Photo courtesy of PNC Bank

By Paul Gores

The term “mobile banking” typically involves financial apps on smartphones. But for some banks and credit unions, mobile banking also comes on wheels.

More credit unions and banks around the U.S. have been adding mobile branches — trucks or RV-type vehicles outfitted with banking gear ranging from ATMs to teller windows to private loan offices — to reach out to their customers.

Large regional banks doing business in Wisconsin, such as PNC Bank and U.S. Bank, have had mobile branches for years, and PNC is building a bigger fleet. But the vast majority of the nation’s community banks don’t have mobile units, and credit unions tend to own them more often than banks.

In fact, in Wisconsin, a state-based credit union soon will be operating a full mobile branch — a 34-footlong vehicle that is expected to hit the road for Westby Co-op Credit Union this spring.

“We’ll go where our members need us,” said Art Shrader, chief business development officer for the $763 million-asset credit union, also called WCCU. Mobile Facilities LLC in Elkhart, Indiana, is putting the finishing touches on Westby Co-op’s mobile branch, one of up to six the company produces each year for financial institutions.

Matt Fuller, president of Mobile Facilities, said he’s seen more orders and interest in mobile branches in recent years as financial institutions have pared back on branch locations.

“There’s a lot of branches closing everywhere, so they’re looking for other ways to reach out to these smaller communities where it just doesn’t make sense to have a brick-and-mortar branch anymore,” Fuller said.

Fuller said the mobile branches his company makes range from a 23-foot vehicle that costs about $159,000 to a 40-foot financial center on wheels that sells for around $295,000. The key feature of the 23-footer is an ATM, while the 40-footer can include just about whatever the financial institution wants, he said. “Some of them want teller windows on the inside, some want them on the outside. Some want restrooms, some don’t. Some want a lobby area, some want an office area,” Fuller said.

Mobile Facilities offers multiple mobile branch floor plans.

“We install restrooms, all the furniture and fixtures, of course air conditioning, heating, generators, wheelchair lifts on some of the bigger units,” Fuller said.

Fuller said the most popular mobile bank vehicles his company produces are its 29-foot and 34-foot units.

Photo courtesy of PNC Bank

The smaller Mobile Facilities mobile banks are built on a Ford E-450 Super Duty chassis, while the largest are crafted on a Freightliner M2 chassis. The vehicles use only two axles and weigh less than 26,000 pounds, which means they don’t need a specially licensed driver.

Fuller said it typically takes his company eight to nine months to complete a mobile branch vehicle.

Florida-based MBF Industries, Inc. (mbfindustries.com) is another supplier of mobile bank branches, including some built for PNC Bank.

PNC Bank is a big believer in the usefulness of mobile branches. It has a fleet of 12 so far in several sizes and expects to have 20 in all by the end of next year.

While PNC will dispatch the mobile branches to provide banking services where there’s been a natural disaster, its branches-on-wheels are used regularly as community outreach tools, said Chris Hill, senior vice president and PNC mobile branch channel manager.

When PNC Financial Services Chief Executive Officer William Demchak went through a new unit in 2018, he suggested the company build a fleet that could serve low- and moderate-income neighborhoods, Hill said. Now, working with community partners, PNC’s mobile units make regular visits to areas of Baltimore, Chicago, and Detroit, offering not only account-opening services but often financial education to people who might otherwise be outside of mainstream banking. The bank plans to expand the program to more major metro areas in the U.S.

“We have a 30-foot truck that we use for a variety of things, but it’s really what we use in our community outreach,” Hill said. “The employees don’t handle cash. We call it a cashless branch. So we don’t do any tellering services, but we do everything else.”

The unit includes a deposit-taking ATM, so people can make an account-opening deposit at the mobile branch. The bankers — there are always at least two — can issue debit cards on the spot.

“That’s pretty powerful for the consumer — we’ve come to them,” Hill said. “We haven’t asked them to come to us. We’ve brought banking to them.”

U.S. Bank has used its two mobile units mostly at natural disaster scenes. For instance, one unit went to the Bowling Green area when a tornado devastated parts of western Kentucky in mid-December last year.

“After a disaster our customers have appreciated the opportunity to bank right in their own town, typically near where the branch was,” said Doug Reier, senior vice president of operations process and delivery for U.S. Bank. “And our employees are happy to have a place to call a temporary home to work.”

Westby Co-op Credit Union’s Shrader said the new mobile branch is a way for the financial institution to serve all parts of its area better.

“We serve a rural area, and we have populations of Amish throughout the areas as well as non-Amish, and we need to go where our members need us,” Shrader said. “There’s a huge amount of benefits from this, from marketing to PR, but it’s to serve the membership plain and simple.”

He said he also expects that the mobile branch will make visits to offer banking services and financial education to places like schools, nursing homes, county fairs, and other community events.

Shrader said the credit union’s mobile branch will be able to do what a permanent brick-and-mortar branch can do, including lending.

Shrader said the credit union had to get permission for the mobile branch from the Wisconsin Office of Credit Unions, and its operation at first will be “a learning experience.”

Heather A. MacKinnon, vice president – legal for the Wisconsin Bankers Association, said state banks considering a mobile branch should contact the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions (DFI).

“From a state banking perspective, Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions Banking Administrative Code has language referring to a branch location being ‘permanent,’ which may be a consideration to overcome as a concept of permanence is certainly different than ‘mobile,’” she said. “However, after having had informal conversations with DFI, WBA would encourage any bank seeking to file a mobile facility to engage with DFI as there is a willingness for discussions.”

Nationally, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency requires a branch license for each mobile unit. The regulator defines a mobile branch as a facility that does not have a single, permanent site and includes a vehicle that travels to public locations to conduct branch transactions. It requires a bank to file an application delineating the proposed or expanded geographic area to be served by the mobile branch.

From a safety standpoint, bankers with mobile units said they are loaded with security cameras and other measures to protect staff, the vehicle, and its contents. Local police typically are notified where and when mobile branches will be stationed.

In addition to the service a mobile branch can provide and the good will it generates among its customers, a branch on wheels also is a valuable marketing tool. Whether it shows up at a disaster site, a school, a community event, or a local parade, it presents the financial institution in a positive light as an involved corporate citizen.

PNC takes its mobile units to college campuses during move-in week, making it easier for new students to open accounts without having to find fixed branches.

The mobile branches get noticed.

“They’re billboards for us going down the road. We wrap them from head to toe,” said PNC’s Hill.

U.S. Bank’s Reier also said brand awareness is a side benefit of mobile branches.

“When it’s rolling down the road, of course, but more importantly when it arrives in town,” Reier said.

Paul Gores is a journalist who covered business news for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for 20 years.

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The Foundation has indicated that the breadth of the socio-economic reach of the program in addition to the 100% volunteer structure of the organization made this initiative a great fit for the Foundation. The Association serves more than 1,700 players from all backgrounds throughout the greater Fond du Lac region and no player is turned away if the investment to play is a concern.

The turf field is one initiative of the “Safer Places to Play” initiative of the Soccer Association. A turf field will minimize game cancellations due to poor field conditions, maintain consistent practice schedule and provide an opportunity to bring additional outside events to the Fond du Lac community, providing the potential for a boost in spending at many Fond du Lac area businesses. The cost of the field is anticipated to be approximately $900,000.

Anyone interested in making a donation or more information can visit fondysoccer.com, email president@fondysoccer.com, or mail a check to FDL Soccer Association, PO Box 1292, Fond du Lac, WI 54936.

Peoples State Bank announces the hire of Erin McCormick as vice president and northern Wisconsin retail team leader. McCormick will oversee the bank’s retail operations in Rhinelander, Eagle River, and Minocqua. He succeeds Cindy Wright, who announced earlier this year that she would retire from the bank this May.

“I’ve learned through my many experiences in banking that customers don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” said McCormick. “Peoples is different than most banks. The customer is centric in all that we do. Taking time to listen and understand each specific customer’s needs is important. I strive to add value similarly and aspired to work with an organization that is similarly positioned to serve the customer, their colleagues, and our communities.”

McCormick joins Peoples with more than two decades of experience in banking. His experience includes managing retail banking teams in regional and single bank locations. McCormick has helped guide his employees towards delivering consistent experiences no matter what method the customers chose to interact with the bank.

“Erin’s extensive leadership skills will benefit Peoples in the Northwoods and throughout Peoples,” said Jeffrey Saxton, Peoples State Bank vice president, and retail group leader. “His experience and passion for helping his employees and customers succeed is a natural fit with Peoples’ customer focus.”

“Peoples is excellent at providing for the needs of their customers, their colleagues, and their community. It’s challenging for a bank to be great at all three,” said McCormick. “Peoples is. And I wanted to be part of continuing that history of excellence.”

McCormick is currently attending the Graduate School of Banking at the University of Wisconsin – Madison and will graduate in 2023 after earlier completing the Digital Marketing School, and Sales and Marketing School. He supports many non-profits, including Life Promotions, a bullying prevention program providing culture change in schools to improve academic learning.

One Community Bank (OCB) is proud to launch the 2022 One Community Bank Scholarship Program. This program offers $1,000 scholarships to three graduating high school seniors. This scholarship program aligns with One Community Bank’s commitment of investing in the community. The eligibility requirements to apply for the scholarships are as follows: the applicant must be a graduating high school senior, must be in good academic standing, and have post-graduation plans at a 2-year or 4-year institution; a technical or trade school; or an apprenticeship program. The application process also requires an essay.

Community involvement is important to OCB and is a key component of the application and eligibility process. Applicants are asked to write an essay that demonstrates their role in making a positive impact in the community; and how the applicant’s post-graduation plans will continue to support the community.

In 2021, OCB was proud to hand out three scholarships to local seniors in the communities that we serve. One Community Bank saw great interest in the scholarship program and is thrilled to be offering this again.

“One Community Bank is very proud to launch the 2022 scholarship program.” Steve Peotter, president and CEO stated, “Supporting the continued academic growth of young adults who have a dedication to their communities is a great way to give back.”

Forward Bank presents a check totaling $32,000 to Colby High School for a new scoreboard.

Forward Bank has donated a new scoreboard for the Colby Hornets football field. The new scoreboard is custom designed for the school and will be installed at the north end of the field.

The existing scoreboard is over 24 years old and maintaining it is proving difficult for the school. Dedicated members of the booster club, the driver of the Hornet’s Nest, and the football coach started talking with Stratford Sign Company about the benefits of replacing the board with an updated system. Those conversations progressed to a Hornet branded design that will be visible from Highway 13. Installation of the new scoreboard will take place in the summer of 2022.

“Forward made the fundraising process for the new scoreboard very easy on us,” commented Steve Kolden, Colby Hornet spokesperson. “We had hoped that they would be a part of the project but didn’t expect the full amount to be covered. Our community will be proud to see the new board and championship years that will be listed on it.”

“We’ve taken an active role in supporting our student athletes since Forward came to Colby,” stated Traci Geiger, Colby office manager for Forward Bank. “Those that compete in team sports are taught important life lessons that helps throughout their careers — no matter what they choose to do. The donation of the scoreboard is another way for Forward to show how proud we are of their efforts.”

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Helping young adults establish credit

By Tammy Tongusi

Financial institutions tend to overlook teens becoming adults, especially when it comes to providing education. Young adults will need to become financially independent, notably to prepare for purchasing a car or buying their first home. In today’s world, young adults plan for their future very differently than thirty years ago. I do not recall hearing from my parents or educators, “You should start thinking about building your credit.” As bankers, we help to start that process by giving our customers the tools they need to reach their financial goals. We know the credit scoring system creditors use to help determine your credit score. This will have an impact on many transactions going forward from whether or not a loan will be approved to the interest rate that will be paid and even the cost of car insurance.

Forte Bank offers a Teens with Green Club account that is designed for 13–17 year olds, and most of them are eager to get a checking account with a debit card. The teenage years are a great time to start the conversation and get them thinking. Many people do not realize that students and other young adults can establish credit through their parents’ credit if their credit card allows authorized users to be added. These card companies report to all three credit bureaus, so credit scores can start to build.

Financial classes for students and young adults, held in schools or at the bank branch, give them the tools needed to establish credit for future purchases and how to budget money to make them financially responsible. By promoting financial awareness, they can start taking steps to be on the path to a brighter future.

A “secured” credit card is a great starting point for customers with no credit or very low credit scores and is an excellent way to start building a credit history. The Forte Bank program requires account holders to have a separate deposit account with the bank and a balance of funds to hold as collateral. This deposit, which must be placed for at least 12 months, will establish the credit limit as a minimum of $250.00 and with no maximum. This will allow them to start understanding how to properly use a credit card. Stressing how important it is to make monthly payments on time and not maxing out the credit card every month is crucial for a young adult building their credit score. We generally recommend using credit cards for minimal purchases two to three times a month.

After they have received their secured card, they should take some time before they start applying for other credit cards. Having a credit use history will help in both building a credit score and gaining access to other lines of credit.

Another way to consider establishing credit is to explore the options of having a joint credit with a co-signer. This can be especially useful with an automobile purchase. Many banks will offer a reduced rate if customers sign up for automatic payments. Additionally, it will ensure their payments will be on time.

Forte Bank is very active in finding ways to ensure that future generations are responsible users of credit. Taking an active role at the start of their credit journey is a great way to help teens and young adults establish a solid credit score and understand how these products can be used to help them on their financial journey throughout life.

Tongusi is assistant vice president – retail banker and consumer lender at Forte Bank, Hartford and a member of the 2021–2022 WBA Marketing Committee.

Cassidy Reilly

Maverick Muhlstein

On February 14, Woodford State Bank opened its sixth branch! The new location is in Darlington, WI. Woodford also welcomes Cassidy Reilly as mortgage and consumer lender as well as Maverick Muhlstein, VP — agricultural and commercial lender to the team!

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Pictured left to right are: Autumn Nelson, Teri Erickson, David Robbins, LaChelle Tabbert, Matt Roegner, and Caitlin Timms.

Ken Thompson, president and CEO of Capitol Bank, is pleased to announce an April 7 opening of the new Capitol Bank East, located at 5427 Eastpark Boulevard in the American Center. The Capitol Bank East Team includes David Robbins, market president; Teri Erickson, bank manager NMLS#1573870; Matt Roegner, SVP – commercial lending; LaChelle Tabbert, universal banker NMLS#2128867; Caitlin Timms, universal banker; and Autumn Nelson, universal banker.

The new, strategic location on Madison’s East side will allow for nearly anyone in Dane County to be within 15 minutes of a Capitol Bank location.

“No matter how many banking transactions we can conduct from our smartphones, there will always be a need for banks and bankers to be accessible to customers,” said Thompson.

Capitol Bank West, the Bank’s main location, will remain at 710 N. High Point Road and is the original location the Bank was founded at in 1995. Capitol Bank Verona, which opened in 2006, is located at 108 E. Verona Avenue. Capitol Bank specializes in commercial lending, treasury management, mortgage lending, personal banking, and private banking. Capitol Bankers proudly serve the community as evidenced by active roles on over 40 local boards and committees.

To learn more about Capitol Bank East and our team, visit: www.CapitolBank.com/east2022.

Show your local pride with city and state themed card designs

Associated Bank introduces new debit card designs for all cardholders – Platinum, World, Private Banking, and Small Business. In addition to new artwork for select customers, debit cards will now feature a vertical orientation to reflect how customers are using and seeing their cards. New designs went live January 2022.

Because of increased “Tap & Go” technology and EMV chip readers, consumers are using debit cards vertically more than ever. Thus, Associated Bank made the move to vertical designs, providing ease of use for customers, and providing a unique offering compared with other traditional banks around the region.

“The way customers use their debit cards continues to evolve, with chip readers and now contactless Tap and Go technology becoming the normal way we all pay,” said Michael Beaupre, director of consumer products for Associated Bank. “The modern vertical designs are a better fit for how customers use our best-in-class debit cards in their day-to-day lives.”

With the refreshed design, Associated also saw an opportunity to review current card artwork offerings and expand the debit card suite to include more options for Private Banking clients, as well as offering specialized cards to Illinois and Minnesota customers.

“It’s exciting to see our new designs go to market, especially the city and state themed cards, which colleagues helped to choose,” said Kristen Lanza, marketing creative manager for Associated Bank. “Whether it’s Platinum or World, Private Banking or Small Business, our customers likely carry their debit cards with them everywhere they go. These debit cards are a reminder that Associated Bank is more than a bank; we are a proud and committed partner to the communities in which we serve, and we share that pride with the loyal customers that call our communities ‘home’.”

In addition to offering easy use for touch-free payment systems and chip readers, the new debit cards house all identifying information on the backside of the card to enhance safety and security.

Ken Thompson HeadshotBy Kenneth D. Thompson

April is a busy month for community bankers in Wisconsin. Between Community Banking Month and Financial Literacy Month, the Wisconsin Bankers Association (WBA) and its non-profit arm, the Wisconsin Bankers Foundation (WBF), are looking forward to providing bankers throughout the state with opportunities to further strengthen our commitment to every member of our communities.

Teach Children to Save Day is approaching on Thursday, April 28. This campaign highlights the value of teaching kids the importance of financial literacy. To facilitate this campaign in Wisconsin, WBF is once again distributing over 2,500 free books and resources for WBA-member banks to use as they engage with the youngest members of their communities. You can help support this program — along with many other financial education projects — with a tax-deductible donation to WBF. To learn more, visit wisbankfoundation.org or contact Hannah Flanders.

I am excited to see how our bankers’ creativity and dedication to financial responsibility shines yet again this year. As always, you are encouraged to share your efforts in improving financial literacy with WBF as part of both Teach Children to Save Day and other educational events you take part in. Visit wisbankfoundation.org/education to submit a presentation form recording your efforts between June 1, 2021 and May 31, 2022.

This year also marks the fifth annual WBA Power of Community Week. Member banks are encouraged to participate, during the week of April 18–23, in one or more community service activities. This effort highlights the Wisconsin banking industry’s long-standing commitment to the communities in our state. If you are looking for ways to get involved this year, would like to share your plans to be included on the interactive map, or to learn more about WBA’s plans, please visit wisbank.com/BanksPowerWI.

Whether it be through promoting the importance of financial literacy or volunteering at shelters, food pantries, or non-profit organizations, the month of April presents the perfect opportunity to showcase your bank’s involvement in making Wisconsin the exceptional state that it is. Your efforts, especially in the last two years, have not gone unnoticed and are deeply appreciated by your community. We thank those bankers who have continually gone above and beyond to lend a helping hand to others.