Joe Fazio was looking for an organization that connects companies with potential board of director candidates a year ago when he learned about the Private Directors Association. He noticed the association had chapters in a variety of places around the U.S., but not in Wisconsin. So he asked why. 

“They said nobody has volunteered to do that yet,” said Fazio, who is chairman and chief executive officer of West Bend-based Commerce State Bank. 

Next thing he knew, Fazio was president of the Wisconsin Chapter, which launched in June of 2020 and has been growing ever since. In its first year it has attracted 159 members and six sponsors. So far, two banks doing business in Wisconsin are sponsors of the state chapter of PDA – Old National Bank and Town Bank. Inge Plautz, of Old National, is the vice president of the state chapter. 

“It’s gone really well, and there’s a significant interest in it,” Fazio said. 

Chicago-based PDA, founded in 2014 with 20 people, now has about 2,000 members nationwide and 18 chapters. Fazio called it the “go-to source” for private directors and boards. 

In addition to helping to connect diverse director candidates with companies seeking them, PDA offers educational resources for companies with boards. It also holds social gatherings, which, during the pandemic, have been mostly online. 

For example, this month (May) the Wisconsin chapter is hosting a  virtual wine tasting event featuring products from the Grgich Hills Estate Winery of Napa Valley, Calif. 

There are a couple of reasons PDA should appeal to banks, Fazio said. 

“We’re all required to have boards. So how do you get outside your circle of influence, and particularly, when you try to diversify your board,” Fazio said. “How do I go find that person?” 

Most bank boards in Wisconsin consist mainly of white males, he said. PDA can help introduce females and people of color who are fully qualified to serve on bank boards. 

“There are very talented diverse candidates who are very capable of being on boards of directors,” Fazio said. “And it drives me nuts when people say, ‘Yeah, I just can’t find a good diverse candidate.’” 

A second reason PDA could help banks is because banks serve businesses, he said. PDA could link a bank’s business customers with director candidates. 

“We want businesses to do well. So do they have a board, or do they need to set up a board?” Fazio said. “Particularly, like ESOP companies, they have to have a board of directors. So again, where do we find good directors?’” 

PDA resources also help potential directors prepare for the position and to stand out among candidates. 

“For instance, there is training on how to write to resume for a board seat, because it’s different from a traditional resume. Or how to interview for a board position. It’s different from a traditional interview. So that’s really valuable,” Fazio said. 

He said there are two main elements to PDA. 

“It’s really board education, and helping build a board, start a board, make it more efficient and effective,” Fazio said. “And then the other is to help the individual become more competitive and then connect those dots for those opportunities.” 

Fazio said he expects the Wisconsin chapter of PDA to have six to nine events each year. 

“Some will be webinars, and some in person,” he said. 

The cost to join is $350 a year.  

“As a member of the Wisconsin chapter, you really have access to all the events, all the people, all the expertise throughout the country in all the chapters,” Fazio said. 

A full list of PDA’s services can be found on its website

Paul Gores is a journalist who covered business news for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for 20 years. Have a story idea? Contact him at paul.gores57@gmail.com.