Wisconsin's bankers are the definition of "community advocates" in all that you do every day to improve your local economy through your bank's products and services, as well as through your generous philanthropy of time and money. This column shares and celebrates the diverse backgrounds, experiences, perspectives, and innovation of some of the extraordinary bankers in this state.

undefinedThe following is a brief interview between WBA President and CEO Rose Oswald Poels and Highland State Bank President Mary Bomkamp.

Rose: How did you first get into the banking industry?
Mary: My banking career began in 1983 with Strong's Bank in Dodgeville, Wis. I found that my role as a loan processor was something I could grow into and fortunately I was given the opportunity to learn everything I could about lending and the banking industry. After two years I was offered a loan processing position in my hometown. I am still here 34 years later!

What is your favorite aspect of your role at your bank?
I enjoy the friendships with customers that develop working in a community bank. In many cases, I have customers from two or three generations of a family and have been with them through home purchases, autos, and now autos for their children.

What do you wish the general public understood about the banking industry?
I wish the general public truly understood how community banks reinvest our depositors' money into loans that go back into the community helping to fund a new business, the expansion of a family farm, or construction of a new home. Sometimes I think people only look at pricing and don't see the whole picture.

Where do you believe the industry's greatest challenges are in the next three to five years?
Through the years banking has successfully weathered many challenges. Currently, keeping up with technology and the associated costs is very challenging. In order to maintain a secure internal network, we outsource with various third-party servicers for products and support and this all comes at a cost. In some cases, the cost of implementing a new product or service is cost-prohibitive. I also hope that the pace of mergers within the industry slows. I think it is starting to make customers question why they are so prevalent.

What are some of the most rewarding aspects of your work as a banker?
I have been the bank's president since 2008, and I am also a lender-there are many rewarding aspects of my job, so it is hard to pick just one! A few examples: working with a borrower from application to closing on a home purchase and seeing their nervous excitement when we finally get there; the borrower who recently sold her home after many years and came in to thank me for taking a chance on her so long ago; and knowing that sometimes a customer who has little need to borrow any longer just stops in to chat and catch up!


Do you know a banker who should be recognized as a Community Advocate for the work that they do? Nominate them today by emailing Rose