Triangle Background

By Nicholas Felder, MidWestOne Bank, Lancaster

As the 2021 year wraps up and the 2022 year jets off to a roaring start, we, as bankers, prepare ourselves to renew partnerships with customers and prospects alike. Tasks we as bankers regularly undertake are innumerable. We look to assist with financial statement review & projection evaluation, and to challenge producers to look introspectively at their operations in both a macro– and micro-sense. We encourage them to work with their advisory groups more closely or, in some extreme cases, make changes to long-term partnerships that have gotten stale and now lack the drive for symbiotic gains. We assist in capital planning and the rationalization of purchases with 50% to 200% increases in cost if the item being acquired is available within 500 miles. We inquire about the stability of their internal labor force or challenges being faced by suppliers. We also tiptoe around the highly politicized COVID-19 discussion and hope the visit ends without it being brought up. All of this while making sure that family remains a priority in each of their lives. These interactions occur irregularly a few times a year to as often as weekly updates.

Commodity prices, weather and natural disasters, supply chain management, labor, interest rates, inflation (or sometimes hyperinflation), and on– and off-farm accidents all lead to increases in stress and anxiety for ag producers across this country. Farming is a lifestyle, a business, a legacy. Something that each will give every last breath to retain. One item that I believe is missing from our regular interactions with customers and prospects is a review of their mental health. The quality and future successes of both short– and long-term decisions are highly correlated to the mental well-being of the person making the decisions at that point in time. What can we do to assist in this aspect of our value-added services and increase the likelihood of success?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that rural communities have nearly double the suicide rates of urban areas. It’s pretty obvious what are the two major contributors: 1) daily life and the stressors indicated above and 2) fewer mental health resources due to the rural nature of the communities where they reside. Bankers are often relied upon to act as sounding boards for all sorts of decisions and thought processes. Sometimes even dispute resolution between family or spouses. Successes and failures are not necessarily evidence of the current state of mental well-being and should not be assumed.

With COVID-19 and its resulting isolations from family, friends, and outlets for celebration or consolation, these noted stressors will have been layered upon one another over the past two years. If not appropriately mastered by the individual, this resulting onion will need to be delicately peeled away layer by layer by trained professionals. Newly funded (2021) partnerships of UW-Platteville & DATCP as well as a grant received by SWCAP and UW-Madison are looking to address the mental health needs of Wisconsin farmers and workers. These projects “seek to engage farmers, family members, workers, and the wide range of individuals that provide products, services, technical information and support to those in the industry who produce the food and farm products that keep us healthy and safe during these challenging times.” Farmers are the key to the economic health & success of the entire country as well as the health and success of everyone therein.

These resources can be found at:  https://farms.extension.wisc.edu/farmstress

I challenge each of you to be an advocate for mental health this spring not only for each of your customers or prospects, but also for yourself. Make a point to review how people are feeling and connect those who may need additional assistance with the resources needed to be a productive, successful member of each one’s community.

Felder is vice president, commercial and ag banking, with MidWestOne Bank in Lancaster and currently serves on the WBA Agricultural Bankers Section Board of Directors.

The Wisconsin Bankers Association is headed back to Washington D.C. this spring, and we invite you to join us! As we have in the past, WBA will be joining with both the American Bankers Association and Independent Community Bankers of America for our spring Washington visits and will be scheduling Hill visits with those in our congressional delegation willing to meet with us in person.   

The first trip will be the WBA/ABA Washington Summit, scheduled for March 7–9, 2022. There is a virtual option to this Summit as well. For more information and to register, please visit www.aba.com/summit.

Please note that the District of Columbia has implemented a citywide vaccination entry requirement which requires bankers attending the Summit in person to provide proof of vaccination upon arrival at the Marriott Marquis hotel. Proof of a negative PCR test is not acceptable. Masks will also be required during all Summit-related events, except when actively eating or drinking. 

The second trip will be the WBA/ICBA Capital Summit, May 1–4, 2022. Registration for this event will open very soon. For more information, please visit www.icba.org/capitalsummit.

WBA members are welcome on either trip regardless of whether your bank is a member of one of the national trade groups. Make your voice heard and join WBA at one of these two advocacy trips! If you have any questions, please contact WBA’s Rose Oswald Poels.

On January 28, SBA released Procedural Notice 5000-827666 regarding SBA loan reviews of PPP Lender partial approval forgiveness decisions. The notice outlines a new process to allow PPP Borrowers to request an SBA loan review of partial approval forgiveness decisions issued by their PPP Lenders. The procedures in the notice apply to loan forgiveness decisions submitted by Lenders to SBA through both the regular forgiveness process as well as the Direct Borrower Forgiveness process. The notice is effective January 27, 2022.

The notice reiterates the process for a partial approval forgiveness decision and the steps that need to be taken by the Lender when it receives a forgiveness application from a Borrower. The notice also outlines a new process for borrower requests of SBA loan review of a partial approval forgiveness decision.

Starting from the effective date of the notice, when a Lender receives a forgiveness remittance from SBA on a partial approval decision, including where the Lender required the borrower to apply for forgiveness in an amount less than the full amount of the loan, the Lender’s post-forgiveness remittance notification must inform the borrower that the borrower has 30 calendar days from receipt of the notification to seek, through the Lender, an SBA loan review of the Lender’s partial approval decision. Within five calendar days of a Lender’s receipt of a borrower’s timely request for an SBA loan review, the Lender must notify SBA through the Platform. The Lender’s notice to SBA of the borrower’s timely request for review must include a copy of the Lender’s notice to the borrower of the reason(s) for the Lender’s partial approval decision. SBA reserves the right to review the Lender’s decision at its sole discretion.

Additionally, within 30 calendar days of the date of the notice, Lenders must notify all of their borrowers on loans that previously received a partial forgiveness remittance from SBA as a result of Lender partial approval decisions, including where the Lender required the borrower to apply for forgiveness in an amount less than the full amount of the PPP loan, that the borrower has 30 calendar days from receipt of the Lender notification to seek, through the Lender, an SBA loan review of the Lender’s partial approval decision. Within five calendar days of the Lender’s receipt of a borrower’s timely request for an SBA loan review, the Lender must notify SBA through the Platform. The Lender’s notice to SBA of the borrower’s timely request for review must include a copy of the Lender’s prior notice to the borrower of the reason(s) for the Lender’s partial approval decision. Again, SBA reserves the right to review the Lender’s partial approval decision at its sole discretion.

In either circumstance, if SBA selects the loan for an SBA loan review as a result of the borrower’s request, the borrower must continue to make payments on the remaining balance of the loan, and the loan is not deferred.

If SBA determines, as a result of the SBA loan review, that the borrower is entitled to forgiveness in an amount greater than the Lender’s partial approval decision and SBA has previously remitted a partial forgiveness payment to the Lender, SBA will remit an additional forgiveness payment to the Lender to make up the difference. SBA will issue an additional Notice of Paycheck Protection Program Forgiveness Payment (Payment Notice) to the Lender.

If the SBA loan review results in a higher forgiveness amount, but less than full forgiveness, SBA will also issue a final SBA loan review decision to the Lender. The Lender must provide a copy of the Payment Notice and, if applicable, the final SBA loan review decision, to the borrower within 5 business days of the remittance and comply with applicable requirements of the Lender Responsibilities Notice. If a borrower has begun making payments on their loan and the SBA loan review results in full forgiveness, the Lender must refund all payments made by the borrower.

If the SBA loan review results in a higher forgiveness amount, but less than full forgiveness, the lender must re-amortize the PPP loan and refund any excess payments made by the borrower.

Note: PPP Borrowers that have received full denial forgiveness decisions from their Lenders should continue to follow the process outlined in the Interim Final Rule on Loan Forgiveness Requirements and Loan Review Procedures as amended by the Economic Aid Act (86 FR 8283, February 5, 2021), as amended.

Lenders may call the Lender Hotline at (833) 572-0502 for live assistance regarding PPP access and support, policy questions and procedures, and Capital Access Financial System (CAFS) and SBA’s Electronic Transmission (E-Tran) systems support. Questions concerning the notice may be directed to the Lender Relations Specialist in the local SBA Field Office.

Notice 5000-827666 is posted on the WBA website.

Rose Oswald PoelsBy Rose Oswald Poels

I have worked full time at WBA now for almost 29 years and have had the pleasure of interacting with my colleagues (legal counsels and state association executives) from around the country at various American Bankers Association (ABA) and Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA) events throughout that time. Every banking association is focused on the same general priorities of advocating on behalf of their members in each state and with our respective congressional delegations for the good of the entire collective banking industry, as well as providing member value through various products and services. All these state associations are a family in the sense that we all are working to better the banking industry.

Particularly in the advocacy space, congressional and federal regulatory action impacts the franchise value of every bank in the country. Consequently, each state association must do its part to help elect individuals to office who are “B” for banking, and nurture relationships with their members of Congress to at least have constructive dialogue with them on issues important to the industry. The strength of our industry is inextricably tied to the strength of each individual state association working collectively with each other on these common goals. To accomplish this, we need bankers to support the trade associations in the states in which they do business, and we need the state associations to work cooperatively with each other. Unfortunately, the latter is not currently happening.

I learned last spring that the California Bankers Association (CBA) filed an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) seeking federal trademark registration of trademark “WBA.” The application was filed in late 2017, just prior to their merger with the Western Independent Bankers (WIB) organization. After CBA’s merger with WIB, CBA changed its name to Western Bankers Association. Unfortunately, the USPTO issued the federal trademark registration in February 2020 despite the Wisconsin Bankers Association’s existing and long-standing trademark rights in the trademark “WBA,” and despite the likely similar rights of two other state banking associations in the trademark “WBA.” None of the trade association executives from the state associations with rights in the mark “WBA” were made aware of this filing by CBA.

Given the common law trademark rights the Wisconsin Bankers Association has long held in the “WBA” trademark, this situation is untenable. Last May, I joined my colleagues from Washington and Wyoming in a virtual meeting with Steve Andrews, the current Western Bankers Association President and CEO, to attempt to discuss and resolve this situation, with our requests including that he voluntarily surrender this federal trademark registration with the USPTO. It was clear in that conversation that Mr. Andrews believed they had an asset worth protecting and surrender of the registration was unlikely. The three state associations with rights in the mark “WBA” then attempted to settle with the Western Bankers Association through our respective attorneys throughout last fall.  When it became clear that an amicable final resolution would not happen, we initiated an administrative legal action in the USPTO in November seeking cancellation of CBA’s federal trademark registration.

Efforts by many association colleagues to encourage Mr. Andrews to work out these legal issues have continued, but instead he has chosen to double down on his position. In the case of the WBA trademark registration, the Western Bankers Association chose to file a response in the pending action denying our claims on January 3, 2022, so that action now continues to the discovery phase. If this legal action proceeds through the full trial schedule, the case will continue well into 2023.

To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time that an individual state bankers association has attempted to federally register a trademark in which another state bankers association owns prior trademark rights. It is incredibly disappointing that another peer association would take this action, which knowingly and purposely harms other associations and their members. I know that we all could use the money we are spending on legal fees in other ways for the benefit of all of you rather than engaging in this family feud.

Since this is the first time WBA has been a party in a legal action of this type, I wanted to bring this matter to your attention since you are members, and, therefore, owners of WBA. Furthermore, I am aware that the Western Bankers Association is regularly emailing and soliciting banks outside of the state of California for membership and for participation in their education programs, including many of you. Please consider their actions in this matter when you receive this type of communication. If you have any questions on our legal action, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly.

The WBA Agricultural Bankers Section Board is excited to announce that registration is now open for the annual WBA Agricultural Bankers Conference, which will return in person on April 6–7, 2022 at the Kalahari Resort & Convention Center in Wisconsin Dells.

This year’s conference will help prepare ag bankers for the many conversations that take place between farm client and banker. Whether good times or bad, high prices or low, the perfect weather or the most unusual weather events in history; Wisconsin ag bankers continue to provide those “value-added conversations” beyond the traditional financing discussions.

In addition to the dairy and commodity market outlook sessions that have become staples of the annual conference, attendees will hear from attorney Dan Purtell on the topic of farm transition planning. Each family farm presents unique challenges and opportunities when it comes to transition planning, and Purtell has seen it all. Sharing best practices learned from experiencing the good, the bad, and the ugly, Purtell will also include time for audience Q&A with his presentation.

Farmer Mac economist, Greg Lyons, advises bankers to “ride the bull with a helmet” as he shares his agricultural economic outlook for 2022. Farmers and ranchers are entering 2022 with strong market prices, surging land values, and more cash on hand than any point since the commodity supercycle. This session will cover early indications of 2022 incomes for producers in Wisconsin, as well as what pitfalls could knock this bull market on its heels. How deeply will inflation cut into producer profitability? Can we rely on strong agricultural exports if China is a top trade market?

Will a rising rate environment end land value growth? Lyons’ session will review these and other questions as we seek to answer just how comfortable lenders can be with the current strong state of the agricultural sector. In addition to a great lineup of speakers and presentations, attendees will enjoy the always valuable networking that takes place throughout the conference. An exhibit hall of trusted partners will showcase the latest in ag finance products and services and provide a place for value added conversations during breaks and meals.

Make plans to join your fellow ag bankers in the Dells, April 6–7. You can find more information on the conference agenda, room block details, and more at www.wisbank.com/ag.

By Hannah Flanders

In 2008, Leah Wilson was awarded the Wisconsin Bankers Foundation (WBF) Spring Scholarship, which, at that time, was the Wisconsin Bankers Association’s (WBA) Retail Banking Section “Technical College” Scholarship. While a lot has changed since the mid-2000s not only in Wilson’s career, but also in the banking industry; some things remain absolutely the same — bankers’ commitment to their communities and to the future success of the banking industry

Between her junior and senior year in high school, Wilson began her career in banking as a teller at Mid-Wisconsin Bank in Neillsville. Shortly after, she had decided that a career in banking would align well with her passion for business and math while also allowing her to work within the office setting she had always envisioned.

In the last several years, Wilson has held many positions throughout the bank from teller to personal banker and is now assistant vice president – mortgage lender and assistant branch manager at Citizens State Bank of Loyal in Neillsville. Her expertise in the industry is a result of her dedication to bettering her community and understanding how to navigate her career path.

As she looks back upon the last 14 years in the banking industry, she credits WBA’s scholarship for her ability to further her education at Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) in Eau Claire. While in the business management program, she was able to complete many courses that continue to be beneficial to her career.

In addition to the CVTC courses she pursued with the scholarship, Wilson has attended several courses offered by WBA, including Residential Mortgage Lending School and Lending Boot Camp, that have allowed continuous growth in her career. “I have learned a lot through the education opportunities provided by the WBA,” says Wilson. “I would encourage people to familiarize themselves with these opportunities and use them.”

Within the community banking environment, in which she has spent much of her career, Wilson has been able to take advantage of many opportunities offered in the bank to further explore several different departments and discover which career path was best suited for her goals and interests. The opportunities, provided in part by WBA and her bank, have allowed Wilson to take ownership of the career path she desired as well as continue to grow alongside the industry — long after the scholarship was awarded.

Ultimately, the opportunities have provided Wilson access to what she considers to be some of the “endless benefits of working in a community bank,” including the ability to build strong relationships with customers, develop deeper connections within the community, and develop her own path that aligns with her goals and interests.

Triangle Background
Adriene Wright

Adriene Wright

By Hannah Flanders

Adriene Wright not only brings more than 25 years of retail banking experience to her students, but she also mentors and supports them through the BankWork$ program and beyond. As an instructor in the program partnered with Employ Milwaukee, CareerWork$, and the Wisconsin Bankers Association (WBA), Wright is able to provide individuals the banking 101 entry-level training needed to fill positions with numerous partner banks.

Wright began her retail banking career as a teller and progressed to a learning and development instructor training new hires. Not only did this role prepare her for her transition to BankWork$ in terms of her retail banking abilities, but it gave her the opportunity to give back to her community and the industry.

“Through the [program’s] eight weeks of training, practice, coaching, and feedback, the students graduate with a clear knowledge of [the] expectations to be successful in banking,” says Wright. “This includes the topics of banking 101, professionalism, attendance, dress code, customer service, rapport, public speaking, technology, team building, sales skills, building relationships, resume building, and interviewing skills.”

Currently, the BankWork$ program in Wisconsin has 14 partner banks and growing interest throughout the state. This could potentially result in growing class sizes, more locations, and new partnerships. BankWork$ recruits from diverse communities with an emphasis on underserved, low-income, and unemployed individuals who are looking for the opportunities to grow and have a successful career. This means not only that these young adults bring “a fierce commitment and drive to never give up,” according to Wright, but their wide range of education, work experience, and languages introduce important factors of diversity and inclusion that align with banks’ missions.

Many BankWork$ graduates are successfully retained and often promoted from their entry-level positions to roles in supervision or management. When these individuals have the ability to provide for themselves and their families, they are able to begin imagining their future and setting goals.

Building confidence, banking knowledge, and providing students with both in-person and virtual skills is critical in ensuring that students feel prepared to put their talents into practice on their first day on the job. In their partnership with 13 other sites nationwide, Wright and her fellow BankWork$ instructors have the ability to make a substantial difference for employers with positions to fill. The role of BankWork$ instructors is unique and impactful in that they help employers, job seekers, and their communities.

Wright’s passion and experience in helping new hires become successful in the banking industry has touched the lives of many in the Milwaukee area. Beyond her compassion for her community, Wright aspires to prepare her students for a stable career and opportunities rather than just a job.

By Daryll J. Lund

The Wisconsin Bankers Association Employee Benefits Corporation, Inc. (WBA EBC) was formed in 1982 and as our Association Health Plan (AHP) begins its fourth year, I would like to thank each WBA member that has chosen to trust us for their insurance needs.

The flexibility of our high-quality health benefits (dental insurance, medical insurance, prescription drug plans, and vision) as well as life and disability insurance are typically reserved for large employers but — through the purchasing power of WBA EBC — are offered exclusively to WBA members at preferred prices. In the last three years alone, our member banks have collectively saved $1.8 million thanks to their member-driven AHP.

This year we are pleased that nearly 40 banks throughout the state have chosen the WBA AHP through UnitedHealthcare for their health insurance program. Through your enrollment in our AHP, 1,800 members will have access to affordable, highquality benefits and insurance throughout Wisconsin. In addition, our partnership with Lincoln Financial provides life and disability coverage for 10,000 members and our Delta Dental plans cover 7,000 members.

I, along with WBA EBC Vice President Brian Siegenthaler and our dedicated team look forward to continuing to assist you and your employees through our one-stop-shop for members enrollment and administration. We thank you once again for choosing WBA EBC to provide for the well-being of all employees in your organization.

Visit www.wisbankins.com or contact Brian Siegenthaler at bsiegenthaler@wisbank.com or 608-441-1211 to learn more about the advantages we offer.