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Community Advocate of the Month: Travis Holt, Citizens State Bank of Loyal

Wisconsin's bankers are the definition of "community advocates" in all that you do every day to improve your local economy through your bank's products and services, as well as through your generous philanthropy of time and money. This column shares and celebrates the diverse backgrounds, experiences, perspectives, and innovation of some of the extraordinary bankers in this state.

The following is a brief interview between WBA President and CEO Rose Oswald Poels and Citizens State Bank of Loyal President and CEO Travis Holt.

Rose: How did you first get into the banking industry?

Travis: I joined Citizens State Bank (CSB) of Loyal in 2002 as an investment officer and ag business planner. After graduating from UW-Madison in 1993, I began employment at Equity Livestock in various roles, eventually leading the Commodity Marketing Division. As part of that role, I worked with clients on farm business plans (frequently for farms that were struggling financially). While I had not really thought about banking as a career, the work on business plans led me to work directly with many financial services professionals in agriculture throughout Wisconsin. One of those banks was CSB. In 2002, CSB offered me a position with the bank to help farms write business plans and to expand their retail investment program. Being at a small community bank, my role covered many areas and provided me the opportunity to grow in my knowledge of banking. It was those opportunities to learn (often by trial and error) and the mentoring of the bank’s chairman, Gary Weirauch, that allowed me to move up in management. 

What is your favorite aspect of your role at your bank?

I often tell people that what I enjoy most about working at a small community bank is my ability to be involved in all aspects of the bank, which I really do enjoy. But at the end of the day, what keeps me going is working with our customers. Community bankers have a unique role in their communities in that they are often called upon to give advice on a wide range of financial topics. Whether it is assisting in retirement planning, farm expansion, business planning, or helping individuals with family finances, helping our customers solve their life’s financial problems is what I truly enjoy. 

What do you wish the general public understood about the banking industry?

With the continued consolidation of banking services, I really wish that the general public would have a better understanding of what community banks mean to a local economy, especially in rural Wisconsin. The ability to focus local deposits back into local community development is the engine that drives local economies. Banking consolidation doesn’t completely cause that engine to stall, but it does take away from its maximum "horsepower" through reduced local wages and reallocation of deposits out of the community in favor of faster-growing, larger cities. 

Where do you believe the industry’s greatest challenges are in the next three to five years?

There are two primary risks that I see in banking in the next 3-5 years. First, keeping up with technology and the information security risks behind that technology. As consumers demand more “instant” use of their money and greater “ease of access,” keeping financial assets safe is going to become a greater risk. I am already seeing a shift to outsourcing in information management and security and I believe that trend will continue. The second risk that keeps me awake at night is the unprecedented government stimulus that has been put into the economy in the past year. While we all have to deal with the compressed margins caused by significant liquidity, it is the unknown risks of this stimulus that pose a risk to banking. Whether it is inflation, interest-rate risk, increased taxes, recession risk, or asset bubbles created from all the cash being distributed by the government, something has to give, and it is likely to do so within the 3-5 year timeframe.

Please describe your current role at your bank and share with us one of your more rewarding experiences.

I am the president, CEO, and chairman of Citizens State Bank of Loyal. I also am a registered investment advisor and run Citizens Financial Services, the bank’s retail investment division. I serve as a director for Bankers’ Bank. From an experience perspective, there are numerous times that I have been able to give financial advice that has helped people meet their financial goals. But I think that the most rewarding experience for me is helping people on their worst days. That may be helping someone organize their financial life after the death of a spouse or stopping someone from losing money in a fraud scheme. I pride myself in taking the time needed to meet personally with any customer who needs my help.  Sometimes these meetings have positive outcomes and sometimes negative, but in all cases, our customers need the help, and I work hard to make sure  I am able to provide the best advice possible.

By, Alex Paniagua