The following is a brief interview between WBA President and CEO Rose Oswald Poels and Glenwood City’s Hiawatha National Bank President and CEO James W. Meisser. Read past interviews here.
Rose: How did you first get into the banking industry?
James: Immediately after college graduation, I joined the FDIC and worked in the regulatory arena for 25 years. Shortly after retirement, my wife and I relocated to Wisconsin to manage and grow a small community bank franchise.
What is your favorite aspect of your role at your bank?
There are three aspects I would highlight as part of my role at the bank. The first is meeting and interacting with our clients, the second is mentoring clients and employees, and the third is creating solutions to problems.
What do you wish the general public understood about the banking industry?
Regulatory oversight. So often, clients are frustrated by the requests for their financial information citing, “Again, you know me, my business is doing great.” The regulators expect us to trust but verify.
Where do you believe the industry’s greatest challenges are in the next 3–5 years?
The greatest challenges I foresee are the rise of fintech companies, increased cyber/fraud attacks, and credit unions continuing to utilize their tax-exempt status to acquire community banks.
Please describe your current role at your bank and share with us one of your more rewarding experiences.
In many of the communities we serve, we are the only bank in town. For example, we have two offices in areas with populations of 120 and 338. We take very seriously our commitment to positively impact these communities with tailored charitable and lending support. For example, over the past year we have made significant donations to the local public libraries, which provide vital services in the communities we serve.
It is extremely rewarding to see our clients grow and prosper as we work together as financial partners. We have a Hudson-based client that we worked with on the formation of the business, multiple cash flow issues, and finally a multi-million-dollar sale. This client has repeatedly told us he would not have succeeded without our support. That is why we do what we do.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we provided more than $110 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Round One and another $30 million in PPP Round Two to assist individuals and businesses impacted by the virus. Additionally, despite numerous COVID-related employee absences, all employees were paid 100% of their salaries plus an additional bonus to assist in the unprecedented times. At Hiawatha National Bank, you are not just an employee, you are family.
We are continuing to implement our nationwide initiative Banking without Barriers (BWB), targeted specifically to the deaf and hard of hearing community of which I am proud to be a life-long member.