MADISON, Wis. – The Wisconsin Bankers Association and WBA President and CEO Rose Oswald Poels applaud Representative Ron Kind (D-WI) on introducing a bipartisan bill, the Enhancing Credit Opportunities in Rural America (ECORA) Act, in the U.S. House of Representatives (H.R. 1977).

ECORA would remove the taxation on income from certain farm real estate loans that are made by financial institutions backed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). The removal of this taxation would reduce banks’ cost to make farm real estate loans, providing farm customers with a more competitive market for interest rates.

"WBA is proud to support the Enhancing Credit Opportunities in Rural America (ECORA) Act to provide affordable credit in rural communities," said WBA Board Chair Paul Kohler, President and CEO of Charter Bank in Eau Claire, Wis. "As we continue to face the economic impacts of the pandemic, the introduction of ECORA is especially important to support the agricultural industry with tax exemptions that farm credit institutions already receive."

Congress is in a position to help our country’s farmers by lowering the cost to acquire credit. Farm prices remain stagnant while the cost of land and farm inputs continues to rise. ECORA offers a simple solution during a time of declining farm incomes without creating new government payments or programs.

By, Cassie Krause

Community Capital Bancorp, Inc., a Wisconsin corporation headquartered in Menomonee Falls, and Collins Bankcorp, Inc., a Wisconsin corporation and the parent company of Collins State Bank, a Wisconsin state chartered bank headquartered in Collins, Wis., announce the merger of Collins Bankcorp into Community Capital. As a result of the merger, Collins State Bank will become the wholly-owned bank subsidiary of Community Capital.

Community Capital’s founders, including CEO Dave Davis, consist of experienced community bankers looking to build on Collins State Bank’s rich history in East-Central Wisconsin to develop existing markets, as well as to expand into new markets. "We at Community Capital are so pleased to work with Jeff Mueller and his team at Collins State Bank," stated Davis. "We embrace the spirit of community banking associated with a locally-owned bank formed more than 100 years ago such as Collins."

Located in Collins and founded in 1914, Collins State Bank is a private community bank with four locations and total assets of $112 million as of December 31, 2020. Jeff Mueller, Chairman of Collins Bankcorp and Collins State Bank, will become a significant shareholder of Community Capital and will join its Board of Directors. "When Dave and I started sharing our thoughts on community banking, it was obvious that this was a great opportunity to maximize our current and future shareholder value," stated Mueller. "We welcome each of our new team members to our Collins State Bank family. Collins State Bank is now positioned to continue its unwavering commitment to home town personal customer service for many years to come and to remain ‘Big Enough to Serve You; Small Enough to Know You."

The merger agreement has been unanimously approved by the boards of directors of each company, and is subject to customary closing conditions, including approval by the shareholders of Collins Bankcorp and required regulatory approvals. It is anticipated that the transaction will close in the late second or early third quarter of 2021.

Boardman & Clark, LLP served as outside counsel to Community Capital Bancorp, Inc. JK Law LLC and Godfrey & Kahn S.C. served as outside counsel to Collins Bankcorp, Inc.

By, Ally Bates

Shari Zink of Forward Bank, Marshfield, has recently been presented with a lifetime service award plaque for 30 years of service. Zink was presented the award by Forward Bank CEO Bill Sennholz and WBA’s Mike Semmann.

WBA is proud to recognize those who have remained dedicated to their banking communities through this award. To nominate a banker you believe is deserving of the lifetime service award, visit WBA’s online registration form here.

By, Alex Paniagua

Laura Wiegert, senior vice president – marketing at Investors Community Bank (ICB) was recently named to the Customer Experience Advisory Committee at the University of Wisconsin – Parkside.

Wiegert was selected for the UW-Parkside advisory committee based on her professional experience, accomplishments, and leadership qualities demonstrated through her customer experience work at ICB. The advisory committee will be responsible for overseeing the school’s Customer Experience Certificate Program – providing constructive feedback, strategic direction, quality improvement, and program efficacy.

Wiegert has been with ICB since 2014. Prior to joining the bank, she worked in healthcare marketing and owned a marketing consulting firm serving Northeast Wisconsin. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in English/journalism from Northern Michigan University and volunteers with several community and professional organizations.

View Bulletin Board.

By, Alex Paniagua

A novel virus, a global shutdown, and a drastic lifestyle change — the pandemic has continued for more than a year, and it can feel as though it has been a part of life for so much longer. Looking back at the components of this event, WBA spoke with bankers to discuss the industry’s year in the pandemic, what the effects have been, and what life might look like once it’s over. 

March 13, 2020 — Trump Declares COVID-19 a National Emergency 

Looking Back At the Start 

Take a moment to try and recall where you were on Friday, March 13 of 2020. This day for many has become the defining line between an old reality and the current one. When places shut down, it was hard to accept that this situation was actually happening. 

“I can remember specifically that when this hit, the immediate feeling was disbelief,” said Dan Peterson, president and CEO of Stephenson National Bank and Trust, Marinette. “We were thinking there was no way a virus could do this to the entire world. Then reality set in, and you realize that this is shutting things down. And I remember having such a certain feeling that it would pass in the next month or two, never believing it would last for a full year and now longer.” 

Scott Rockwell, president and CEO of Bank of Wisconsin Dells, had the same reaction at first. This shock was followed by an attempt to understand what the next step would be to assure things didn’t collapse under pressure. 

“It became a matter of figuring out how we were going to operate,” Rockwell said. “We got the senior management team together to address day-to-day operations and shutting down lobbies while making sure all tasks were taken care of, employees were safe, and customers were helped.” 

Peterson and Rockwell both had the benefit of being home in Wisconsin when the shutdown began. Others had to determine how to make sense of this situation while on a different side of the world. 

“I remember when things shut down,” said Paul Hoffmann, president and CEO of Monona Bank, “because I was over in Europe when the announcement came that they were locking down the borders.” 

Although Hoffmann was eventually informed that American citizens would be allowed back in the country, it was not initially communicated this way. Instead, he woke up to a phone call at 3 in the morning from his daughter. She was telling him and his wife that they had to leave now, because the U.S. borders were going to close.  

“We were able to reschedule our flight and we headed back,” said Hoffmann. “Thankfully, while this was going on, our CFO Tim Ryan and COO Julie Redfern already started working on a disaster recovery plan. By the time I got back and reconnected, we were already underway with closing our lobbies and ordering more equipment. It was very bizarre to have been gone during that moment, but I’m grateful to have such a prepared team.” 

“It was a lot to go through in such a short amount of time,” Rockwell admitted, “but we were all safe, we were all prepared, and we’re still moving forward.”  

March 26, 2020 — Senate Passes the CARES Act 

The Defining Moments 

With the passing of the CARES Act, the banker’s word (or words) of the year, became known across the country: Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). 

“The defining moment for me came when we had to scramble to get ready for the onslaught of PPP applications from the first round,” said Hoffmann. “Not knowing the volume of applications and making sure we got everyone processed on time was a huge challenge…It was really an all-hands-on-deck effort by almost the entire bank – exhausting and exhilarating at the same time.” 

The feeling toward PPP seems to be mutual across the industry: it was a lot to fully understand and distribute due to the constant changes, but the amount of people and businesses it continues to help far outweighs the complications. Outside of the many stories that are accompanied by the mention of PPP, the defining moments of the pandemic extend beyond the program. For many, these moments had everything to do with how members of their team reacted to things like PPP rather than the challenges of the program itself. 

“With PPP, we were thrust into this new program, and it’s all rolling out at different times of the night, so people were taking on extra hours to make sure the community was taken care of,” said Rockwell. “It was crazy, but we all came together on these issues quite often and we became a better team because of it.” 

Still, the question of ‘what moments defined this past year?’ has not been an easy one to answer. The only thing we have been able to expect is the unexpected, and through PPP, team development, and everything in between, each step felt like something new was being learned.  

“With all the different things we went through, they all feel like defining moments,” said Peterson. “The realization that the pandemic was here and it wasn’t going be easy – that was a defining moment. The fact that our entire industry stepped up was a defining moment. The understanding that each step during the process was a brand new one – that made every single update a defining moment.” 

July 2 — Many States Reverse Plans to Reopen by July 4 

The Setbacks and Challenges 

The hope that people could gather to celebrate the Fourth of July was strung on for a while and then quickly cut as a possibility. The concern surrounding health and safety was a priority. Much like states were making these choices quickly and decisively, banks were forced to do the same.  

“We were making big decisions on a daily basis,” said Peterson. “This certainly wasn’t something we conquered on the first day. It took a few months to really understand it.” 

Having people work from home, whether it was only for the shutdown or continuing still, was one of many major decisions being handled differently at each bank. When July came around, this became more pressing as some businesses were returning to the office. Deciding when and how to bring employees back into branches was complicated for several reasons. 

“I think working from home was initially fine, but it became a different question for so many banks once their remote workforce had to be out of the office for longer than anyone expected,” said Hoffmann. “This was mostly about new technology, but it’s also about trying to be fair and establishing that process.” 

For example, customers still needed some form of access to the bank. With everyone dealing with various circumstances, this meant some employees would have to stay home to take care of their kids. Others experienced early symptoms of sickness and feared spreading anything to coworkers or customers. Meanwhile, some people were coming into work every day, and managing that flexibility became a new task.  

“It was all about trusting each other and knowing that we’re being as fair as we possibly can to everyone,” Hoffmann continued. “It’s been a challenge, but I believe we’ve been successful.” 

September 16, 2020 — Trump Administration Releases Vaccine Distribution Plan 

What Has Been Missed the Most 

In the moment a vaccine distribution plan was announced, it was not uncommon for people to take a step back from this new reality and realize how much has truly been absent in our lives. In the financial services industry, being a banker means being an active part in a community. This breaking news made many reminiscent on how prevalent the term ‘community’ is in banking. 

“Meeting with customers face-to-face is what I’ve missed the most,” Hoffmann said. “The interaction with employees, catching up with people in the hallways, and those side conversations are hard to do without.” 

It’s not surprising that this theme continues throughout. Rockwell noted that he hears too often that Hoffmann’s point is felt throughout the industry. After a year of the pandemic, it’s the little things that begin to feel especially distant. 

“As community bankers, we’re all about the people,” Rockwell agreed. “You'll probably hear over and over that we miss the handshakes and the interactions that you have with your customers and community members. You can’t even really see a smile right now.” 

Though there has been a successful transition toward making these encounters virtual to accommodate for social distancing, Peterson added it’s not quite the same as the feeling of being in person. 

“The inability to network and connect with everyone has been difficult,” said Peterson. “Whether it’s conferences or interactions with customers, that networking just went away overnight.” 

Peterson noted that while the instructional part of virtual conferences has been every bit as effective, it’s the after-hours part that has not been the same. He reminisced on going out to dinner with fellow bankers, talking shop, and strengthening those relationships. 

“The fellowship that’s so present at events like Bank Execs – it’s tough to replace that,” he said. 

January 11, 2021 – A New Round of PPP Loans Begins Distribution 

The Strengths of the Industry 

The process of PPP unknowingly tried to determine the best word to describe bankers, and it did so successfully. Whichever synonym you decide to use (and each banker managed to use their own) the notable strength of the industry during this constant change was the same: adaptability.   

“Banks were able to pivot very quickly in a lot of different ways,” Hoffmann said. “We pivoted with PPP loans and worked through different systems. We had to pivot to figure out what kind of loan modifications had to be done and how to do certain loan deferrals. We had to pivot to new technology that needed to be rolled out quickly, whether it was with working from home or e-signatures. I felt like we were really able to respond to the crisis well, and overall our industry was prepared for disaster and prepared to serve our customers.” 

“Flexibility. That is what community banks are built on,” said Rockwell. “Seeing what customers need and how you can play a role in that. Last year was one of those wild rides that you go on with something new at every turn. That flexibility not only helps your community, but it helps your staff. A lot of your staff are working, teaching, and being caretakers, all at the same time. You’re trying to help them navigate through that and get the job done.” 

“We were able to be nimble,” Peterson said. “I can say for the whole industry, customers have been saying that banks were great about transitioning to the virtual world.” 

March 12, 2021 – Every Wisconsinite 16 & Older is Eligible for Vaccination Starting May 1 

What’s Going To Stay? 

When Gov. Tony Evers announced that May 1 would be the day all Wisconsinites aged 16 and older could receive their first vaccination dose, the light at the end of the tunnel was growing brighter by the second. With the news that the list of those eligible to receive their first dose of the vaccine was growing significantly, many began to wonder what life would like after a return to normalcy. Through all this forced change, what implementations would stay as a result of a global pandemic? 

“The technology that we’ve adopted for integrating e-signatures, increased online loan applications, and everything else really pushed us to not only be more efficient for the future, but to provide a better customer experience as well,” Hoffmann said. “We’re also going to allow a hybrid work-from-home model that allows more flexibility. The pandemic has shown us that we are more than capable of doing work at home.” 

Rockwell agreed that the adoption of new technologies has been a significant part of growing his team’s growth and development. The biggest question they now have is to what extend these changes will take form in daily routines. 

“That’s the next thing we have to figure out,” said Rockwell. “When further implementing these changes, the key thing we have to wonder about is the culture. If you go all the way virtual in some cases, then that culture of socialization becomes rethought and reshaped as well. These are all things that we’ll continue to use moving forward, but the question is, at what level?” 

The internal factor of the technology shift has also been most notable for Peterson. Especially for larger groups and individuals who are regularly in and out of meetings, that ability to stay in one place rather than running back and forth is a positive outcome now that it’s a more feasible option. 

“Virtual meetings will definitely be something we continue to do for the board of directors and senior management, and all levels of the bank,” he said. “It’s such an efficient way to meet as a team.”  

March 13, 2021 – An Official Year in the Pandemic 

Moving Forward 

A lot has changed over the course of a year. Although it has been challenging, there has been noteworthy action taken to assure everyone survives this crisis. Bankers have especially noticed the amount of generosity that has helped so many during these difficult times. 

“People really stepped up,” said Peterson. “They wanted to help, whether it was a friend or their family or a customer or a coworker. That’s what made all the difference.” 

The financial support provided by banks especially helped so many struggling individuals keep moving forward, but as Rockwell put it, it was by no means the only thing banks offered.  

“All the community banks were a place of stability,” added Rockwell. “It was where your customers could go, whether through appointment or drive-thru, where they could manage financial affairs, get advice, and sometimes just talk to that familiar person you’ve come to know as your banker. Financial needs, modifying payment structures, PPP, EIDL; we’ve been there through it all, and that stability factor is the role banks truly played through this year and each one to come.”  

Despite all of the challenges, there is much to be grateful for, proud of, and optimistic toward. One of the most unexpected outcomes of the pandemic is it emphasized that the future of the industry is in excellent hands. 

“We had a large number of younger associates step up and take a leadership role through all of this,” said Hoffmann. “It was such an impressive thing to witness, and it reminded me how fortunate we are that the newer people in our organization are so qualified and ready to show leadership. It’s great to know our industry’s future is going to be bright with the vast amount of talent we have at our banks.”  

By, Alex Paniagua

SBA issued an interim final rule (IFR) to implement changes made to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) by the American Rescue Plan Act, enacted on March 11. Changes include: 

Shuttered Venue Operator (SVO), Page 6: 

If a PPP borrower receives a First Draw or Second Draw PPP Loan after December 27, 2020, the amount of any subsequently-approved SVO grant will be reduced by the amount of the First Draw or Second Draw PPP Loan.  

If a PPP borrower receives both a First Draw and a Second Draw PPP Loan after December 27, 2020, the amount of any subsequently-approved SVO grant will be reduced by the combined amount of both PPP loans. 

If a PPP applicant is approved for an SVO grant before SBA issues a loan number for the PPP Loan, the applicant is ineligible for the PPP loan and acceptance of any PPP loan proceeds will be considered an unauthorized use.  

Clarifying Changes, Pages  6 and 10 

SBA made a clarifying change to add, to the list of eligible entities for First Draw PPP Loans, businesses with a NAICS code beginning with 72 that employ no more than 500 employees per physical location. 

SBA also incorporated changes of eligibility for electronic cooperatives and telephone cooperatives. For PPP loans made after the effective date of the IFR, electronic cooperatives and telephone cooperatives are eligible if they have no more than 300 employees per physical location. (Previously, the employee cap to be eligible was no more than 500 employees.) Also, these entities are no longer permitted to use the employee-based SBA size standard for their industry or SBA’s alternative size standard to determine size. 

Payroll Costs Not Eligible for Loan Forgiveness, Pages 21-23 

The following payroll costs are not eligible for loan forgiveness: 

(a) qualified wages taken into account in determining  

(i) The Employee Retention Credit under section 2301 of the CARES Act, as amended by section 206 of the Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Tax Relief Act of 2020 (Relief Act);  

(ii) The Employee Retention Credit under section 3134 of the Internal Revenue Code; or 

(iii) The disaster credit under section 303 of the Relief Act, and Premiums for COBRA continuation coverage taken into account in determining the credit under section 6432 of the Internal Revenue Code. 

The IFR is effective upon publication in the Federal Register. The provisions which incorporate the American Rescue Plan Act changes to PPP apply to PPP loans approved, and forgiveness applications submitted, on or before March 11, 2021. 

By, Alex Paniagua

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) today appointed five new members to its Mutual Savings Association Advisory Committee (MSAAC), including Jay McKenna, president and COO of North Shore Bank, Brookfield.

The MSAAC's role includes assessing the condition of mutual savings associations, considering regulatory changes, and recommending steps the OCC may take to ensure the health and vitality of the mutual savings association industry.

The five new members are:

David Barksdale, President and CEO, Piedmont Federal Savings Bank, Winston-Salem, N.C.;
George Hermann, President and CEO, Windsor Federal Savings, Windsor, Conn.;
Jay McKenna, President and COO, North Shore Bank, Brookfield, Wis.;
David Reynolds, President and CEO, Home Federal Bank of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tenn.; and
Thomas Rudzewick, President and CEO, Maspeth Federal Savings and Loan Association, Maspeth, N.Y.

View Bulletin Board.

By, Alex Paniagua

The Wisconsin Bankers Association offers for your use the following consumer education column. Your bank is free to use this as a community column in your local newspaper, a letter to the editor, a press release or in any other way you see fit. The purpose is to give our members an easy-to-use tool for promoting the banking industry to Wisconsin's communities.

The American Rescue Plan of 2021 was signed into law on March 11, 2021. Consumers will begin receiving Economic Impact Payments (EIPs) — also referred to as stimulus payments — on Wednesday, March 17. Here are the basic details on what the plan entails:

Will I receive a payment?
In general, you are eligible for a payment if you are a U.S. citizen or U.S. resident alien, you were not claimed as a dependent of another taxpayer, and you have a Social Security number valid for employment.

How much will the payment be?
The payments are up to $1,400 for individuals, $2,800 for couples, and an additional $1,400 for each dependent regardless of age. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will, in general, use your 2020 tax return if you have already filed or your 2019 tax return if you have not yet filed for 2020. If your adjusted gross income is $75,000 or less ($112,500 for individuals filing as head of household or $150,000 for couples filing jointly), you will receive the full payment amount. The payments will be lower for those with higher incomes, and taxpayers will NOT receive a third-round EIP if their adjusted gross income is more than $80,000 for an individual ($120,0000 if filing as head of household or $160,000 for couples filing jointly).

How will I receive the payment?
Many consumers will receive their payments via direct deposit, however some will receive a paper check or prepaid debit card in the mail. To avoid fees on a prepaid debit card, transfer the balance to your bank account via eipcard.com or use an in-network ATM.

When will I receive the payment?
You can check the status of your payment at www.irs.gov/coronavirus/get-my-payment. The IRS sent an initial wave of EIPs, which is scheduled to be made available in consumers’ bank accounts on March 17.

What happens if my account balance is negative?
Banks have varying policies on how payments will be handled on accounts with negative balances. If you have a negative balance on the bank account the IRS has on file for your tax returns, please refer to your bank for their specific policy.

What do I do if I do not receive my full payment?
If you didn’t receive the full amount you were entitled to (due to the birth of a child in 2020, for example), you can claim it when you file your 2021 taxes.

For more information, please visit www.irs.gov/coronavirus/economic-impact-payments.

By, Cassie Krause

Bank of Sun Prairie welcomes three experienced mortgage experts to their growing mortgage practice. Trevor Stebbins, Lisa Barry, and Monica Gonzalez join mortgage veterans Michelle Hahn and mortgage department leader, Gabrielle Loeffler. Bank of Sun Prairie now offers close to 20 home-loan products from low- or no-down payment options to jumbo loans for higher-end home investments as well as home equity lines of credit. Private Banker Bryan Bazan exclusively handles mortgages for the bank’s private banking customers who generally have more complex needs.

Lisa Barry joins Bank of Sun Prairie with more than a decade in financial services and five years in mortgage lending most recently with a large regional bank. She is a business owner in the fashion industry and volunteers with Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (DAIS), Make-A-Wish Wisconsin, and Junior League of Madison.

Monica Gonzalez is a bilingual 20-year seasoned banker with a focus on mortgage lending since 2015. She was most recently with a Madison-based financial institution and is a member of Hispanic Professionals and Latinos United for College Education Scholarships. Gonzalez serves Bank of Sun Prairie’s significant Spanish-speaking customer base.

Trevor Stebbins is a 20-year-plus mortgage veteran who applies his extensive knowledge of the broader financial markets to help bank customers find the right loan for them. His prior financial experience includes stockbroker and wealth and asset management.

“We couldn’t be more excited to welcome Lisa, Monica, and Trevor to the Bank of Sun Prairie mortgage team. Our mortgage area has thrived for decades and in the current favorable rate environment, we are helping people from all over the region secure their American Dream.” shared Gabrielle Loeffler, Bank of Sun Prairie’s vice president, residential lending manager. She continued, “We start by partnering with our customers. Our team is so knowledgeable; we can guide people through just about every home-buying scenario. And, because we are local and make all the decisions right here, we can be flexible in our lending solutions.”

View Bulletin Board.

By, Alex Paniagua

By Rose Oswald Poels

Since banks played an instrumental role on the economic frontlines of this health crisis, it has resulted in several unintended consequences. Some of these have been positive and some may become negative. Without a doubt, banks are sitting in strong liquidity positions due in part to the stimulus that has occurred over the last year. WBA is seeking your input and testimonials regarding excess liquidity and the corresponding impact on the Community Bank Leverage Ratio (CBLR), as well as any concerns raised by regulators over the last year of a liquidity run-off.

Your feedback on the three survey questions found by clicking here will help WBA staff communicate with our congressional delegation for further relief from the CBLR in light of the unprecedented federal stimulus monies that have ballooned many community banks’ balance sheets. In addition, the information will be compiled and shared anonymously with our federal banking trade associations to help in our collective advocacy efforts on this matter. Finally, WBA will also incorporate concerns bankers may have with the regulators’ approach to excess liquidity in our regular conversations with them.

As a reminder, the CBLR framework provides a measure of capital adequacy for community banks. In 2019, the federal banking agencies issued a final rule establishing the CBLR framework, which became effective January 1, 2020. The current relief and the ratcheting schedule for the CBLR are as follows:

  • 8.5 percent, effective January 1, 2021.
  • 9 percent, effective January 1, 2022.

A bank that elects to use the CBLR framework but temporarily fails to meet all of the qualifying criteria, including the leverage ratio requirement, has a grace period of two calendar quarters to return to compliance provided that the bank maintains a leverage ratio greater than:

  • 7.5 percent, effective January 1, 2021.
  • 8 percent, effective January 1, 2022.

A bank that has a leverage ratio equal to or less than the grace period minimums must immediately apply the risk-based capital standards.

Please click here to take the survey. If you have any other input to share on this or other issues, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly. Thank you for your time and for all you are doing to continue helping your customers.