Boardman and Clark is a WBA Gold Associate Member.
Archive for month: May, 2021
Joe Fazio was looking for an organization that connects companies with potential board of director candidates a year ago when he learned about the Private Directors Association. He noticed the association had chapters in a variety of places around the U.S., but not in Wisconsin. So he asked why.
“They said nobody has volunteered to do that yet,” said Fazio, who is chairman and chief executive officer of West Bend-based Commerce State Bank.
Next thing he knew, Fazio was president of the Wisconsin Chapter, which launched in June of 2020 and has been growing ever since. In its first year it has attracted 159 members and six sponsors. So far, two banks doing business in Wisconsin are sponsors of the state chapter of PDA – Old National Bank and Town Bank. Inge Plautz, of Old National, is the vice president of the state chapter.
“It’s gone really well, and there’s a significant interest in it,” Fazio said.
Chicago-based PDA, founded in 2014 with 20 people, now has about 2,000 members nationwide and 18 chapters. Fazio called it the “go-to source” for private directors and boards.
In addition to helping to connect diverse director candidates with companies seeking them, PDA offers educational resources for companies with boards. It also holds social gatherings, which, during the pandemic, have been mostly online.
For example, this month (May) the Wisconsin chapter is hosting a virtual wine tasting event featuring products from the Grgich Hills Estate Winery of Napa Valley, Calif.
There are a couple of reasons PDA should appeal to banks, Fazio said.
“We’re all required to have boards. So how do you get outside your circle of influence, and particularly, when you try to diversify your board,” Fazio said. “How do I go find that person?”
Most bank boards in Wisconsin consist mainly of white males, he said. PDA can help introduce females and people of color who are fully qualified to serve on bank boards.
“There are very talented diverse candidates who are very capable of being on boards of directors,” Fazio said. “And it drives me nuts when people say, ‘Yeah, I just can’t find a good diverse candidate.’”
A second reason PDA could help banks is because banks serve businesses, he said. PDA could link a bank’s business customers with director candidates.
“We want businesses to do well. So do they have a board, or do they need to set up a board?” Fazio said. “Particularly, like ESOP companies, they have to have a board of directors. So again, where do we find good directors?’”
PDA resources also help potential directors prepare for the position and to stand out among candidates.
“For instance, there is training on how to write to resume for a board seat, because it’s different from a traditional resume. Or how to interview for a board position. It’s different from a traditional interview. So that’s really valuable,” Fazio said.
He said there are two main elements to PDA.
“It’s really board education, and helping build a board, start a board, make it more efficient and effective,” Fazio said. “And then the other is to help the individual become more competitive and then connect those dots for those opportunities.”
Fazio said he expects the Wisconsin chapter of PDA to have six to nine events each year.
“Some will be webinars, and some in person,” he said.
The cost to join is $350 a year.
“As a member of the Wisconsin chapter, you really have access to all the events, all the people, all the expertise throughout the country in all the chapters,” Fazio said.
A full list of PDA’s services can be found on its website.
Paul Gores is a journalist who covered business news for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for 20 years. Have a story idea? Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By, Alex Paniagua
Baseball fans recently rejoiced as opening day stretched across many U.S. stadiums and people were invited to watch their home team’s game the way it was meant to be enjoyed. Not only did this symbolize a return to America’s favorite pastime – it showed the progress toward normalcy that we continue to make.
For the Wisconsin Bankers Association, our version of opening day came as we welcomed the Board of Directors back into our building for the first time in over a year. The hybrid meeting took place with safety guidelines and a virtual option for those unable to attend in person. While at WBA, the members took a tour of the newly remodeled building, met the newest WBA staff members, and caught up with some familiar faces around the office. In addition, the WBA Board enjoyed our version of a tailgate party with lunch served in our new café.
Hosting this meeting in our building has only been the start of this change. We are also moving ahead to welcome the bankers back to the Engagement Center soon, following appropriate safety protocol, and we are excited to create an environment where bankers can expand their industry knowledge once again. In the coming weeks, WBA will be hosting banking schools covering topics on Commercial Lending, Residential Mortgage Lending and a School of Bank Management.
With the WBA fiscal year concluding at the end of this month, I am reminded of how WBA’s education pivoted swiftly and performed successfully during this past year. Delivering educational programs to our members is a team effort across our many departments, including education, communications, legal, IT, and administrative support. Having to shift to mainly virtual education due to COVID was a challenge for all of us, but we made it through. I am thankful for the great work accomplished internally, and this of course could not have been achieved without the strong support of our WBA-member bankers.
Throughout the course of the pandemic, WBA education had in many cases higher participation levels virtually compared to just in-person events. Because of this, the education projections achieved budget levels that will help contribute to furthering the mission of WBA. Regardless of how familiar we have all become with virtual learning, we realize how significant of a role networking plays for our members. We look forward to resuming in-person events, and WBA is excited to offer education virtually, in-person, or in a hybrid approach depending on the event. We thank you for supporting WBA education every step of the way, and we’re excited to see you all and welcome you back into the building.
By, Alex Paniagua
After nearly 30 years of dedicated service, Kathy Gallagher will be retiring at the end of May. We are very appreciative of all of Kathy’s efforts over the years and she will be greatly missed.
Kathy began working at the Wisconsin Bankers Association on Jan. 20, 1992, as the Employment Benefits Company’s (EBC) insurance trust enrollment administrator. At the time of her hiring, she wasn’t the only new part of the company — her position was brand new as well! As a result, Kathy figured parts of the position out as time went on and quickly mastered her responsibilities while she got to know the many bankers she would regularly communicate with each day. In a 1997 WBA Profile titled “She ‘Benefits’ All”, Kathy noted that, “It’s exciting to interact with such a variety of people in the industry on a daily basis.”
Although Kathy began as trust enrollment administrator, she has had many new titles since her hiring. In 2004 she was promoted to client service specialist and in 2010 was promoted to assistant director of insurance services. Since 2015, Kathy has taken on the role of director of insurance services, and in 2017 she celebrated her 25-year anniversary with WBA. Four years later, she now celebrates her retirement after almost three decades with the association.
In her ‘97 WBA Profile, she also noted that “It’s challenging, but very rewarding, to be able to assist more than 225 banks in the state on so many different aspects of the Insurance Trust.” Several members that Kathy has worked with in the past have reached out to share how grateful they’ve been to have Kathy to contact. One member recalled their first experience speaking with Kathy and noted her “sweet, patient, completely knowledgeable voice on the other end of the line” who helped them understand everything from “health, life, dental, AD&D, vision, LTD insurance — you name it, she knew it inside and out.”
Thank you, Kathy, from all of WBA, for the countless memories and the 29 years of incredible work!
By, Alex Paniagua
Automatic Saving Initiative Promotes Saving Through the Workplace to Improve Financial Well-Being
MADISON, Wis. – Today the Wisconsin Bankers Association (WBA) joined the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) to announce a broad coalition of Wisconsin organizations have launched a statewide Wisconsin Saves Automatic Saving Initiative to encourage millions of Wisconsinites to establish emergency savings accounts through automated saving.
This effort is led by DFI Secretary Kathy Blumenfeld, Wisconsin State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, Wisconsin Bankers Association (WBA) President and CEO Rose Oswald Poels, Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation (WWBIC) President Wendy Baumann, and America Saves, the leading national campaign in promoting savings.
“Our organization is excited to help launch Wisconsin Saves because the initiative aligns with the efforts bankers engage in each and every day to help customers achieve their financial goals,” said WBA President and CEO Oswald Poels. “Establishing an automatic savings program from an individual’s paycheck into a bank account creates a strong foundation upon which individuals can build to achieve financial health.”
“Many Wisconsinites experienced economic hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said DFI Secretary Blumenfeld. “Our goal with Wisconsin Saves is to make sure more residents are financially prepared for those small and large emergencies that we all know will happen from time to time.”
Recognizing that many individuals were not fully prepared for the lasting economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, Wisconsin Saves focuses on the role of employers in promoting the importance of saving for emergencies to their employees.
The campaign encourages small- and medium-sized employers to promote to their employees the ease and benefits of saving automatically for emergencies through split deposit.
“Working with employers we know we can have a positive impact on the financial lives of Wisconsin residents,” said State Treasurer Godlewski. “Helping employees save in the short-term enables them to build a more secure tomorrow and create a more productive workforce.”
Employers in all industries and locations in the state can sign up at AutoSave.WisconsinSaves.org to join this coalition. Participating employers will receive free resources to support their communication efforts and be included in statewide recognition.
“The workplace is one of the best places to spread messages about financial well-being because employees trust information provided to them by their employers about financial matters,” said WWBIC President Baumann. “That’s why we are enlisting the support of employers from all over Wisconsin. We believe they play a critical role in improving the financial lives of our residents.”
By involving employers in Wisconsin Saves, the number of Wisconsinites with emergency savings will increase and more people will be able to manage financial hardships, whether it be a minor setback or a shock of pandemic proportions.
“America Saves understands that saving is a journey and that getting started can be difficult,” said George Barany, Director of America Saves. “Saving even a small amount of money, $5 or $10 every paycheck, is helpful, and using split deposit is a simple and effective way to save. That’s why we so strongly encourage its use.”
Wisconsin Saves provides employers who sign up for the program with easy-to-use tools to help educate employees about split deposit and the importance of starting to build savings today. Employers can learn more and sign up to participate in Wisconsin Saves at AutoSave.WisconsinSaves.org.
“It is free and easy for all Wisconsin employers to sign up right away," said WBA President and CEO Oswald Poels. "Wisconsin Saves is a great opportunity to make a positive impact on the financial well-being of people around the state."
For more information and resources on Wisconsin’s financial literacy and capability initiatives, contact DFI’s Office of Financial Literacy at www.wdfi.org.
By, Cassie Krause
At some point, everyone faces the burdens of stress. Whether it’s caused by an increased workload or personal struggles, the potential for stress to become habitual poses risks of its own. This stress can become part of a pattern, and this is when burnout begins.
Tellers, mortgage loan officers, CFOs, personal bankers, and every position in between have all likely dealt with burnout at some point in their career. Catching it early and mitigating its impact is ideal, but knowing how to treat it as it occurs and understanding the complexity of it can be equally as important.
“I think too many people have this idea that the solution to burnout is variety,” said Rachel Sheerin, CPBA. “When we think about burnout at its core, burnout happens when joy begins to leave your work. It used to be that burnout happened as a result of doing too much of one thing, but that was in a different kind of world. When joy leaves your work, it becomes easier for joy to leave your life. And that is the real danger of it.”
Managing Burnout Before It Happens
The most impactful time to manage burnout is as soon as the symptoms begin to show. Just a few of the common signs noted were irritability, frustration, and anxiety, but Candy Allard, AVP/HR specialist at Badger Bank, Fort Atkinson, noted that signs might be less obvious, like calling in sick more frequently or being a bit more quiet than usual.
“Always encourage employees to ask for help,” said Allard. “Make sure you’re paying attention and see if there are any noteworthy signs that an employee is acting a little abnormal. Most of them aren’t going to immediately tell you what they’re going through. Many of them choose to just work through it.”
For those who decide to ignore their stress, HR and executive leadership are in positions to be observant and help employees facing these challenges. Kelly Heroux, president of Peshtigo National Bank, stated that a key indicator someone might be dealing with this stress is that they’re making reactive decisions rather than taking a proactive approach. As a result, these individuals will begin to lose focus on their long-term goals.
“Aside from employees outwardly telling us, what I’ve noticed is short-term thinking rather than long-term vision,” said Heroux. “This past year has been all about thinking of the day-to-day, and now we are reaching that point where we have to reprogram our thought process and get back to thinking of that long term.”
Heroux added that those in leadership positions play major roles in this type of rethinking, and one of the best ways they can assure overall success is by staying honest and inviting open communication. An article published in The Wall Street Journal cited a study conducted by Harvard Medical School faculty that found 96% of senior leaders claimed to have dealt with burnout at some point in their career. Few of the CEOs, however, ever admitted to anyone that they were facing this level of stress.
“Everyone can talk about failure after the fact, but no one does until failure is in the rearview mirror,” Sheerin said. “They feel comfortable because they’ve already worked through it. We need to address our failures while we’re going through them because success doesn’t work like the American Dream. Part of progressive executive leadership today is about identifying when you’ve burned out and sharing stories about it.”
When someone at the top acts as though everything is fine, Sheerin noted that this trickles down and that discussing the negatives while working toward the positives comes with benefits. Sharing these challenges and explaining how to best handle the situation only reminds staff that everyone is in the scenario together, everyone is human, and everyone is striving for the best possible outcome.
“I’m sure I speak for every bank when I say we have a very open-door policy,” said Heroux. “I think communication is key and it’s important to make yourself available when someone needs to talk about these concerns and to be honest when they do. If our employees are comfortable enough to discuss it, that’s a major portion of the solution right there.”
Identifying the Source of Burnout
In an ideal world, the elements of stress could be spotted and resolved before they ever begin to have an actual effect. In the real world, however, dealing with burnout means finding the source of your stress.
“You can really see personalities change from [burnout], and I’ve noticed that it tends to be those that have kids at home,” said Allard. “They’re going back and forth with whether they’re in person or virtual and if something gets shut down then it becomes a matter of this class being virtual while their other kids are in school, and it’s tough to watch the parents go through this challenge of being teachers and workers and so much more.”
Allard noted that although she sees many parents experiencing burnout, high levels of stress affect everyone for a variety of reasons. Because of this, some of the biggest stressors might not be coming from work at all, but from the unpaid jobs that are being done outside of the office.
“Unpaid work is something we don’t talk about nearly as much, and I think it’s one of the easier ways to burnout,” said Sheerin. “You love your family, and your kids, and your significant other, and you want what’s best for them, so you’re always willing to go that extra mile.”
One of the biggest misconceptions surrounding burnout is that you can only experience the symptoms by taking part in monotonous routines. Sheerin noted that it’s much more complex and nuanced than many believe and that people can burn out from just about anything. Heroux added that with all the tasks we take on as workers, she isn’t surprised that sources of stress are coming from more unexpected places.
“There are a lot of distractions in everyone’s life,” said Heroux. “I don’t think we pay enough attention to how much those distractions take away from our well-being and our focus. It’s important to determine what those distractions are on an individual level, because there’s a good chance that will bring you a great amount of calm. Life can be a lot when you let it happen all at one time.”
For Sheerin, burnout can happen in the simplest of ways, but it can have lasting effects. Since stress is often likened to difficult, constant, or tedious work that an individual is not interested in doing, I asked whether it might be possible to burn out while working on something someone truly enjoys.
“I think that’s the only way you can burn out,” Sheerin stated. “If you're not passionate about what you’re doing, you can’t burn out. No one has ever gotten too stressed from passively working their way through life. People in these positions are either passionate about their work, their job, their team, or something that leads to an eventual burning out.”
Other Tips to Tackle Stress
There is no single correct way to beat burnout. The important part is that you understand when it’s happening and identify the source of it. Treating it properly will vary between individuals and could require something as small as an afternoon off or something larger like the reconsideration of a project.
“We try to be flexible in our scheduling, which is what you have to do when school becomes virtual and parents suddenly can’t work in the same capacity that they’ve been doing,” said Allard. “This kind of flexibility is going to be crucial as we look at our work moving forward.”
Along with checking in with employees, Allard has found success in encouraging mental health by advertising an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to staff. This voluntary, work-based program offers resources such as short-term counseling, free and confidential assessments, and follow-up services for employees facing work-related or personal problems. Reminding employees of similar resources can be an enormous benefit when considering the uncertainty of the pandemic people continue to navigate.
“Burnout has been around for a very long time,” said Heroux, “but this past year has accelerated the cause and heightened the effects.”
With so many factors outside of any one person’s control, Heroux finds it helpful to step back from the world for a bit and self-assess. Her method of managing stress includes unplugging from social media, limiting distractions, and determining a good length of time to recharge. This could be an hour, an afternoon, or a full day, and truly depends on the source of burnout. If nothing else, Heroux joins the minority of leaders who find relief in simply talking about their stress.
“When you’re in the thick of a job, it can be impossible to see outside of what you’re doing,” said Sheerin. “I think the fact that more people, especially those in executive leadership positions, are willing to talk about this issue is a sign that we’re moving in the right direction.”
Sheerin will be presenting "Burning at Both Ends – Healing and Managing Burnout in Your Work/Life" at WBA's Empowering Women in Banking virtual series, click here to register.
Disclaimer: This content refers to burnout in a broad sense and is not intended to substitute medical advice. For serious health concerns, please seek the advice of a qualified medical professional.
By, Alex Paniagua