It’s not often that you hear of someone retiring from a position after 60 YEARS with an organization, but that’s exactly what took place on Wednesday, August 18, at Farmers & Merchants Union Bank in Columbus.

After 60 years with FMUB, Kathy Harle retired. Bank employees – both past and present – gathered at the bank’s main office in Downtown Columbus to wish her well as she begins this new chapter in her life.

Kathy enjoyed an impressive 60-year career at the bank performing bookkeeping and secretarial duties. Most recently, she held the title of assistant vice president of data processing and cashier, served as corporate secretary to the bank board and performed the bank’s human resources duties. It is no surprise that during her many years with FMUB, Kathy had experience in all facets and services of the bank.

In addition to working in different areas of the bank, Kathy had also seen many advancements in banking during her career. Some of those things included the move from hand posting on two ledgers, to posting on a double ledger with magnetic coding; and then making the huge move to put everything on computers and the continual evolution that process took to arrive at the computer network we use today.

Farmers & Merchants Union Bank has also changed over the past 60 years. Kathy stated, “When I first started with the bank, there were about a dozen employees and two offices (downtown Columbus and Friesland). Today, we have about 55 employees and six offices (downtown Columbus, west side Columbus branch, Fall River, Friesland, Juneau and Rio).”

When asked what she would miss most about FMUB, Kathy simply said, “Working at the bank has just become part of my life. I’ve always come to work every day; it’s become so much a part of who I am and of my life. It will be a big change, that’s for sure.”

While FMUB shares those same thoughts of not having Kathy at work every day, the bank’s board of directors, management and employees are also happy for Kathy and the opportunities retirement will provide her to spend more time with her family. Please join everyone at Farmers & Merchants Union Bank in wishing Kathy Harle well in retirement.

Kathy is the wife of David Harle. She is past president of Columbus High School Alumni Association, past secretary of Columbus Fourth of July committee, past member of Columbus Area BPW, current member of the Zion Lutheran Church Bell Choir and current third and fourth grade teacher for Zion Lutheran Church Sunday School.

By, Ally Bates

Encourage your customers to tell Congress not to let the IRS invade their privacy.

The Biden administration is advancing an overreaching proposal requiring financial institutions to report their customers’ deposit and withdrawal information to the IRS, regardless of their tax liability or consent. WBA, ABA, ICBA, and other state banking associations are opposed to this measure and this is a topic we have been discussing in meetings with our Congressional delegation.

ICBA’s landing page for this issue may be found here.

Please consider sending a message to your representative and senators, and encourage your customers to the do the same here.

Contact your state elected officials and request they *not* co-sponsor companion bills LRB-4436 or LRB-1512, relating to: fees imposed on merchants in connection with credit card transactions.

This proposal, authored by Sen. Dan Feyen (R- Fond du Lac) and Rep. Tyler Vorpagel (R-Plymouth), would be very harmful to Wisconsin's financial institutions and create a mandate our members would not be able to implement. Under the bill, it would be illegal to charge a merchant (retailer) a swipe fee for the tax portion of a credit card transaction. This would require electronic payment systems to distinguish between the pre-tax sale total and the amount of tax applied to the sale, a distinction that cannot currently be made using existing technology.

Therefore, if this legislation is passed, our members would be stuck with a law they could not comply with and penalized for every violation.

Here is how you can help:

  • Look up your state legislators by typing in your address here.
  • Send your representative an email with the following information:
  • State your name, that you are a banker, and that you are a constituent of their district.
  •  Ask that they not sign on as a co-sponsor of LRB-4436 or LRB-1512.
  • Explain this is a mandate banks cannot comply with, and that government should not be interfering in contractual business agreements.

WBA and the Wisconsin Credit Union League sent a joint memo to the Legislature asking they not sign on to these bills. Feel free to use the memo as inspiration.

Thank you to the bankers who have already notified me they've contacted their elected officials!

By, Ally Bates

The Federal Reserve Board (FRB), Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) jointly issued a new guide created with the intention to help community banks conduct due diligence on financial technologies companies (a/d/a fintechs). Use of the guide is voluntary and it does not anticipate all types of third-party relationships and risks. Therefore, a community bank can tailor how it uses relevant information in the guide, based on its specific circumstances, the risks posed by each third-party relationship, and the related product, service, or activities offered by the fintech company. While the guide is written from a community bank perspective, the fundamental concepts may be useful for banks of varying size and for other types of third-party relationships.  

Due diligence is an important component of an effective third-party risk management process, as highlighted in the federal banking agencies’ respective third-party, vendor guidance. During due diligence, a community bank collects and analyzes information to determine whether third-party relationships would support its strategic and financial goals and whether the relationship can be implemented in a safe and sound manner, consistent with applicable legal and regulatory requirements.  

The scope and depth of due diligence performed by a community bank will depend on the risk to the bank from the nature and criticality of the prospective activity. Banks may also choose to supplement or augment their due diligence efforts with other resources as appropriate, such as use of industry utilities or consortiums that focus on third-party oversight. The guide focuses on six key due diligence topics, including relevant considerations, potential sources of information and illustrative examples. There may be other topics, considerations, and sources of information to consider, depending on the unique relationship and the role of the fintech company.

Access the Guide on the Fed's website.

By, Cassie Krause

National Exchange Bank & Trust, Fond du Lac, is pleased to welcome Shane Christophersen as a Commercial Loan Officer who will focus on meeting the financial needs of the business community in the greater Beaver Dam area.

Christophersen brings with him more than eight years of banking experience, in addition to his prior experience in management in other industries. He grew up in Greenwood, Wis., where he attended Greenwood High School. Christophersen then earned his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from UW-Stevens Point.

Christophersen currently resides in Berlin where he is active in the community as a part of the Community Team and the Green Lake County Economic Development Corporation. He will be relocating to Beaver Dam and is excited to become active in that community!

By, Ally Bates

Investment securities have undergone big changes this year.

If there’s a constant in the world of a community bank investment manager, it’s disappointment. If you buy a bond today and yields go down tomorrow, you wish you’d have bought more; if yields go up, you wish you had bought none. If your overall portfolio has unrealized gains, you lament the poor yields that are available; if you are presented with attractive rates on new offerings, it means you’ve got losses on the balance sheet.

As we navigate the volatile rate environment of 2021, I’d like to convey some data that we’ve gathered about community bank portfolios. The motive is expressly not in the vein of misery loves company, but rather to share what your peers’ portfolios, sector weightings and yields look like.

I am also pleased that we’ve got two great reference points by which to measure performance: December 31, 2020 and June 30, 2021. That six-month period saw a rise in interest rates and a steepening of the curve, and more than a 50 basis-point shock (0.50%) in the middle of the maturity range. The five-year treasury note started 2021 at 0.36% and six months later was 0.89%.

Crowd favorites

Our sample portfolio, which I’ve used often in this space over the years, is the Vining Sparks bond accounting client base. Vining Sparks, which is ICBA Securities’ exclusive broker, provides this service for about 400 community banks with an average portfolio size of $140 million, which is 46% larger than pre-pandemic levels.

These portfolios have more than half of their dollars in some type of mortgage security. Fixed-rate mortgage-backed securities (MBSs) comprise 31% of the total, fixed-rate collateralized mortgage obligations (CMOs) are 14% and floating rate MBS are 7%. Right around 29% of the investments are in municipals. The bulk of the remainder, 8%, is in government agency bonds.

Stretched out

While the sector weightings are essentially unchanged over the past year, there are two stark differences: duration and market values. On December 31, 2020, the average portfolio had a duration of 3.2 years. (Duration is a major yardstick for investment managers, as it affects cash flow and market risk. The higher the duration, the greater the risk.) Six short months later, duration had risen to 4.3 years. So, portfolios, at least in theory, have 34% more risk than at year end.

This duration growth was the result of two separate events. The first was the rise in longer-term rates. I think we’ve come to realize that higher rates move average durations out on the curve, as prepayments of amortizing securities tend to slow, and other callable securities don’t get called. The second — and more salient — cause was the very deliberate extension of average maturities as portfolio managers have tried to sop up the excess liquidity residing on community bank balance sheets.

Something else that’s changed as a result is the unrealized profit. Back in December 2020, the average portfolio was sitting on a 2.7% gain. By June, that number had shrunk to 1.0%. What this, in effect, means is that most banks currently own some bonds at gains and some at losses, which can be seen as condition that affords maximum flexibility.

Plug the leak

Many portfolio managers are now focused on limiting further extension risk. That should not be terribly difficult to do, as most securities that have any seasoning to them have already been repriced to a longer expected maturity. Prepayment “speeds” have slowed from their peaks in the spring, and most models are predicting relatively consistent speeds for the near future.

Nonetheless, not all MBSs are created equally. Collateral with 10- to 20-year finals typically can continue to prepay with some consistency even if interest rates rise. Of course, the scheduled principal repayments will be much greater for shorter pools than for 30-year pools, independent of prepays.

A variation on this theme is to buy “structure.” This usually means a CMO. Recently issued CMOs have low pass-through rates (“coupons”) relative to the borrowers’ rates on the underlying collateral. This allows investors to keep their book prices closer to par, which will preserve book yields if prepayments were to kick back into high gear.

So, there you have a revisiting of the portfolio changes during 2021. By being on top of the changing complexion of your community bank’s investments, you can minimize your disappointments. Avoiding the constant sorrow of portfolio management — with apologies to the Soggy Bottom Boys — can be your milestone accomplishment of the year.

Jim Reber  is president and CEO of ICBA Securities, ICBA’s institutional, fixed-income broker-dealer for community banks.

By, Cassie Krause

Prevail Bank is pleased to announce that Dustin Dietel has joined the Stevens Point team as Branch Manager. Dietel brings six years of banking experience, assisting individuals and businesses to meet their financial needs and goals by developing customized product and service solutions. He is well-versed in solving complex financial challenges, and is credited with good communication and multitasking skills.

“We’re excited to have Dustin join our Stevens Point team,” states Renee Leinfelder, Senior Vice President of Retail Management at Prevail Bank. “Dustin has a passion for helping all customers reach their financial goals and I’m looking forward to the relationships he’ll establish in his new role.”

“Prevail Bank has an incredible team and culture; I couldn’t wait to incorporate my knowledge and skills with theirs,” says Dietel. “I am a firm believer in personal and professional growth. I love to work with customers directly, positively affecting their lives from a financial aspect.”

Dietel enjoys traveling, experiencing new adventures, and cheering on the Badgers. He was actively involved with Big Brothers/Big Sisters and MYP (Marshfield Young Professionals), a group that was actively involved and explored ways to spotlight the Marshfield community; he plans to join similar groups in Portage County.

By, Ally Bates

Upcoming education opportunities for Wisconsin bankers

Fall has arrived and schools are back in session, and that means your WBA banking schools are back in session as well! Each school offers in-depth learning experiences for various roles of staff within your bank. Each school will be held at the WBA office in Madison in our new Engagement Center! Visit www.wisbank.com/education for more information about these schools and register online to secure your teams’ seats in the schools.

Commercial Lending School | September 27-29, on-demand content starts September 1
This school was developed as an advanced-level program, assuming participants have work experience and prior training in commercial lending and/or financial statement analysis. Case studies, in-class work, instructor-led discussions and facilitation, and on-demand virtual courses are all elements of this school with an emphasis on cash flow, financial analysis, and structure.

Supervisor Boot Camp | October 4-5
This two-day dynamic, interactive workshop is just what all supervisors need – both new and experienced supervisors will benefit! The program includes exploring the coaching and leadership skills that lay out a plan for your success as a highly effective supervisor. You will find this experiential training opportunity invigorating, motivating, and applicable to managing and supervising others. Attendees will work and learn, share and listen, and go back eager to implement and make a difference.

Auditing Real Estate Loans Boot Camp | October 12-14
This program will cover everything an internal audit team needs to know in order to successfully fulfill their role. The purpose of this school is to cover all relevant aspects of the regulations impacting mortgage lending. As mortgages are the main risk area for most banks, internal audit (before the examiners arrive) is more essential than ever.

Deposit Compliance School | November 2-3
This school is designed to give you a strong foundation of the various deposit regulations affecting your bank, the current trends in compliance, and the resources you need following the school. Bank retail and branch staff will benefit from this school, in addition to compliance and audit staff.

Personal Banker School | November 8-9
This school has been designed to get your personal bankers up to speed quickly by providing them with the techniques and knowledge they need to successfully sell, cross-sell, refer, and service the banking industry's ever-expanding list of financial products. Attendees will leave the school better equipped to provide your customers with exceptional product knowledge and customer service.

Consumer Lending Boot Camp | November 18-19
This program was developed to help bankers build the foundational skills necessary to become a successful consumer lender or processor. Students will learn the process of basic lending and then put it into practice through various exercises and case studies.

Save the Date – Spring 2022 Schools!

Loan Compliance School | March 7-11, 2022

Real Estate Compliance School | March 9-11, 2022

Introduction to Commercial Lending School | March 14-16, 2022

Residential Mortgage Lending School | March 29 – April 1, 2022

School of Bank Management | May 9-13, 2022

Questions? Contact the WBA education team via email at wbaeducation@wisbank.com

 

By, Lori Kalscheuer

Becky Kwekel has been promoted to Operations Manager for the National Exchange Bank & Trust office in Randolph. In her new role, Kwekel will manage branch operations and help with business development and lending in the Randolph area.

Kwekel holds an associate degree in Business. She joined the bank last October and brought with her more than 10 years of banking experience. Kwekel grew up in Cedar Springs, Mich. where she attended Plymouth Christian High School in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Kwekel currently resides in Waupun. She is looking forward to attending local chamber meetings and other community events in the Randolph area.

By, Ally Bates

Bankers are often adept at spotting scams and quick to identify a suspicious situation. There are many different schemes designed to target bank customers, and maintaining an awareness of such methods is important not only to recognizing scam attempts, but also helping customers to do the same before it’s too late. The Wisconsin State Bar recently warned that attorneys should be on the lookout for scams targeting lawyer trust accounts. As such accounts must be maintained at insured financial institutions, it is important for banks to be aware of such scams in order to help thwart these attempts. 

Under rules of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, lawyers and law firms are required to establish interest-bearing “Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts” (IOLTA) for client funds that are so nominal in amount or which are expected to be held for such a short period of time that it is impractical to earn and account for income on individual deposits. The lawyer or law firm determines whether the account should be established as an IOLTA account, or other — so take note that you may see other types of lawyer trust accounts as well. 

WBA has heard stories from lawyers and its members of scammers attempting to infiltrate these types of accounts. Typically, these schemes are directed at the attorney or law firm and involve email correspondence representing itself as a legitimate business. The scammer requests assistance with a transfer of funds (this could be for purchase of goods, outstanding debt or other collection, etc.) from another party, in exchange for a fee. 

Because these scammers correspond with the attorney or law firm, it can be difficult for banks to spot. However, if bank notices something suspicious, it can help combat these schemes by communicating with its customers and providing further education about common trust account scams. For example, a simple phone call from the attorney to the alleged representative might reveal the nature of the scam quite blatantly. Note that not every scam will follow the same pattern, however, and WBA has heard of scams of varying degrees of sophistication. 

Lastly, another method that might help bank’s lawyer and law firm customers combat these scams, is to clearly communicate its policies and procedures for remitting trust account funds. For example, if a law firm remits payment pursuant to the instructions of a scammer, and your institution has a policy of making lawyer trust account funds available immediately, there is little time to respond. If bank’s customer understands its funds availability policy, it might be better able to establish procedures of its own for processing client funds. 

In conclusion, the best way to combat scams of all kinds is to be aware of common schemes, signs, and how to spot them. Communication and education with bank customers is an important aspect in stopping scammers. 

If you have any questions on this topic or other matters of compliance, contact WBA’s legal call program at 608-441-1200 or wbalegal@wisbank.com

Birrenkott is WBA assistant director – legal. For legal questions, please email wbalegal@wisbank.com

Note: The above information is not intended to provide legal advice; rather, it is intended to provide general information about banking issues. Consult your institution’s attorney for special legal advice or assistance. 

By, Cassie Krause