Waukesha State Bank, a 14-branch independent community bank in Waukesha County, is proud to announce the addition of Donna Bembenek, president of Catholic Memorial High School; Laura Gutiérrez, executive director of the United Community Center; and Sarit Singhal, president & CEO of SSR/Total IT to its board of directors.

“We are delighted to welcome Donna, Laura, and Sarit to our board of directors,” stated Ty R. Taylor, Waukesha State Bank president & CEO. “They are each leaders in their respective industries, and their individual professional experience with sales, marketing, education, operations, leadership, and technology will be invaluable to Waukesha State Bank as we continue to grow.”

Donna Bembenek

Donna Bembenek has a unique background as a leader in publicly traded, closely held and nonprofit organizations. Her early success in senior sales and marketing roles gives her a bottom-line focus and external facing expertise. She has worked at financial services firms, media companies, at the local and national level of the YMCA, and is currently the president of Catholic Memorial High School.

Bembenek holds a master’s degree in business administration from Alverno College, a bachelor’s degree in public relations and marketing from the University of Wisconsin – Whitewater and attended the Graduate School of Banking at the University of Wisconsin. In addition to serving on the corporate board of Waukesha State Bank, Bembenek has served as the staff liaison for several board committees of previous employers and is active in the community, serving on the board for several community organizations.

Laura Gutiérrez

Laura Gutiérrez is the executive director of the United Community Center (UCC), one of the largest non-profits in Milwaukee. UCC serves clients on the city’s Southside, ages 6 weeks to 100-years-old+, in programs from Early Childhood Education to elderly care. Prior to joining the United Community Center, Gutiérrez held several leadership positions within private and public education. Most recently, Gutiérrez served as secretary of the state of Wisconsin’s Department of Safety and Professional Services, overseeing a staff of more than 250 and managing a biennial budget of $100M.

Gutiérrez earned her master’s degree in leadership and policy from Marquette University and her bachelor’s degree from Carroll University. Gutiérrez has been recognized for her leadership and impact on the community through a variety of awards, including Milwaukee Business Journal’s “Women of Influence” award and being named to the “Milwaukee-area Power Brokers” list. She was also named a recipient of the 2022 Marquette University “Alumni National Award” and Carroll University “Distinguished Alumni Award.” She serves on the board of the Johnson Foundation at Wingspread and is an active member of Milwaukee Women, Inc., an organization focused on increasing the representation of women on boards of directors to improve Wisconsin businesses.

Sarit Singhal

Sarit Singhal holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering with a minor in computer science from the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee and founded SSR/Total IT in 1996 to design, implement and proactively manage information technology strategies for small to mid-sized organizations. As CEO, Singhal focuses on strategy, innovation, collaborative leadership, and execution of objectives for SSR and its clients.

In addition to serving on the corporate board of Waukesha State Bank, Singhal is a board member for several organizations including Sharp Literacy, Sentry Equipment, and the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce’s (MMAC) Council of Small Business Executives (COSBE), where he also serves on the education committee. Passionate about education, entrepreneurship, and workforce development, Singhal supports programs helping students pave future successful careers. This led him to earning COSBE’s P. Michael Mahoney Award in 2018 in recognition of his exemplary service and volunteerism.

Waukesha State Bank’s board roster also includes: Carl Geraldson, chief financial officer, Precision Gears, Inc. (retired); Jody Lowe, president, The Lowe Group; Kenneth P. Riesch, president, R & R Insurance Services, Inc.; Daniel R. Shepard, executive vice president, Waukesha State Bank (retired); Fred G. Stier, CEO, Stier Construction, Inc.; Ty R. Taylor, president & CEO, Waukesha State Bank; and Beverly M. Chappie, director emeritus, executive director, Christoph Memorial YWCA (retired).

Waukesha State Bank would like to thank outgoing board members Susan Edwards, president & CEO of ProHealth Care, Inc.; Dr. Cindy Gnadinger, president of Carroll University; and Dr. Anselmo Villarreal, president & CEO of Southwest Key Programs, Inc. for their service.

Nearly 100 Employers Have Joined Statewide Effort to Encourage Employees to Save Automatically at Work 

America Saves Logo Wisconsin Saves Logo

In an increasingly competitive labor market, Wisconsin business owners are working to set themselves apart from other employers by offering a financial wellness benefit to employees: the ability to save automatically through their paycheck using the established practice of split deposit.  Nearly 100 small to mid-size employers in Wisconsin representing approximately 14,000 employees are now part of a statewide campaign to encourage workers to save automatically through their paycheck.  The Wisconsin Saves Automatic Saving Initiative encourages the use of split deposit in order to prepare for unexpected expenses including home repairs and car maintenance as well as fun opportunities like last minute travel.

The campaign was launched in April 2021 and is led by Wisconsin State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski; Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) Secretary-designee Cheryll Olson-Collins; President and CEO of Wisconsin Bankers Association Rose Oswald Poels; Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Cooperation (WWBIC) President Wendy Baumann; and America Saves, the leading national campaign in promoting savings.

The 99 employers are: Adams Transit Inc. ■ Aloekui Handmade Soap ■ Amcor Flexibles North America, Inc. ■ Apache Stainless Equipment Company ■ Apple Tree Educational Svc LLC ■ AppleTree Credit Union ■ AstroJun LLC ■ Badger Globe Credit Union ■ Bank of Kaukauna ■ Beaver Dam Chamber of Commerce ■ Bierock ■ Blumenfeld & Associates ■ Bluff View Bank ■ Breaking Barriers Mentoring Inc. ■ BSI ■ Cesarz Charapata & Zinnecker Funeral Home ■ City of Mayville ■ Class A Cleaning ■ Clinicare Corporation ■  Community First Credit Union ■ Cream City Caramels and Confections ■ CultureCon ■ Dairy State Bank ■ Dane County Credit Union ■ DCC ■ Don Johnson Motors ■ Edmund Mitchell Corporation ■ en.courage Nutrition ■ Evergreen Credit Union ■ F&M Bank – Kendall ■ First Community Bank ■ First State Bank ■  Fond du Lac Credit Union ■ Food is Fuel LLC ■ Fort Community Credit Union ■ Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce ■ GreenLeaf Bank ■ Heartland Credit Union ■ Hometown Pharmacy ■ Horizon Electric Company ■ Hurley Burish, S.C. ■ Indianhead Community Action Ag ■ Jan Pro Cleaning ■ Johnsville  ■ Kathy’s 2nd Chance Plants ■ Johnsville ■ lac courte oreilles ojibwe college ■ Lawrence University ■ Lee Hemp Farm, LLC ■ Los Parbulitos Daycare ■ MACHA ■ Madison Development Corporation ■ Madison Innovation Labs, LLC ■ Marie Hunt Beauty ■ Marshfield Area Chamber of Commerce & Industry ■ Marquette County ■ Mound City Bank ■ Mount Horeb Area School District ■ North Shore Fire Department ■ Organic Valley ■ Office of the Wisconsin State Treasurer ■ PCM Credit Union ■ Pindel Global Precision ■  Port Washington State Bank ■ Qlink  ■ Ripco Credit Union ■ Royal Credit Union ■ School District of Bayfield ■ School District of North Fond du Lac ■ Schuk Law, LLC ■ Securitas ■ Serigraph, Inc. ■  Specialty Coating Systems, Inc. ■ Summit Credit Union ■ TechLogix Networx ■ The American Deposit Management Co. ■ The Galleria of Tile ■ The Human Service Center ■ The QTI Group ■ The Stephenson National Bank & Trust ■ The Wisconsin Credit Union League ■ Town of Grand Chute ■ Train Up a Child Learning Center, LLC ■ UnitedOne Credit Union ■ Valley Packaging ■ Vesta Memory Care ■ Veterans Outreach of Wisconsin ■ Village of Frederic ■ Village of Saukville ■ Waukesha County Business Alliance, Inc. ■ Westbury Bank ■ Westby Coop Credit Union ■ WICPA ■ WiLS ■ Wisconsin Bankers Association ■ Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions ■ Wisconsin LGBT Chamber of Commerce ■ Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation

Recognizing that employers can serve as a powerful source of information for their workers, Wisconsin Saves helps support small to mid-size employers as they promote the ease and benefits of split deposit to their employees.  Often, these businesses have limited resources to focus on issues outside of their core business.  This effort empowers employers by equipping them with easy-to-use resources for their employees.

“Our goal with Wisconsin Saves is to help more Wisconsinites build emergency savings and save for the future,” said DFI Secretary-designee Olson-Collins.  “We know that saving automatically is the easiest and most effective way to save.  That’s why we enlisted the support of employers from all over Wisconsin to help promote saving automatically through split deposit.  This helps financially prepare more Wisconsinites for unexpected expenses and build financial security.”

Employers can sign up to participate in the Wisconsin Saves Automatic Saving Initiative at autosave.wisconsinsaves.org.

America Saves is a campaign managed by the nonprofit Consumer Federation of America that uses the principles of behavioral economics and social marketing to motivate, encourage, and support low-to-moderate income households to save money, reduce debt, and build wealth. America Saves encourages individuals and families to take the America Saves pledge and organizations to promote savings year-round and during America Saves Week. Since its inception, over 12,000 organizations have participated in America Saves Week to promote savings to their communities. Learn more at americasaves.org.

Supermarket racers collect $650 in food to benefit Milwaukee Christian Center

Two participants of the thirteenth annual Race for the Hungry event at El Rey Food Mart show off their carts stocked full of goods to be donated to the Milwaukee Christian Center.

North Shore Bank has announced its thirteenth annual Race for the Hungry event at El Rey Food Mart (1320 W. Burnham St.) on February 16, collected $652.31 in food to be donated to Milwaukee Christian Center. Race for the Hungry is an annual community event that challenges participants in a head-to-head competition to support local food pantries.

Representatives from the Milwaukee Christian Center teamed up to race through the supermarket aisles to fill the pantry’s wish list. The winner received a $100 gift card and the runner-up received a $50 card. North Shore Bank donated the food collected during the race to the pantry, feeding local families in need.

“We’re thrilled to once again be partnering with Milwaukee Christian Center to collect food for our neighbors during our thirteenth annual Race for the Hungry,” said Alfredo Martin, AVP and community engagement manager for Milwaukee’s southside communities. “We encourage everyone to get involved by donating non-perishables to Milwaukee Christian Center directly or providing a monetary donation through our Bank on Kindness website.”

For the second year, North Shore Bank is supporting Milwaukee Christian Center and other local food pantries through its Bank on Kindness give-back program. The public was able to donate directly to local food pantries of their choice through the community-focused website or by texting “Kindness” to 77938 through February 20. North Shore Bank matched all donations up to $500 for each non-profit.

Tips for creating more visually captivating photographs with just a cell phone

By Daniel Rivera

Once upon a time, all a business needed to grab a consumer’s attention was a catchy tagline. In today’s world, media channels are constantly evolving, and battling brands are always looking for ways to make their content stand out over the competition. Your social media posts reflect your bank’s brand and for your brand to stand out, your posts must do the same. We all know (at least we should know) that a social media post cannot rely solely on witty text to draw the attention of anyone scrolling through. At the same time though, just posting any photo will not do the trick either.

Despite what you may believe, you don’t need a fancy professional camera to take stellar photos. Most of the time, your smart phone will do the trick. Here are some simple tips for creating more visually captivating photographs with just your cell phone:

Look for the Light:

The first step to taking a great photo is to find the best light source and to adjust your shot accordingly. You want to make sure that your subject is well-lit while also not having them stare directly into the sun. Sometimes your options are limited, and your phone will adjust accordingly. However, if your phone is automatically setting the exposure too low, tap the screen on the area that is appearing too dark as you’re setting up your shot, and your phone will adjust the overall exposure to compensate for that part of the image.

Tell the Story:

Getting a great group photo isn’t just about gathering everyone for a quick picture. You’ll want to incorporate some elements into the frame that help tell the story. If you are raising money for breast cancer awareness, make sure everyone is wearing pink. If you’re sponsoring a concert in the community, be sure to show the musicians on stage by your bank’s banner. And if your bank is taking part in the town’s parade, show off the colorful float as well as anyone walking by it, ready with goodies to throw out to the crowd.

Make ’em Smile:

Happy people want to work with happy people. So, regardless of whether you’re trying to attract new customers or new employees, make sure those in your photos are showing you their best smiling faces.

Enhance Your Photos:

Sometimes, you can get a great-looking shot straight out of the camera that needs no additional work — but many times — your photo could use a little enhancing. Adjusting the brightness, contrast, color saturation, and crop of your photo are all you need to make your photo pop. You don’t even need to purchase a software subscription to make these simple edits either. Adobe has free mobile versions of their Photoshop and Lightroom programs, while Snapseed and PicMonkey are also great photo-editing options worth looking into, all available for Android and iOS devices.

Media and its impact on consumers is constantly evolving. So, now that you’re ready to take your smartphone photography to a whole new level, just imagine what you can do with your bank’s brand once you’ve taken it a step further with video!

Rivera is marketing coordinator at The Bank of New Glarus and a member of the 2021–2022 WBA Marketing Committee.

Bryant Greenfield and Sally Harvey were promoted to regional operations leader/officer for National Exchange Bank (NEBAT) on January 31, 2022.

Bryant Greenfield

Bryant Greenfield was promoted to regional operations leader/officer for the Brandon, Dalton, Kingston, Montello, Princeton, and Rosendale offices.

Greenfield joined the bank in 2015, bringing with him four years of experience with mortgage loans. For the past six years, he was worked as an operations & loans officer for the Brandon and Rosendale offices, where he led deposit operations and helped customers with their lending needs. In his new role, Greenfield will lead these offices in deposit operations by overseeing team member engagement, training and scheduling, procedural resource creation and maintenance, along with security and branch optimization.

Greenfield grew up in Waupun where he attended Central Wisconsin Christian High School. Afterwards, he attended Calvin College where he earned his bachelor’s degree in finance and economics. He now resides in Waupun, where he is active in the community as a Youth Group Leader for his church and a co-director of the Wisconsin Winter Retreat, a youth group annual retreat.

Sally Harvey

Sally Harvey was promoted to regional operations leader/officer for the region covering the Adell, Cedar Grove, Chilton, Elkhart Lake, Howards Grove, Marytown, and Sheboygan Falls offices.

Harvey joined the bank in 2013, as a member of the Elkhart Lake staff. She has held positions in customer service as a team leader, deposit operations manager, and operations officer throughout Sheboygan County where she oversaw the hiring and training of new staff, ensured smooth retail deposit operations, and continued to build a NEBAT presence in surrounding communities. In her new role, she will continue these while expanding her role to procedural resource creation and maintenance, and security and branch optimization for her region.

Harvey grew up in Plymouth, where she attended Plymouth High School. She has continued her financial industry education through the American Bankers’ Association (ABA) Center for Financial Training, completing courses in team leadership, supervisory skills, and bank operations.

Harvey now resides in Plymouth with her husband, Dave, where she is active in the community as a part of the Leadership Sheboygan County and the Sheboygan Falls Chamber in addition to the Main Street Promotions committee.

Rose Oswald PoelsBy Rose Oswald Poels

Monday, February 21 marked the beginning of Wisconsin Saves Week. Proclaimed by Wisconsin State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, the event occurs as part of the national America Saves Week and encourages Americans to establish financial responsibility and achieve stability through setting and achieving savings goals.

In countless ways, bankers already provide exceptional avenues for Wisconsinites looking to achieve financial wellness through daily activities. That is why I encourage each of you to raise awareness of the America Saves pledge. Tips, resources, and tools provided by America Saves following the completion of the pledge will help keep individuals on track to achieve their savings goals.

Each day of Wisconsin Saves Week, co-led by several Wisconsin organizations including the Wisconsin Bankers Association (WBA), centers on one of five critical areas of financial wellness to build financial resilience. The daily topics are as follows: Monday, February 21: Save Automatically; Tuesday, February 22: Save for the Unexpected; Wednesday, February 23: Save for Retirement; Thursday, February 24: Save by Reducing Debt; and Friday, February 25: Save as a Family.

In addition to promoting saving habits to Wisconsin communities, the Wisconsin Saves Automatic Saving Initiative, which launched in May of last year, will assist you in encouraging your employees to save automatically and establish emergency savings accounts — a necessity underscored by the COVID-19 pandemic. Your bank can sign up as an employer participant, and you can encourage your business customers to do the same. WBA is one of nearly 100 Wisconsin employers that has signed up to enable staff to automatically designate part of their payroll to go into a separate savings account. By signing up, Wisconsin businesses offer split deposit as an additional employee benefit, which can help to recruit and retain talent in the current competitive job market.

As always, sharing these resources with your employees, customers, families, and friends to create a better financial future for everyone is critical. We cannot predict the unexpected, but we can — and do — help others financially prepare for it.

Navigating, planning, and embracing change through a global pandemic

By Stefanie Bonesteel

To say the last two years have been a wild ride at Citizens Bank is an understatement. We had both our president and our CEO retire following lengthy careers at the bank. Then we completed a full core conversion, which included several projects and implementations before and after conversion. Next came an upgrade to our online banking and mobile app. As if a change in leadership and a complete system overhaul weren’t enough, like everyone else we were navigating through a global pandemic that brought lobby closures and staffing shortages, among other challenges.

With so many changes in a short period of time, we knew our internal communications would be paramount. Not only did our team members need to know what was coming and how it impacted them, we wanted our team to understand the “why” behind decisions as they were made, in order to gain their buy-in. Through our changes, some of the tactics we employed included:

A solid communication plan:

Just like communications to customers need to be planned out, messages to employees should be mapped out, as well. Thinking ahead helps you ensure all relevant parties are consulted and included, plus it allows you to group points together to cut down on the frequency of messages — which may mitigate the feeling of information overload. Prior to sharing, all communications were reviewed for accuracy and completeness to avoid the need to correct points or share missed details.

One source of information:

At Citizens, our intranet is the hub of what is happening at our bank. At the start of our core conversion, we created a special and separate area on the intranet to be The Spot where everything about the project was posted. Instead of searching through emails for relevant information, our team members knew they could find what they needed on the intranet. Email notifications would alert everyone when new content was added.

Separating the responsibility:

At any given time surrounding our conversion, we had two to four implementations going at once. We quickly realized that because the implementation managers were so focused on the minutia of their projects, we needed someone else who was involved but not quite as deep in the weeds to think about what needed to be shared and with whom. A communications point person for each project helped to keep the big picture in view.

Do your best to stay connected:

Fostering a sense of team is crucial during periods of intense change. While COVID prevented us from meeting in person during much of our transition, we made the most of meeting virtually. We also tasked a group who wasn’t directly involved with the conversion to be our sunshine committee. This got everyone involved while showing extra appreciation to those doing the heavy lifting. Because our team was accomplishing great things in the face of adversity, we adopted a superhero theme for the treats and care packages we assembled and sent out.


Bonesteel is senior vice president – marketing at Citizens Bank, Mukwonago and vice chair of the 2021–2022 WBA Marketing Committee.

This column is published bi-monthly in Wisconsin Banker and is written by members of the WBA Marketing Committee.

On February 25, Herb Lallemont marks 20 years as president and CEO of Waumandee State Bank.

Lallemont is a UW-Eau Claire graduate and an attendee of both the Minnesota School of Banking and the Wisconsin Banker’s Association (WBA) Commercial Lending school. Lallemont began his banking career in 1987. Prior to his time in Waumandee, he held a variety of management and leadership positions at banks in both Phillips and Baraboo. Lallemont was chosen by Waumandee State Bank’s board of directors to serve as president and CEO in 2002.

In addition to his job duties, Lallemont has performed other professional roles. He served five years as a member of WBA’s Insurance Trust board and took on the role of board president in his final year. He was also a member of the Financial Institution Products Corporation (FIPCO) board for three years.

Throughout his time at Waumandee State Bank, Lallemont has been an active volunteer in his community. Past volunteer roles include cub scout den leader, Arcadia Wrestling Club treasurer, and finance committee member for Arcadia’s Holy Family Parish and Catholic School. He’s also an active member of the Waumandee Lions Club.

In his time with Waumandee State Bank, Lallemont’s uncompromising attitude and friendly disposition have served him well. His vision for Waumandee State Bank has helped it continue to grow and thrive. Over the past 20 years, Waumandee State Bank has expanded throughout western Wisconsin with seven additional locations. As of 2022, Waumandee State Bank has eight different offices including Waumandee, Arcadia, Blair, Black River Falls, Durand, Fountain City, Mondovi, and Whitehall.

Waumandee State Bank congratulates Herb Lallemont on 20 years of exemplary leadership and community banking success.

Derek Klahn, Plymouth market president of Bank First (NASDAQ: BFC), is pleased to announce the promotion of Evelyn Green to vice president – retail banking at Bank First.

Green began her career at Bank First in 2017 with over 40 years of banking experience and is a vital member of the retail banking team serving in the bank’s Plymouth office. Active in her community, Green serves on the board of directors of Big Brothers Big Sisters Wisconsin Shoreline. She is also a firm believer in assisting aging seniors by volunteering her time delivering for Meals on Wheels and participating in other activities. Outside the office, she enjoys day trips exploring Wisconsin. Her passion is taking on new adventures with her children and husband — including roller skating, biking, trail running, and participating in all types of races throughout the state.

First Business Bank is pleased to announce the promotion of Chase Kostichka to vice president II – commercial real estate banking.

“Chase is a great team player and works very hard for his clients and First Business Bank,” said Bob Bell, senior vice president – director of commercial real estate banking. “I’m pleased his leadership and dedication are being recognized. Chase is a valuable asset to First Business Bank and our commercial real estate banking team.”

Kostichka has more than 15 years of experience in the financial services industry helping clients grow their businesses and avoid financial risk. His areas of focus include assisting commercial real estate and C&I relationships with financing strategies. He joined First Business Bank after spending seven years with M&I/BMO Harris Bank, most recently in the correspondent banking division focusing on C&I clients. During that time, he also completed the Corporate Banking Training Program, which involved credit training and exposure to various areas within the bank. Kostichka graduated with a bachelor of science degree in mathematics from UW-Stevens Point and was a four-year letter winner on the UW-Stevens Point football team. He earned an MBA in 2018 from Carroll University.