Community State Bank (CSB) along with the Kenosha Area Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon cutting ceremony for the bank’s Kenosha location on Tuesday, June 8, 2021.

The ribbon cutting carried significance in several ways. The office officially opened on June 2, 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, so an official ceremony could not be held at that time. Almost 1 year later, CSB and the Kenosha Area Chamber of Commerce were able to hold an official ribbon-cutting ceremony that also marked the 1-year anniversary of the office.

“It’s been an incredible year for our Kenosha office,” said CSB President & CEO Scott Huedepohl. “Opening a new office, in a new market, in the middle of a health and safety scare like COVID, probably isn’t how you would draw it up, but flexibility and creative problem solving have always been a big part of our success at CSB. I’m really proud of our team.”

Market President Robert Pieroni; AVP Cash Managment Laura Burnett-Shoemaker; Retail Manager Mandi Maas; and Universal Banker & Mortgage Specialist Kevin Jorgensen lead CSB’s efforts in the Kenosha market.

“Kenosha is such a wonderful community, and everyone has been very welcoming,” said Robert Pieroni. “I think everyone has been excited that a local community bank has returned to a market that was really missing it.” Pieroni continued, “We’re glad to be able to provide the personalized experience that comes with our style of community banking.”

CSB would like to thank the Kenosha Area Chamber of Commerce, including: President & CEO Lou Molitor; Board Member Matt Krauter; Membership & Event Coordinator Emily Stipan; and Chamber Ambassadors Jennifer Grenier and Christine Nowland for helping organize and celebrate the occasion.

For more information about the CSB team and their Kenosha location, please visit them online at: CSB.bank/kenosha-wi.

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By, Alex Paniagua

Prevail Bank has recently donated $10,000 to the Hannah Center, Inc. as they work to open a new facility in the Wisconsin Rapids community. The Hannah Center helps local women and children in crisis navigate next steps and healthy futures as they get back on their feet.

Tricia Fancher, Hannah Center Program Coordinator, states, "We could not make this expansion a reality without the support and generosity of our community. Opening a second location of The Hannah Center will greatly impact the women and children facing the challenges of chronic poverty, homelessness, addiction, unhealthy relationships, and much more. Our programs will not only teach our residents the life skills they need to be successful independently in the future but equip them to teach their children these skills, breaking these generational cycles. We look forward to serving the Wisconsin Rapids community in many ways and building further relationships with community members, supporters, volunteers, and businesses.”

Janet Hohl, Wisconsin Rapids Prevail Bank Branch Manager states, “Prevail Bank is proud to support the Hannah Center in Wisconsin Rapids. The Hannah Center provides individual goal-based programs for local women in crisis. These programs help women in our community create positive and healthy changes, and we are proud to be a part of this wonderful project.”

Prevail Bank’s goal is to pursue what’s possible within our local communities. Passionate about the advancement of community based projects, and supporting local organization growth; Prevail Bank is a community bank that is continuously working to support our community.

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By, Alex Paniagua

June 1 marked the start of a new fiscal year at WBA, meaning the start of a new membership year as well for the WBA Agricultural Banker Section, which also means some changes for our WBA Agricultural Bankers Section Board.

Our new Section Board Chair is Chris Schneider, vice president of agricultural banking with Investors Community Bank in Manitowoc. Let's meet Chris! 

Chris grew up on larger dairy in Hilbert, Wisconsin where his grandfather started in late 1940’s. The farm grew to 700-800 cows by 1995, where his father and 4 uncles farmed together. Chris grew up on the farm, so as he shared, "it was the center of my life." After coming back from school at UW-River Falls in 1988, Chris was the assistant herdsperson until 1997. He then left the farm and worked for a local John Deere dealer as sales rep and service manager.

In 2005, Chris was asked to join Investors Community Bank as a loan officer, and he has been at the bank ever since. In his position, he works mostly with dairy farms and some cash grain farms. "The most enjoyable part is working with farm families and watching them succeed" shared Schneider.

Chris currently resides in Kaukauna with his wife and 4 boys ranging from 11 to 25 years old. He enjoy spending much of his time with family and attending the boys' sporting events. 

Chris is "honored to be part of WBA Ag section and work with the dedicated people who serve the Ag community."

Learn more about the WBA Agricultural Bankers Section Board and our 2021-21 board members by clicking here.

 

 

By, Lori Kalscheuer

Dedicating decades of knowledge and experience to the industry is viewed differently depending not only what the worker gives to the role, but what the role provides the worker in return — to put it in the words of Mark Twain, “Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” The WBA-member bankers who have been honored in the 50-Year Club have a perspective on this that can only be had as a result of over half a century in banking. We spoke with some to gather their insights on the industry, their expectations for the future, and how their career may have looked different if they had not followed the path they did.  

Fifty Years and Counting 

For Bill Censky, co-founder and former president of Investors Community Bank, Manitowoc, a lot has changed in recent decades. From an evolution in technology to an increase in mergers and acquisitions, he noted he feels as though he has seen it all since his start in 1969. 

“A major part of an any line of work is about changing as you see things change in your industry,” said Censky. “The economy, business operations, and any other situational things have to change. Banking is no exception.”  

Censky retired from his role as president of Investors Community bank in 2016 and as board chair last year, but his involvement at the bank and in his community has certainly not taken a rest. As of now, he is still a board member at the bank and treasurer of a men’s homeless shelter. All of this, he says, ties back to the reason he got involved in banking in the first place. 

“I don’t particularly like doing the mundane jobs,” he said. “I like actively working toward making a difference.” 

Mark Schowalter, former EVP/COO of Port Washington State Bank (PWSB), enjoys making a difference in many of the same ways and has always been drawn to building customer relations. When he started his career back in 1970, he recalled Friday nights, pre-Automated Clearing House, before direct deposit and electronic banking. He described what he said felt like each and every customer in the bank lobby. The lines were hectic, the driving lanes were always backed up, and it was one of his favorite experiences.   

“You got to meet everyone, see everybody, and catch up with them,” Schowalter said, “and it was a good way to build relationships with customers. It’s quite a bit different now, the way banking is conducted. But back then, it was very much face to face.”  

When I spoke with Schowalter, he was preparing for a board meeting later that afternoon. Although he has also retired, remaining part of the industry is something he could not imagine otherwise. He is still the director and vice chair of PWSB, and serves on the bank’s board of directors.  

“I’ve volunteered for many organizations over the years, civic and nonprofit, to help support the quality of life in our communities,” he continued. “So, my working at the bank has really fueled that. I continue to do this today, and you really appreciate how everything works in our markets and how so many things depend on each other. My present involvement with our communities has just been continuing to help where I can.” 

While many bankers who have dedicated over 50 years to the industry continue to offer their knowledge and skills however they can, not all of them have entered retirement. Rita Derks still serves as the assistant vice president at the Thorp branch for Northwestern Bank, where she has worked since 1989. She said she has probably worked in the banking industry for another “15-or-so years” on top of that, but time just flies when you enjoy your job and the people around you. When asked what her favorite part of her position is, it isn’t hard to see why. 

“The best part is being able to help people,” said Derks. “You gain so many friends and customers, people you know and people you don’t know. This is an industry where you get to be there for people when they need you, and that’s been one of the greatest parts of my career.” 

Expectations for the Future of Banking 

After spending over 50 years in banking, there are many industry achievements these individuals are proud of. Looking ahead, there are a few things they expect to see accomplished at some point in the next 50 years, too. Schowalter’s hope is short, simple, and shared with countless others: keep the community bank relevant. 

“Anything that would ensure that community banks continue to be relevant and valued is what I’d like to see,” said Schowalter. “We are the financial engines of the communities. Things like regulations, how the public perceives what we do, our access to different resources, they all play a part in being successful and keeping the community bank relevant.” 

Fairness was another theme that came up regarding future objectives. As Censky put it, it’s not only something he wants to see in the next few decades — it’s something he believes should have happened decades in the past. 

“A level regulatory playing field has been near the top of all banking lists since deregulation of the 1980s,” Censky said. “This will become even more important if tax rates go up…The level playing field is not just about credit union or Farm Credit System taxation — the need for banks to have regulations dropped that are out of date are stopping us from competing with fintech companies, who have little interest in communities.” 

For others, the answer is not a simple one. Derks began her response by stating this would be a question she was unable to speak on. Still, her follow-up emphasized how a lot of people feel about the industry’s expectations. With so many recent advancements, the rapid pace at which they’ve come, and a global pandemic that has pushed everything even further, expecting anything right now can feel strange.  

“What do we need to do in the future?” Derks asked. “I don’t know. I don’t know what’s coming, but if it’s anything like the change we’ve seen in the past few decades, it’s a completely different world. Life happens quickly, and there’s not an industry that exists where you can just sit back for the ride; you have to keep up with the pace. Good or bad, it seems that’s just how it goes.” 

If Not Banking – What Else? 

Imagining 50 years in any position can seem daunting, but I was assured the accomplishment is worth each moment once that time and energy has been dedicated to a community you truly care for. To place their lifetime in banking into a new perspective, I was curious to know — if not banking — what other career would they have considered spending their 50 years in. Unsurprisingly enough, none of the answers strayed too far from the significant roles they have played the industry.  

“I have always loved technology,” Censky said. “I enjoyed my IT-related classes in school and the IT-related projects at the bank, whether it was learning how to use the bank’s first computer, an Apple II+ in the early 80s, or selecting and purchasing new banking terminals or networks or selecting a new core system or managing a conversion or using MCIF to extract data to drive sales. I love being efficient and getting rid of the unproductive and mundane parts of our work.” 

In many ways, some bankers have spent more than their own lifetime in their career — family-owned and closely held banks have multiple generations of a family establishing and building the bank. It can be challenging to envision another role outside of the family business. 

“It’s a hard question,” Schowalter admitted. “I’m a fourth-generation banker along with my brother Steve. He and I grew up in the business. I can say that along the way, I never really considered anything else. All the years I worked with the bank, I volunteered with nonprofits, and you come to appreciate the work they do. I think the nonprofit sector would have really appealed to me as something I would have liked to be more involved in.” 

Derks had a rough idea of what else she would have liked to do, but raised an excellent point in the process: if the jobs that have become so widespread today were available decades ago, would you be performing a completely different task right now?  

“Probably something in the accounting or investment areas, because that’s what I’m used to doing,” said Derks. “It’s strange because there is so much more to offer in terms of a career nowadays, and so many of the major jobs today weren’t even prevalent back when I was starting out. If some of these jobs today had been around back then, I probably would have been interested so long as it had numbers involved.”  

Even with hypotheticals, each banker said they are more than happy with the time they have spent with the banking industry and couldn’t imagine a career spent anywhere else. Although the trend of staying in one position for an extensive period has declined, they have high hopes for the future of banking and the lifetimes that will be dedicated to the achievements and changes of Wisconsin’s financial services. 

“It’s a little different today,” said Schowalter. “I don’t know if we’ll see as much [tenure] as we used to. People don’t seem to stay in one place or one career for that long, but bankers are part of great communities and the chance to grow with them is rewarding. I’d like to think longevity speaks to the strengths of the industry, and I hope that continues another 50 years from now.”  

By, Alex Paniagua

The Equitable Bank, Wauwatosa, is pleased to announce the promotion of Tom Sattler, senior vice president – sales and marketing to a new leadership role as executive vice president.

Sattler has nearly 30 years of banking experience at four community banks focusing on customer service, product development, marketing, and public relations. While at Equitable, Sattler has been instrumental in developing the commercial banking framework that has allowed the bank to diversify its lending portfolio while increasing low-cost core deposits and supporting a mortgage lending team to a period of record loan production.

With his new leadership position, Sattler highlights the success of the bank to the team and community they serve: “I have the good fortune of working with a great group of coworkers and look forward to playing a role in maintaining our position as a high performing community bank in southeastern Wisconsin.”

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By, Alex Paniagua

Wisconsin farms generally have fared well through the first half of 2021, as higher prices for products, increased exports to China, and pandemic payments have provided a financial boost.

Although a dearth of precipitation during spring and much of early summer has caused some nervousness in the southern half of the state, recent and expected rain could lessen those concerns.

As always, Wisconsin bankers said, it’s important to stay well-connected to their ag clients to monitor the ebb and flow of farming – even when things are mostly looking up.

“Overall the farm economy is what I would call steady and improved,” said Amber Keller, senior vice president and director of ag banking for Town Bank in Clinton. “It’s improved from the standpoint that we have a lot of opportunity to lock in a profit this year, even into ’22.”

The state is coming off a year in which many farms saw strong earnings because of a good growing season and government stimulus money intended to aid businesses and farms during the Covid-19 pandemic. The previous five years were a struggle for many farmers.

“It seems like right now for the most part we’re in a demand market,” said Bradley J. Guse, senior vice president/agribusiness banking for BMO Harris Bank in Marshfield. “By that I mean the agriculture products are in demand for various reasons. Part of it is that China has imported a lot of things as they rebuild their hog industry. That is starting to take more and more product, whether it be corn or soybeans."

China also is buying products from dairy farmers, particularly whey protein to feed piglets.

"As that industry rebuilds that pipeline has had to get refilled, so that’s created some excess demand," Guse said.

Pork output in China declined 21% in 2019 after an outbreak of African swine fever hit the country and its breeding stock declined. The downturn lingered into 2020.

As China builds back with a new model, “It appears some of this is going to be pretty sustainable, not just filling the pipeline,” Guse said.

Dairy farms also could benefit from a growing appetite for “cheese tea” in China and elsewhere, Guse said.

According to The Dairy Alliance, cheese tea, also called milk cap tea or cheese mousse tea, is a cold tea topped with a foamy layer of milk, sweet or salty cream cheese, and whipping cream sprinkled with sea salt. The tea itself typically is green or black tea.

Cheese tea was first seen in Taiwan 11 years ago, with market vendors combining powdered cheese, milk, and salt with whipping cream to form a foam to top cold tea, The Dairy Alliance said in an article on its website. In 2012, the trend made its way to China, which swapped the powder for real cream cheese and fresh milk, the dairy organization reported.

Nicholas Felder, vice president of commercial/ag banking for MidWestOne Bank in Lancaster, said farm exports to China have increased, especially since the U.S. elections. In addition, government aid has been helping Wisconsin farmers.

“The federal stimulus funding from last year into the spring, and then higher commodity prices the last half of last year and first half so far this year, has really strengthened some balance sheets,” Felder said.

Keller said low interest rates and stronger land values also are factors in a healthier outlook for farms right now.

“Those low interest rates really keep things stable out there, and the outlook is stable for a while yet, until we know which way our economy is tracking in terms of inflationary concerns,” Keller said.

Keller said land values have been rising.

“That buoys the farmers’ balance sheet so when he goes to his banker to borrow money, he has borrowing power,” she said.

The dry weather in much of spring and June in the southern half of the state has made some farmers wary, but it’s not considered a major hindrance to a good growing season yet, ag bankers said. Rainfall over the weekend and storms expected this week could mitigate that concern.

“As a whole it’s dry but the crops still look pretty good,” Guse said.  "I always feel like the biggest crops we have in Wisconsin usually happen when we have a dry spring because it drives the roots deep, and then if we get some timely rains later on to get the crop going, we get some really good-sized crops.”

A map from the National Drought Mitigation Center showed that as of June 22, more than half of Wisconsin – largely the southern half of the state – was considered to be in a moderate drought. The worst-hit areas were in the extreme southeast and the lower southwest. The precipitation last week and early this week (week of June 27) is expected to reduce short-term dryness, but additional soaking rains are needed to alleviate the drought, the federal weather agency said.

A drought would be particularly concerning to farmers who might not be able to grow their own feed crops, and then would have to buy them at a time when prices are up, Felder said.

“Soybean meal has gone from $290 a ton to $430 a ton. Corn is up from a little over $3 a year ago to $6.50 today,” he said. “You’re seeing the user – the consumer of crops – have a little more furrowed brow because they aren’t sure of what’s next. If they don’t get a crop and they have to buy to replace a short crop, they’re going to be paying significantly higher prices than they would have a year ago.”

The timing of the rainfall is important, ag bankers said.

“Corn is typically pollinating in July and soybeans are typically seeding pods in August – the little bean is filling the pod,” Keller said. “It needs rain during August to fill those pods so that there is a bean of a size that is saleable. So we do need timely rain in July and August to make this crop.”

The dryness this spring and early summer did result in some “hay hoarding” – sellers hanging on to reserves until the weather picture becomes clearer.

“Farmers will harvest typically four crops of hay in a summer. Corn and soybeans, you harvest once a year, where with hay, we’re taking four cuttings off of that field,” Keller said. “And if we don’t get rain, we don’t get much in a cutting. And if we don’t get much hay in one or two cuttings, now our hay is half of what it was in any other year.”

If a drought is serious and farmers are stressed, bankers have a lot in their tool box to help them get through it. But farmers need to take steps on their own, such as buying crop insurance and marketing their products well, to make sure they succeed.

“Proactive wins,” Guse said. “If were sitting to wait for a loan to go bad before we try to collect it, we’re probably too late.”

Said Keller: “We really look at all remedies that make sense. But at the end of the day, the client still needs to be operating a viable enterprise and using a viable business model where we can say, yes, this operation is going to be successful long-term and they just hit some bumps in the road here.”

Paul Gores is a journalist who covered business news for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for 20 years. Have a story idea? Contact him at paul.gores57@gmail.com

By, Ally Bates

Peoples State Bank has promoted Dan Augustine to vice president, Peoples Wealth Management division leader. Augustine recently secured his Series 24 Securities license allowing him to supervise and mentor others in the Peoples Wealth Management division while serving as a financial advisor for his current clients. Augustine helps clients develop a plan to effectively use the unlimited resources at Peoples Wealth Management and Commonwealth Financial Network®, including specific investment, insurance, and banking products to help clients reach their goals.

“Dan will excel with the addition of leadership responsibilities and mentoring others,” said Jeff Saxton, vice president of retail sales & service. “Dan is well-respected by his customers and peers in the industry, and that respect will assist him in training and coaching others.”

Augustine began his financial services career in 2004 as an independent financial advisor. He joined Peoples Wealth Management in 2008 and is an investment advisor representative of Commonwealth Financial Network. Born and raised in Wausau, Augustine attended Wausau West High School. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Michigan, where he also played baseball for the Wolverines.

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By, Alex Paniagua

Peoples State Bank President and CEO Scott Cattanach announce the following mid-year promotions and new hire:

Andrea Sasman was promoted to vice president, mortgage loan originator, central and southeast Wisconsin. With more than 20-years’ experience in mortgage lending, Sasman will continue to help customers with their mortgage loans and refinancing options. She consistently exceeds customer expectations and has become a cornerstone of the Peoples mortgage lending team.

Barbara Jones was promoted to vice president, retail team leader, southeastern Wisconsin. As branch manager of the bank’s West Allis location, Jones has built relationships with Peoples’ retail and commercial banking teams. She will oversee all retail operations in southeastern Wisconsin, including the bank’s new location in Waukesha. Jones consistently delivers extraordinary service and follow through for the bank’s customers in the growing Milwaukee area market.

Shayna Goetsch was promoted to consumer loan operations manager, Wausau – Stewart Avenue location. Goetsch will lead the bank’s consumer loan operations team, focusing her efforts on improving efficiencies, timing, and quality of work to provide customers with quick turnaround on all consumer loan applications.

Jenny Ramker was hired as loan servicing manager, Wausau – Stewart Avenue location. Ramker joins Peoples as the manager of the loan servicing team, which is responsible for managing various elements of the bank’s consumer and commercial loans, including digital imaging. She has previous experience in loan servicing and compliance related functions at other financial institutions.

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By, Alex Paniagua

Community State Bank Market President (Kenosha) Robert Pieroni was recently awarded the 2020 Racine County Economic Development Corporation (RCEDC) Southeast Wisconsin Lender of the Year award. The award was presented at RCEDC’s Annual Meeting “Disruption 2021” on June 3, 2021.

The RCEDC Lender of the Year Award is presented each year to an individual that assists small businesses in the community by partnering with RCEDC’s financial arm, Business Lending Partners, who facilitates low interest loans throughout Racine County.

“The team at Business Lending Partners, and the programs they offer, provide a bridge to small businesses that Community State Bank would not be able to assist on our own,” said Pieroni. “The quality of their service is unparalleled, and it is an absolute honor to be named 2020 RCEDC Lender of the Year.”

Pieroni has been in the banking industry for over 20 years focusing in the Kenosha County area, but also assisting businesses in the Racine & Kenosha corridor. Pieroni joined Community State Bank in June of 2018 to lead their new Kenosha office as the market president.

“At Community State Bank we build branches around people. People who genuinely care about their community and want to see it succeed,” said Community State Bank President & CEO Scott Huedepohl. “Robert is the epitome of a community banker who truly cares for his customers and will do anything in order to make sure they are receiving the best tools and services for their business. We’re grateful to have him on our team and congratulate him on this accomplishment.”

Pieroni has a long history of dedication to the communities he serves. He has been involved with the Kiwanis Breakfast Club of Kenosha for 20 years, 12 of which he has been the treasurer. He has also volunteered time with Women and Children’s Horizons for 16 years, most recently as their assistant treasurer and on the Finance, Property and Executive Committees. He has served as treasurer of Cub Scout Pack 328 for the last 5 years and is on the leadership team. Last, but not least, he has been a plan commissioner for the Town of Brighton for the last 2 years.

“2020 was a difficult year for many, including business owners,” said Pieroni. “I’d like to thank each and every business owner that trusted myself, Community State Bank, and Business Lending Partners to guide them through the process of starting or expanding their business. Without you, I would not be receiving this award and I am beyond grateful.”

Award winners are selected by the RCEDC Board of Directors. More information about the RCEDC Annual Meeting and other award recipients can be found at disruption2021.rcedc.org.

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By, Alex Paniagua

Bank of Wisconsin Dells would like to congratulate vice president and human resources officer Molly Bauer on 25 years with the bank. Bauer began her career with Bank of Wisconsin Dells in 1996 as a seasonal customer service representative during high school and continued to work each summer while attending college. After earning her bachelor’s degree, she transitioned to the role of human resources assistant and operational support. Bauer attained the human resources officer role in 2005 and was promoted to vice president in 2017.

“BWD has been a part of my life for every milestone: graduations, marriage, and children,” says Bauer. “The bank has provided me opportunities to develop my career and continue growing through continuing education and mentoring. I am fortunate to be with an organization that values work-life balance and I look forward to the next 25 years…or so!”

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By, Alex Paniagua