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.

CSB Chief Financial Officer Peter Schumacher with his grandchildren (far left and right), and CSB Universal Banker Kacie Rose with her son.

Community State Bank (CSB) recently completed their 4th year of #Gift2Giving, an employee directed donation program. Each CSB employee was presented with $100 to donate back into the communities of Racine, Kenosha, and Walworth counties. Community State Bank is very proud to announce that 100% of their employees participated in contributing over $10,000 towards local non-profit organizations throughout Southeast Wisconsin.

Campaign funds were distributed among 12 non-profit organizations. CSB employees were encouraged to work together and combine their #Gift2Giving funds to create a larger impact with their donations. This year Community State Bank also provided an opportunity for staff to make personal donations. Before campaign funds were released Community State Bank surprised employees by matching all personal donations.

“I love this campaign and everything it stands for,” said Community State Bank President and CEO Scott Huedepohl. “Our employees pour their hearts into these donations and it’s their way of saying ‘thank you’ to an organization that has impacted them personally or at a community level.”

One of the recipients of this year’s campaign was Children’s Hospital – Kenosha Campus. Community State Bank CFO Peter Schumacher and CSB universal banker Kacie Rose shared their heartfelt donation stories about how Children’s Hospital had personally helped their family members. The donation was hand delivered by Schumacher, his grandchildren, Rose, and her son.

“Children’s Hospital is a remarkable organization. They helped my granddaughter with her early battle with hip dysplasia. It meant a lot to be able to hand deliver a donation with her and show our appreciation to the staff for all that they do.”

Another recipient of this year’s campaign was Willow Creek Ranch, a non-profit therapeutic riding center for children and adults with special needs. 16 Community State Bank employees collaborated their #Gift2Giving funds, in addition to making personal donations.

“Willow Creek Ranch was very touched by the generous financial gift from the Community State Bank staff,” explained Founder of Willow Creek Ranch, Jennifer Pape. “This gift will help more people in our surrounding community receive services that use the unique abilities of horses. It also brings awareness of volunteer opportunities for this special program.”

NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) of Kenosha County also received a #Gift2Giving donation. NAMI provides advocacy, education, support, and public awareness for individuals and families affected by mental illness. 25 CSB employees combined their #Gift2Giving funds and made personal donations for a grand total of $3,000.

“As an employee of Community State Bank, I appreciate that we’re able to do #Gift2Giving each and every year,” said, CSB Kenosha Market President, Robert Pieroni. “The campaign is a gift to our staff and the organizations receiving the donations, and I think our journal entries that we share are proof of that.”

Community State Bank has documented employee donation stories through an online blog filled with written and video testimonials. A full list of those stories can be found at CSB.bank/gift2giving.

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.

Mike Molepske, chief executive officer of Bank First (NASDAQ: BFC), is pleased to announce the promotion of Derek Klahn to Plymouth market president. Klahn joined the bank in 2014 as a business analyst and continues to be an essential member of the Sheboygan County business banking team, most recently serving as senior vice president – business banking. In his new role, Klahn will be responsible for the growth and development of the bank’s Plymouth market while providing mentorship to the staff at the Plymouth office.

“At Bank First, we take pride in supporting and encouraging employees to develop their careers and it has been a pleasure watching Derek progress,” stated Molepske. “Derek is a remarkable member of our business banking team and an excellent example of building leaders from within our organization.”

Klahn earned his bachelor of business administration degree from UW–Madison and earned his master of business administration degree from UW–Milwaukee. Active in his community, Klahn is a member of the Sheboygan Downtown Rotary where he serves as president elect. He also volunteers at First United Lutheran Church in Sheboygan and serves on the church’s endowment board. In his spare time, Klahn enjoys fishing, hunting, golfing, and spending time with family and friends. Klahn resides in Sheboygan with his wife, Shannon, and their two children.

First National Bank of River Falls President and CEO Jeff Johnson has recently announced the promotion of Emily Bennig to the title of retail experience officer.

Bennig started her career at the bank in May of 2016 as a new high school graduate, and was promoted multiple times while working at the bank throughout her college years at UW-River Falls. Bennig will continue to provide leadership to the River Falls teller and receptionist team, oversight of overall teller operations, and input toward creating the best customer experience possible at FNBRF. Additionally, she will serve as the bank’s advocacy officer to help coordinate and disseminate regulatory, legislative, and community advocacy efforts on behalf of the bank.

“Emily has grown leaps and bounds throughout her five-plus years with the bank, and she continues to willingly accept increasing levels of responsibility”, remarked Johnson. “She displays an incredible amount of maturity, and her future here at FNBRF is very bright.”

Bennig has volunteered countless hours of local community service throughout her time with the bank. Bennig and her fiancé Brandon enjoy spending their free time up north with family and antiquing.

Children enjoying their books from Imagination Library through Menominee County ISD.

The Stephenson National Bank & Trust (SNBT) has a long history of aiding the needs of local non-profits, whether it be teaching financial lessons, volunteering countless hours, or making monetary donations.

“SNBT truly believes in not only developing lifelong banking relationships, but also in doing as much good as we can in the communities we serve, especially in these trying times.” said Daniel J. Peterson, SNBT president and CEO.

That’s why each year, SNBT makes monetary donations to non-profits. This year, donations were made to organizations in Marinette, Oconto, and Brown Counties in Wisconsin and Menominee and Marquette Counties in Michigan. In total, $200,000 was given to help local non-profits fulfill their mission. Below are stories from 2021 recipients sharing how the donations from SNBT impacted their organization. Sharing their stories with friends, family, and community members can help encourage others to join in and consider supporting one of the many worthy causes in the community.

Rainbow House Domestic Abuse Services, Inc. Pictured is Marinette County Legal Advocate, Joette Koronkiewicz, presenting a camera to Sergeant Ben Matzke.

Menominee County ISD is using their donation to continue the Imagaination Library in Menominee and Marinette Counties. The Imagination Library provides FREE books to children 0–5 enrolled in the program each month, regardless of family income. Research shows that having a personal library of 60–80 books before kindergarten sets a child up for success with early literacy rates and decreases the likelihood of substance use disorders later in life. Reading to a child from birth also promotes bonding and security between child and guardian.

Rainbow House Domestic Abuse Services, Inc. used the contribution to purchase cameras for Marinette County law enforcement to collect forensic evidence in domestic violence cases. These cameras take RAW images, that can be processed through Secure Digital Forensic Imaging software. As a result, previously undetected evidence, such as bruising under the skin, can be used in the prosecution of perpetrators of violence. Pictured is Marinette County Legal Advocate, Joette Koronkiewicz, presenting a camera to Sergeant Ben Matzke.

Dedicated kitchen staff preparing and packaging meals at Marinette County Elderly Services, for delivery to home bound seniors.

Marinette County Elderly Services will be using the donation to purchase a commercial dishwasher for their Crivitz Meal Site. In 2021, the agency provided nearly 50,000 meals to seniors throughout Marinette County. As the numbers of participants rises, so does the need for updated kitchen equipment. The commercial dishwasher will help them to continue providing services safely and efficiently. Below is a photo of dedicated kitchen staff preparing and packaging meals for delivery to home bound seniors.

Guests at Altrusa House of Green Bay.

Altrusa House of Green Bay serves the rural populations of Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula. Families and individuals of all ages and backgrounds going through medical crisis stay at Altrusa House to be close to the hospitals and be a part of a community. SNBT’s donation will go towards their Adopt-a-Day program which helps support the operations of the house and reduces the financial burden to families. This year the donation supported 15 nights of stay for guests.

For more information on any of these groups and their missions in our community, contact the organization directly or contact SNBT. To learn more about the projects that SNBT supports, visit www.snbt.com/mybankforgood.

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.