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.

The following is an interview between WBA President and CEO Rose Oswald Poels and Peshtigo National Bank President Kelly Heroux.

Shay Horton

Rose: How did you first get into the banking industry?
Kelly: As a senior in high school, I was approached by a teacher to apply for a summer position as a teller at a local financial institution. I had no intention of making a career out of banking. However, I soon realized how much I enjoyed the people and the work, and I changed my college major to finance. I was able to work with that institution throughout my college years and ultimately accepted a position in their mortgage department upon graduation. 

What is your favorite aspect of your role at your bank?
Throughout my career, I’ve been fortunate to work in many areas of banking. This has allowed me to experience banking from all directions and develop a well-rounded skillset. In my current role as president, I am able to use those skills to mentor others within our team and allow them to experience many facets of banking.

What do you wish the general public understood about the banking industry?
Bankers are here to make the best financial decisions for the individual, businesses, and our communities. We take a genuine, honest approach to help customers reach their goals. When challenges exist, we want to be a responsible partner and give honest feedback to navigate through difficult situations. Bankers are an important resource to leverage, especially during these challenging times.

Where do you believe the industry's greatest challenges are in the next three to five years?
The two greatest ongoing challenges banks will face are talent management and leveraging technology. Banking is and will continue to be a people business. Finding the right talent today and in the future will be challenging, especially for community banks. In smaller institutions, employees often perform multiple duties in different areas of the bank. That can be difficult to teach and inspire in new hires. Leveraging technology while maintaining information security will continue to be a challenge. Technology allows efficiencies to be recognized. However, the information security risk also grows. Finding the right balance between the two will be instrumental.

What are some of the most rewarding aspects of your work as a banker?
Peshtigo National Bank has always been a proud supporter of youth and financial literacy in our communities. This year, we were fortunate to partner with the M&M Area Community Foundation, and other local financial institutions, to launch the Future Fund. The Future Fund is a long-term savings account to assist with post-high school training or educational expenses. Beginning with the 2019/2020 kindergarten class, each student throughout Marinette, Wis. and Menominee, Mich. counties received an account. Over time, the balance of the account will grow and receive funds through incentives and additional deposits until graduation. It was a proud moment for me to be able to present this opportunity to the first class of students benefiting from this program. Through generous donations within our communities, the program will benefit students now and in the future.

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