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 a brief interview between WBA President and CEO Rose Oswald Poels and Premier Community Bank President and CEO Tom Pamperin.
Rose: How did you first get into the banking industry?
Tom: I’m proud to say I’m an SOB – son of a banker, so I was born into banking. It’s funny though, I did try to avoid banking, thinking it had too much to do with people for my liking and ended up gravitating toward accounting. However, growing up with a high-character leader like my Dad made it worth reconsidering. As my career progressed and opportunities developed, I realized it was the perfect place to make a difference.
What is your favorite aspect of your role at your bank?
I love the community aspect of banking. Forget the bank size or the population sign. Banking is all about building up and strengthening the greater community, be it a neighborhood, town, city, state or country and all the people within it. Watching growth in others is incredibly satisfying and we are uniquely placed to help it happen. A lot of dreams come true through our efforts and a lot of stories get told of the impact our involvement can have. I love being part of that.
What do you wish the general public understood about the banking industry?
How about that they are called safe deposit boxes, not safety deposit box. That would get rid of a pet peeve. Seriously though, I hope for a greater understanding and appreciation of the benefits of relationship banking. If the past year showed anything, relationships matter. Communication is easier, considerations are easier and connections are easier when long-standing customer relationships exist. They also show their strength during crises so maybe the challenges we are facing will teach us something too.
Where do you believe the industry’s greatest challenges are in the next 3-5 years?
Recruitment and succession will always be a challenge. For a while I believed our greatest challenge was in the recruitment of our next leaders. The Great Recession and subsequent demonizing of our industry chased good people away and made it unattractive for others to consider. I don’t believe that as much anymore, but it’s still a challenge. We are seeing great people join our industry that are ready to be 21st century bankers. They want career paths, growth opportunities and leadership roles, as well as a purpose. They are bringing motivation, tech skills and commitment to a purpose they believe in. Matching those is our challenge and our opportunity.
Every day, bankers serve their local communities by helping their customers achieve their financial dreams. In addition, bankers also provide significant charitable support both financially and through countless volunteer hours. Please describe your current role at your bank and share with us one of your more rewarding experiences.
Every year our entire staff devotes a day to helping in our communities. We call it our MAD or Make A Difference day. It started as a celebration of our Bank’s anniversary and has continued annually because we wouldn’t know how to stop if we wanted to. It’s not unusual to have 20 – 25 different teams of employees out helping different groups. I try to visit as many as I can during that day, taking selfies with our employees, stocking a shelf, understanding life through the eyes of elementary students, pulling some weeds and hearing immense gratitude from those being helped. It truly is one of the highpoints of the year for the Bank. One particular year I was hugged by a woman that could only get the words “Thank You” out of her mouth and nothing else because of how emotional she was feeling. She couldn’t believe someone would do what we were doing and expect nothing in return. I couldn’t believe I was getting this type of response. After getting my emotions under control and heading on to the next team, I knew we were doing the right thing. I knew what we were doing was making a difference.