Even though my term as WBA Chair was extended beyond 12 months, the time has flown by. One reason is that our industry has experienced so much change. We are in a completely new political landscape (at both the federal and state levels), a different part of the business cycle (especially for agriculture), and a constantly changing competitive environment (credit unions and other non-bank lenders are all looking for new ways to gain market share).
Despite all that, I think the real reason my time as Chair has gone by so quickly is because we—as an association and as an industry—have accomplished so much.
In the advocacy realm, we've achieved several legislative wins, most notably reducing regulatory burden for most WBA members with the passage of S. 2155 (the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act) on May 24, 2018. We have also continued our great participation in grassroots advocacy, setting a new attendance record at the 2018 WBA Capitol Day (which reached over 70% of the Wisconsin State Legislature) and representing Wisconsin well at the federal level through our participation in the ABA and ICBA trips to Washington, D.C. Many WBA member banks have also stepped up by selecting an Advocacy Officer at their bank to be the point person for all grassroots efforts.
Our association has also delivered numerous innovative products and services to member banks. One that stands out to me is the newly created WBA Association Health Plan. Provided through WBA EBC, the plan has allowed cost-effective access to health care insurance for our bank employees for WBA members, with a tremendous positive financial impact for several of the banks who switched to the AHP from another provider. In addition, our industry has benefitted from the many professional development and educational programs delivered in 2018 and 2019, including the 2019 Bank Executives Conference, which included a Q&A session with FDIC Chair Jelena McWilliams.
Finally, our industry has continued to grow stronger throughout the state. In 2018 alone, we grew in almost every lending category, increased total deposits 2.6 percent, and saw a 12 percent decrease in noncurrent loans and leases. It has been an incredible honor to help lead the industry during this period in which we've overcome many challenges and demonstrated our strength and commitment to serving our communities.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank WBA President and CEO Rose Oswald Poels and all the WBA staff for their support and guidance throughout these 18 months. I also wish to thank my fellow board members for their insights and enthusiasm throughout my term. It has been an honor to serve our industry, its clients, and its communities alongside you. I also wish to thank my bank and my family for their support and patience with the extra time away that this position sometimes requires.
Werner is president & CEO of Park Bank, Milwaukee and WBA Chair.