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 Milton’s First Community Bank President and CEO Brendon T. Wilkinson.

Brendon_WilkinsonRose: How did you first get into the banking industry?

Brendon: I started my banking career in the management training program at Valley Bank in Madison, Wisconsin after graduating from college. The program was a great introduction to banking and allowed me to experience both the sales and operational sides of the bank. Then after working as a lender in the Madison and Appleton, Wisconsin markets during the mid-90s, I took an eight-year career diversion to run a familyowned retail business in Madison before accepting my role at First Community Bank in Milton nearly 15 years ago.

What is your favorite aspect of your role at your bank?

First Community Bank is a $130MM bank, and the small size lets me really get to know and develop close working relationships with employees and bank clients. We use our asset size as an advantage and are able to quickly adapt to customer needs and make credit decisions that make sense.

What do you wish the general public understood about the banking industry?

I wish the general public better understood that all banks are not created equally. Locally owned community banks provide a significantly different and more personalized customer experience than a large regional or a national financial. On top of this, our decision makers live, work, and play within our communities and have a vested interest in the success of those communities. Banking locally not only promotes local employment but also allows a community bank additional resources for volunteer hours and monetary donations to your neighborhoods.

Where do you believe the industry’s greatest challenges will be in the next three to five years?

I view margin compression and the growth of non-traditional (FinTech) banking services to be the largest potential challenges to banking in the coming years. For a variety of reasons, banks are flush with liquidity and because of this, we are seeing competitors stretching with marginal credit decisions and rate offerings due to lack of alternative investment options. If economic conditions deteriorate, credit quality and loan losses will be at risk. An additional risk to the traditional banking industry is the growth of FinTech and non-traditional payment service providers who are attracting the younger generation of bank customers and arguably diluting the traditional customer base. Online financial service providers don’t carry the burden of brick-and-mortar branch offices and will force community banks to quickly adapt to consumer trends and technology offerings in order to remain relevant.

Please describe your current role at your bank and share with us one of your more rewarding experiences.

While most bankers would agree that the SBA Paycheck Protection Program loan funding process was not without its headaches, the staff at First Community Bank accepted the challenge and delivered in the midst of a global pandemic. Larger banks, online service providers, and local credit unions seemed to focus on the larger loan requests, which left a large portion of our area small businesses underserved. In addition to providing much needed funding to small businesses within Rock County, our bank developed new banking relationships, and we were able to demonstrate first hand how a community bank is better than the alternative.

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