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 Community State Bank (Union Grove) President & CEO Scott Huedepohl‚Äč.

Shay Horton

Rose: How did you first get into the banking industry?
Scott: My father was a community banker for Farmers Trust & Savings Bank in Williamsburg, Iowa. I grew up in that town and always enjoyed my time visiting dad at the bank. The people were always so friendly and caring. The town loved the bank and the bank loved the town. They took care of each other and the bank was a key driver in the success of the community. I grew to appreciate that, and always wanted to be a community banker. I had a few years that I had my sights set on becoming a history teacher or even a coach… but in the end my true passion is community banking.

What is your favorite aspect of your role at your bank?
My favorite part about being a community banker is watching our customers grow and find true success. I've appreciated that from the beginning stages of my career and even today as a bank president. There's nothing more rewarding than seeing someone pursue an idea and watching it grow year after year. We live and work in some really unique and driven communities, and we're proud to see our neighbors succeed.

I also enjoy watching our staff grow. I take so much joy seeing an employee do something great for a customer or for our community. I am so lucky to have such a high-quality, focused, driven, and community-minded staff.

What do you wish the general public understood about the banking industry?
I wish people understood that even though a Wall Street firm has the word "bank" in its name, we could not be more different.

The banking industry has gotten such a bad reputation over the past decade or so. It makes it more difficult for a community bank to prosper when the big box banks and investment banks operate in a complete opposite culture. Frankly, they have a tendency to bring embarrassment upon the industry.

At the same time, community banks are working hard to bring growth to communities. It is a constant challenge to differentiate us.

I wish the public better understood that as a community bank, we really have our priorities set on making strong communities. We hire local people, provide local service, and make local decisions just a few miles away from where they are running their business. We treat our customers like people, not a number, and we genuinely care about the success of their business and the community.

Where do you believe the industry's greatest challenges are in the next three to five years?
For community banking, I think the greatest challenge will be staying independent. We have seen the industry consolidate a lot. I believe that asset quality will suffer coming out of the current COVID-19 crisis and political unrest. I see that trying to compete with very large banks for high-quality customers will get even more difficult. With net interest margins shrinking, high regulation, which makes it tough on the efficiency ratios, and overall potentially lower earnings, it creates a challenge for shareholders. Community State Bank is 38% owned by our Employee Stock Ownership Plan so it is easier here than other banks, but it is still a challenge. We are so blessed at CSB to see our bank continue to grow and prosper. I truly believe it is because of our people and our model of being in the communities.

What are some of the most rewarding aspects of your work as a banker?
CSB has many stories that come to mind, but the one that sticks out the most is Shepherds Community Café. I've always had this idea in my mind about creating a local coffee shop inside a bank. It would be a place for not only bank employees to enjoy, but also for the community to utilize for networking, collaborating, and of course coffee. 

In 2018 that dream come true, but it happened because of a much larger purpose. Our Union Grove office happens to be located just blocks away from a college for intellectually disabled students. That college is known as Shepherds College and they have students from all over the world. One of their training programs that they offer focuses on culinary arts. The students learn how to cook, bake, and even prepare their school's lunches. They really do a phenomenal job. When I was introduced to the college, the fit seemed right. Why not open a café focused on offering opportunity and training to these students? I introduced the idea to Shepherds College Executive Director Tracy Terrill and the rest is history. When CSB went through a major renovation of our headquarters, we included a plan for a café in our main lobby. 

Shepherds Community Café has been a phenomenal addition to our bank culture and community. We love getting to know the students and they teach us so much about acceptance and inclusion. This is a perfect example of community banking. We reach outside of the traditional banking box and think about what could truly benefit our community. We can't wait for the day that the students are back in school and working in the café. They've become part of our banking family and we hope to see that continue for many years to come. You can learn more about the café and their story at MySCCafe.com.

 

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