smile. She was always willing to lend a sympathetic ear for your troubles and a joyous laugh to lift your spirit. She was also a fighter and the example she set during her 11-year battle with cancer is one we will never forget. 

Jen’s life will be remembered and celebrated by those she left behind, her children, Sophia and Nolan Hein; husband, Tim Harder; parents, Franklin and Jean Fredrick; sister, Lisa (Emmett) Blahnik and niece, Everleí Blahnik; and her extended family and life-long friends including her work family at WBA and across Wisconsin’s banking industry.

 Jen’s Legacy
If you are interested in making a financial contribution to a memorial for Jennifer’s children, please send a check to the WBA Offices. WBA is collecting through the end of November. Checks should be made payable to “Sophia and Nolan Hein Trust.”

Wisconsin Bankers Association 
C/O Rose Oswald Poels
4721 S. Biltmore Lane
Madison, WI 53718

By, Eric Skrum

The pandemic has stuck around longer than anyone has expected, and now we all face a Wisconsin winter under these unusual circumstances. Even without the days getting shorter and the weather getting colder, keeping staff morale at its best has been difficult. WBA sought out some of the best practices from WBA Associate Members to make sure morale in the workplace continues to thrive.  

Reconsidering Culture 

The first step to keeping everyone motivated and engaged might sound simple, but it’s one that is often overlooked. Reconsidering the workplace culture doesn’t mean restructuring the entire workflow, but Executive Coach Sarah Noll Wilson finds it helpful to approach morale as something that requires a bit of rethinking from time to time, especially during uncertainty.  

“When I think about morale, I’m not thinking about how I can make people happy,” said Wilson. “I’m thinking about how to make people feel safe given the current conditions we’re going through, and the happiness follows.” 

For Wilson this means basing culture around how everyone is treated rather than the events or activities surrounding it. This commonly focuses on assuring that staff feel their work has purpose and their interactions are genuine. Currently it’s about feeling safe and supported.  

“People have to feel safe before they can begin to care about clients,” said QTI Director of Employee Experience Beth Weiler. “We can’t boost their morale if they don’t have that security and trust.” 

Part of this trust is allowing flexibility. Letting staff take ownership of their daily tasks instead of a strict schedule allows them to reach out to others when needed. It’s an approach that Plante Moran Partner Kyle Manny said is critical to assuring that workers are heard, receiving the resources they need, and satisfied with their contribution. 

“A flexible and open culture is something that should be engrained early,” said Manny. “Regardless of whether a person is an administrative professional or a client-server, the expectation should be that if somebody reaches out and asks for help, client or colleague, you’re going to do that. Culture to me is being able to empower professionals so they're willing to ask for that help."

In other words, workplace culture should not be defined by morale. Everything surrounding the culture that leads to an employee feeling respected, supported, and safe will instead build and strengthen morale. The activities and events that have seemed to vanish in recent months will always be a good supplement, but assurance should come first so the happiness can naturally follow.  

“Celebrate the wins and create that culture where everyone is happy about everyone being successful,” Weiler advised.  

Checking In 

People deal with stress in a number of ways. To make sure this is being addressed properly, it can be helpful to develop a plan and have guidelines set in place for understanding where that stress is coming from and how it can be handled. Every organization should take a different approach to how they build these guidelines and tailor them specifically to their employees, but they should begin with outlining the ways to make everyone feel reassured as everything continues to change. 

Manny noted some of the ways that Plante Moran is doing exactly this: rolling out expanded work-from-home remedies which provide technological and comfortable resources to staff working at home, providing flexibility on how and when to take vacation time as they manage unexpected personal commitments, expanding their athletic reimbursement policy, and offering financial support for those struggling with dependent care.   

A plan should also include more than just benefits, Manny said. Highlighting the importance of regular check-ins can be a good way to identify when your staff might need a boost. 

“It’s important for executive staff to understand the mental health challenges that people are facing already and how that will be exacerbated come winter,” said Wilson. “It’s a balance. A company needs to make money and be productive, but that productivity should look a bit different given what everyone is going through.” 

When checking in, Wilson added to be specific with the questions you ask. Sometimes just asking what a person needs isn’t enough because the reality is that they truly don’t know themselves. Other times it can be difficult to articulate or someone might not feel comfortable beginning that conversation. It can be as simple as asking if they need any additional resources or if they’ve been excited about anything in particular. Are they hesitant or unsure in their response? This might be a sign that they’re in need of a morale boost. 

“Be intentional in whatever you do,” said Weiler. “Take some time to reflect on what a strong, trusting relationship looks like, both personal and professional, and see how they’re doing and what you can help with." 

For places that don’t have this type of personal interaction in the workplace, Wilson noted that it can be as simple as seeing whether anyone else is going through any of the same problems. When one member of a group she was working with assured her that the staff wouldn’t discuss their feelings because it wasn’t really their culture, things took an unexpected turn when one person said ‘I haven’t been getting the best sleep recently — has anyone else experienced that?’ The simple admission created an open dialogue they didn’t have before, and suddenly they were aware that many of them were going through similar struggles. 

Checking in becomes even more necessary with remote employees. It can be easy to check in with others when you’re physically near them, but that daily interaction might not be there with those working from home. It’s also not unusual that many of those workers will see significantly less nonverbal expressions, like a smile, than they’re used to. Routinely reminding those staff members through video chat that they continue to add value to the company is a small task, but it makes a huge difference in the way that person views their work.  

Especially with winter approaching, Weiler noted that QTI is planning a variety of new ways to keep remote and in-person staff involved as much as possible. From online cooking classes for the office to employee engagement surveys to virtual happy hours, she noted that it’s a lot of brainstorming and it’s never been more worth it.  

“Supporting our colleagues’ mental and emotional health isn’t a finite task — it's ongoing,” Wilson added. “We’re always going to be experiencing challenges. The more equipped we can be to creating an environment where people feel safe, supported, and have the tools to navigate those challenges, the better.” 

Candor is Kindness 

The overwhelming response to how companies have maintained staff morale offers insight into how everything else should be approached — when it comes to tackling difficult situations, transparency seems to be the most important factor.  

“I think we can sometimes be too afraid to admit when something isn’t looking great,” said Wilson. “The immediate thought is that you have to keep it positive and be a cheerleader, but sometimes the greatest gift we can give somebody is just admitting that it’s hard right now. You can be confident that it’s something you’ll figure out as a team, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s hard.” 

Separating the professional from the personal is a major part of being transparent. When staff are treated as humans first and employees second, they’re more likely to open up and provide their thoughts on how everyone can survive and eventually thrive.  

“Developing a personal relationship where I can candidly ask what people are struggling with personally helps to better identify the right solution for them,” Manny said. “Whatever we end up doing, we want to make sure we’re addressing the root of the problem and not just a symptom.” 

But being transparent doesn’t mean sharing everything. A great start is just to name and honor the challenges that arise, even if they can’t be fixed. It’s natural to want to shy away from uncertainty and focus primarily on the known, though being kind doesn’t have to veil the reality everyone is facing.  

“At our firm we say, ‘candor is kindness’,” Manny continued, “so we’re always making sure we communicate challenges and uncertainty that exist even when we don't know how our business and team might be impacted. On a personal level, especially now, knowing our leaders are informed, prepared, and willing to communicate gives me a lot of comfort in our ability to tackle any problem."

Reconsidering culture, regularly checking in with staff, and being transparent are all great ways to better understand when in-person and remote employees might need a boost of morale and how that can best be handled. But once the pandemic has ended and everyone begins to return to the office, celebrating events in person, and going about the holidays as usual, maintaining staff morale shouldn’t be put in the past. Giving the scenario the attention it needs now means constantly rethinking it for the future. 

“Recognition is free,” Weiler said. “People are doing great things every single day, and that kindness is contagious. Keep that kindness going, because it’s not a one-and-done situation, and remember that no one has it figured out perfectly. You just have to keep working on it.”

QTI is a WBA Associate Member

Plante Moran is a WBA Silver Associate Member.

By, Alex Paniagua

On Thursday, Oct. 29, Rose Oswald Poels hosted an event exclusively for WBA members with speaker Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council. Kudlow discussed prospects of the economy, specifically as it relates to recovery from COVID-19, and then opened up the panel to questions from participating members.  

Kudlow further talked about his expectations for the economy moving forward. These included the avoidance of a national shutdown, why another stimulus package will not come before the election, and his hopes for a V-shaped recovery with GDP bouncing back comprehensively and quickly to where it was prior to the pandemic.  

Kudlow also discussed some of his own personal prospects for the economy. Instead of another stimulus package before the election, Kudlow explained the four primary areas he believes money should be focused: small business lending programs; unemployment assistance; airlines; and schooling. He hopes that by late winter or early spring, all of the lost GDP output will be recouped. He predicts the economy will grow “4 to 5 to 6% in the next three or four quarters,” and that debt-to-GDP ratio will come down. 

“My friends of Wisconsin,” Kudlow stated, “this is no time to raise taxes…We need recovery boosts; we don’t need restraints.” 

After Kudlow’s address, WBA members were given the opportunity to ask questions. These questions are included below: 

Alvaro Araque executive director, market director – consumer banking at JPMorgan Chase Bank 

“What are the prospects for action in lame duck, and which issues would you like to see included in such a bill?” 

Paul Kohlerpresident, CEO at Charter Bank  

“How much [stimulus money] can we really throw at [the economy] going forward, and is some of this going to be geared toward hospitality and some of these industries like small businesses?” 

Todd Nagle president, CEO at IncredibleBank   

“Can you help us, and help our customers, get these SBA loans off their balance sheets and off our balance sheets before the end of the year?” 

Terry Rosengarten president, COO at ‎Unity Bank North  

“The Federal Reserve printed more money in June than they had in the first two centuries they’ve been around. How long can this last, and what are the long-term impacts of all this debt on the economy?” 

Ken Thompsonpresident, CEO at Capitol Bank 

“Do you feel that the high level of stimulus spending…will contribute to the risk of inflation, or other unknown economic risks in the future?” 

The conversation was recorded, if you missed it and would like to listen to the recording, email WBA’s Writer/Editor Alex Paniagua at

By, Alex Paniagua

Ask a farmer about how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected his/her daily schedule, and he/she may say- not much very much. It is business as usual when it comes to tending to crops and livestock. Already socially-isolated and situated in an outdoor setting, cows need to be fed and milked and crops need to be planted and harvested. Mother Nature’s cycles continue on, and farmers work to make the best of it. 

As for COVID-related disruptions in the supply chain and marketing/distribution channels, that is another story. Everyone has learned to plan ahead, expect longer wait times, and improvise if goods and services are not available at a particular moment in time. Patience is definitely a virtue.

Contingency planning is important for farm businesses of all shapes and sizes. A year ago weather was our enemy. This year weather has been our friend, but the stability of human biosecurity has been elusive. Who could have imagined it? Now that we know what we know, what will 2021 have in store? 

FSA’s CFAP and CFAP2 provide price support to farmers who produce commodities affected by COVID-19 and related price volatility and market disruptions. These programs will not be the cure-all for every farmer’s economic woes, but they may be the glue that keeps many ordinarily financially-stable farmers from draining liquidity or bleeding red ink due to forces out of their control. They also help ensure that grocery stores are stocked with American-grown products offered at a fair price to consumers.  

Ask farmers and they will tell you that they’d rather earn fair prices for their products the old-fashioned way, rather than depend upon government hand-outs to make a go of it. However, there is no other industry more dependent upon the resources situated closest to Mother Nature than agriculture. And these resources do not come with guarantees, warranties, refunds, nor disclaimers. Well, maybe there is a disclaimer? ‘Farming is a bigger gamble than playing in Vegas’– at least that’s what some of them say.

As we look ahead to 2021, no doubt, we will spend additional time with our clients, discussing and tracking financial performance, business strategies, and enterprise differentiators that may help them capture gains and efficiencies and ensure business continuity. COVID-19 is not the first pandemic in modern times nor is it likely to be the last. Like crop and livestock biosecurity, farms and businesses will now need to keep human biosecurity on the dashboard for continuous monitoring as well. Plan up, gear up, and ride on!

Amber Keller is senior vice president, director of ag banking at Town Bank in Clinton. She also serves on the WBA Agricultural Bankers Section.

Photo submitted by Keller, "Riding On, Dodgeville, WI"


By, Lori Kalscheuer

American Banker has recently announced its 85 “Best Banks to Work For” which includes four WBA members.   

American Banker has asked the banks’ executives to share how they’ve managed to keep employees engaged and motivated while operating during a pandemic. Many of the participants noted that their approach has been to communicate often, keep an open dialogue, offer reassurance, and celebrate when possible.  

This marks the eighth year that American Banker has put together their list of the 85 Best Banks to Work For. We’ve included insight from the list’s WBA members to highlight the ways they’ve handled managing in a crisis.  

Forward Bank, Marshfield – #27 

CEO Bill Sennholz 

“Any crisis can throw off work-life balance for our team. It can drastically shift focus to changing needs at home or take them away from their families more. We’ve focused on celebration and support during difficult times.” 

Bank Five Nine, Oconomowoc – #38 

President and CEO Mark Mohr 

With the pandemic changing the way that many organizations celebrate, Bank Five Nine took a different approach to celebrating Random Act of Kindness Month in April.  

This year they wanted to support healthcare workers and local restaurants. They spent $20,000 with 18 business clients, who prepped and delivered meals to 1,400 healthcare workers across 14 local medical facilities and hospitals. Bank Five Nine continues to support restaurants impacted by the pandemic by purchasing food from three local vendors for its on-site staff.  

Peoples State Bank, Wausau – #55 

President and CEO Scott Cattanach 

“We found that showing employees they are valued, appreciated and connected during a crisis has a huge impact on their mental health.”  

Bank First, Manitowoc – #69 

CEO Mike Molepske 

“As a result of COVID-19, we provided extra assistance to employees who were adversely impacted by childcare, financial and work-life balance issues.” 

For the full list of winners and their tips on how they’ve managed to keep employees engaged and motivated while operating during a pandemic, visit American Banker.

If you enjoyed this topic, you’ll likely enjoy the upcoming WBA Human Resources Conference.

By, Alex Paniagua

With the SBA creating a new simple PPP Loan Forgiveness Application Form earlier this month for loans of $50,000 or less, more borrowers are now submitting their loan forgiveness applications to lenders. As a result, WBA has received a growing number of questions around PPP loan forgiveness over the last few weeks.  

To help members, we created a special FAQ document focused just on this phase of the PPP process. The 36-page document is a compilation of questions and answers previously included in the WBA Master PPP FAQ document, as well as inclusion of additional guidance from SBA on forgiveness issued over the last few months. Other questions WBA staff have received that are not directly addressed in published guidance from SBA are also included in this special resource.   

One area causing much concern among borrowers is the interplay between PPP loans and EIDL grants or loans. WBA has tried from the beginning to warn lenders and borrowers of this risk; however, now that we are at the forgiveness phase, reality is setting in. If a borrower received an EIDL advance, SBA is required by law to reduce the borrower’s loan forgiveness amount by the amount of the EIDL advance. This will mean that a PPP loan will not be repaid in full by the SBA even though the SBA agrees that the loan is fully forgivable because of this offset for any EIDL advance.  

WBA is aware of situations where the EIDL grant amount exceeded the PPP loan amount. In those instances, while a PPP loan forgiveness application would be approved for full forgiveness, the amount remitted by SBA will be $0 essentially requiring that the borrower fully repay the PPP loan, with interest that has been accruing since loan origination.  

WBA, along with many other state and national trade groups, is advocating for Congress to change this outcome; however, with the election a week away and other priorities surfacing for a lame duck session, it is unknown whether we will be successful.  

Click here for WBA’s PPP Forgiveness Q&A

By, Eric Skrum

A new coalition aiming to stop the spread of COVID-19 is bringing together the WBA and all three of Wisconsin’s major professional sports teams.   

Players from the Brewers, Bucks, and Packers have voiced their support for the “Stop the COVID Spread!” coalition and have recently been featured in advertisements encouraging Wisconsin residents to do their part in slowing the spread of the virus.    

“We know that everyone must do their part to stop the rapid spread of COVID-19 in our state and we are pleased to join this effort through a public service announcement and encourage Wisconsinites to join our team in wearing masks, social distancing and washing your hands. It’s time to get in the game Wisconsin!” said Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy. 

The coalition has released its second public education announcement which features Green Bay Packers players Adrian Amos, Kenny Clark, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Leaders of all three organizations have also spoken on behalf of the coalition and Wisconsin’s role in the efforts.   

Learn more about the coalition and their efforts to defeat this public health crisis at:

By, Ally Bates

This year’s flu season may feel a bit different, in the midst of a pandemic. Waking up with a scratchy throat or a fever may have you wondering whether it’s the flu — or this year, COVID-19. Both are respiratory viruses producing similar symptoms, but it’s important to be able to help detect some of the differences.

Understanding the similarities and differences may help you determine which virus you’re dealing with, but you should contact your doctor to help ensure an accurate diagnosis. 

Similarities of COVID-19 and flu

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), both the flu and COVID-19 may include these symptoms:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle pain or body aches
  • Headache
  • Vomiting and diarrhea (though this is more common in children than adults)

Additionally, both viruses may:

  • Spread through droplets released when talking, sneezing or coughing
  • Lead to serious complications for those 65 and older, those with chronic conditions and pregnant women
  • Take one or more days for symptoms to appear, after a person is infected

Different symptoms with COVID-19

“Influenza and COVID-19 share many of the same symptoms. One of the most distinct characteristics that occur with COVID-19 is the sudden loss of taste and smell,” said Dr. Donna O’Shea, medical director for UCS Population Health. “It also may take longer to develop symptoms when you have COVID-19 versus the flu. With flu, symptoms typically develop within four days of infection. With COVID-19, symptoms may appear as late as 14 days after infection. People with COVID-19 may also be contagious and at risk for spreading the virus longer.”

Help protect yourself from flu and COVID-19

While it’s possible to contract the flu all year round, flu viruses are most common in the fall and winter. And with the pandemic still in full force, it may be more important than ever to protect against both viruses.

Dr. O’Shea and Dr. Jennifer Brueckner, leader of the national flu core team for UnitedHealthcare, share five tips to help avoid getting influenza — and COVID-19.

  1. Consider getting your flu shot as soon as possible this fall. You can find a UnitedHealthcare vaccination location here.
  2. Wear a face covering at indoor public places or when you’re within six feet of others and avoid touching your nose, eyes and mouth.
  3. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, if soap and water aren’t available.
  4. Stay home and self-isolate, if you’re feeling symptoms.
  5. Support your overall health by eating healthier, getting adequate sleep and managing your stress levels.

“If you think you have symptoms of the flu or COVID-19, call your doctor,” Dr. O’Shea said. “Most employers and health plans offer 24-hour telehealth providers who can also help you determine the next step that is right for you.”

Taking these precautions is an important step to help prevent the spread of these highly contagious viruses. For more information about COVID-19 vs. the flu, click here.

For more information on WBA Association Health Plan go to or contact Brian Siegenthaler at 608-441-1211 or

By, Ally Bates

The country is very divided right now and at an important crossroads for many reasons, and with the elections occurring in 2 weeks, the divisions that exist are further amplified in the news and advertising.  

As bankers, all of you are well-respected leaders in your local communities, often looked to not only for service on charitable and other boards, but also  your actions both in serving your customers with care and honesty, and in providing financial support and volunteer assistance in your communities. Your role as a leader has never been more important than it is now.  

There are many aspects of leadership I could discuss but today I want to focus on the mission you carry out each day in helping all people improve their financial well-being. The FDIC issued a report yesterday sharing positive news that a record 95 percent of U.S. households had a bank or credit union account in 2019, according to a new biennial survey, How America Banks; Household Use of Banking and Financial Services. While the record low of unbanked in 2019 was 5.4 percent, this equates to 7.1 million households so there is room for improvement. FDIC Chairman Jelena McWilliams stated in the release that “It is encouraging that a record number of households had bank accounts in 2019, though we continue to pursue actions to create a more inclusive banking system.” 

In the FDIC survey, nearly half of the unbanked households reported they did not have a bank account because they did not have enough money to meet minimum balance requirements and about one-third of unbanked households stated they did not have an account because they did not trust banks. I know many Wisconsin banks have accounts that either don’t have a minimum balance requirement or have an extremely low minimum balance requirement. It is important that this message be widely shared.  

Recently, the ABA announced that 20 core technology providers, including Fiserv, FIS, Jack Henry, and UFS, have committed to simplify the process for their bank clients to create and offer a “Bank On-certified account.” Bank On is a program created by the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund which certifies banks for having accounts with key features such as low costs, no overdraft fees, robust transaction capabilities via a debit or prepaid card, and free online bill pay. Several WBA members already are certified as offering Bank On accounts largely through a coalition that began in Milwaukee in 2018; now with the commitment of the cores, it is easier to join the Bank On movement.     

WBA staff continue to actively look for ways to partner with members to correct the perception that banks are not inclusive enough or offer products to attract the unbanked. Last week, WBA’s legal counsel, Heather MacKinnon, participated in a 90-minute virtual town hall with leaders in La Crosse to help answer the public’s questions about minority access to the banking system. These conversations are important to have, and WBA staff are available to help participate in the dialogue and, more importantly, take action for positive change. 

These last several months, we’ve seen many examples of Wisconsin banks and bankers stepping up and leaning in to this responsibility not only by earmarking funds for specific financial programs, but also by listening closer to the pain of others, and searching for actionable steps we can all take to progress further for everyone.  

Please share with me your ideas and suggestions for ways WBA can better assist you as a partner in this critically important dual-effort of helping the unbanked and improving inclusivity.  


By, Eric Skrum

A recent survey published by the FDIC highlights the changes in how Americans use banks. The changes in this report range from banking methods to the frequency of visits to a teller. Below is a summary of how bank usage varies among banked households. 

Banking Methods 

Regarding the primary method that banked households have used in the past 12 months to access their accounts, mobile banking has increased the most. Accessing banks via mobile devices rose notably over the course of five years, from 9.5% in 2015, 15.6% in 2017, and 34.0% in 2019.  Part of this shift is due to the growth of younger banked households where mobile banking as a primary means of access has almost doubled between 2017 and 2019. 

The increase in mobile banking has overthrown online banking as the most prevalent method of accessing accounts. In fact, online banking decreased substantially while the use of bank tellers, ATMs, and telephone banking declined only modestly. Despite these recent declines, online banking, kiosks, and tellers are still prominent methods of access for banked households. For more on this, WBA freelance writer Paul Gores has written an article detailing the switch from in-person to virtual banking. 

Branch Visits 

The FDIC notes that 83% of banked households visited a branch within the last 12 months, a number which is down by 3% from 2017. Nine in ten rural households visited a branch at some point throughout the year. Among the surveyed population that visited a branch ten or more times include approximately four in ten rural households and nearly 60% of banked households that used bank tellers as their primary method. 

Customer Satisfaction 

Also addressed in the survey is customer satisfaction with their primary bank and their beliefs of how clearly their bank communicates account fees. 

In 2019, three in four banked households claimed to be satisfied with their bank, while less than 3% were either not very satisfied, not satisfied, or did not know. Two in three customers thought their banks communicated fees clearly. Overall, the large majority of banked households were satisfied with the way their banks operated and communicated.  

The full report breaks down these changes further based on factors such as family income, education, and age group.  

View the full report. 

By, Ally Bates