Career Launching and Job Landings, BankWork$ Creates Opportunities

By Alex Paniagua

A Graduate Profile of Anthony Lamar Smith, II, Associated Bank

An entrepreneurial spirit, Anthony Lamar Smith, II has been interested in how businesses operate since he was a kid. But as he explored a few different professional paths, he never expected this passion might lead him to a career in the financial services.

Smith graduated from the University of Dayton with a degree in management information systems. Although his education and aspirations felt like the perfect combination, something never felt quite right once he earned a business analyst position with a major health insurance provider. Still on the job hunt, Smith came across an eight-week career training program called BankWork$ designed to help young adults establish a career path in banking. He described the occurrence as something that almost ‘fell in his lap’ after exhausting the options he thought were sure to be the best fit.

“I received an advertisement through the [Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development] for BankWork$,” Smith said. “I read a bit about it, completed the inquiry, and received a call back to do the initial interview process.”

Smith immediately connected his business background with the similarities in banking. His knowledge of economics, background in retail, and his keen interpersonal skills were only a few things that played a role in bridging the gap between the two industries. Although certain elements such as compliance and regulation were new to him, Smith caught on quickly and enjoyed not only the information the program offered, but the experience overall.

After graduating from BankWork$ in June of 2021, Smith is now one of over 4,000 individuals who have had their career in financial services launched with the help of the program. He was offered a job at Associated Bank, Milwaukee, as an entry-level banker and is currently participating in 13 weeks of training where he receives hands-on experience and learns the ins and outs of the bank. He works as a teller but also trains his way toward being a certified banker. Each day he has ample opportunities to observe the tasks of his coworkers and has started on account openings and other services where he can interact with customers. This side of his role is Smith’s favorite part of the industry.

“Being able to build rapport with clients and offer solutions that they find tangible and advantageous to their situation is so important,” said Smith. “Learning more about the customers, understanding how their financials look and work, what their expectations are, and recommending the best options have all been great.”

Whether in or out of the office, Smith has proven himself to be a self-starter. When he’s not working at Associated, his time is spent designing graphics, building websites, or mixing and mastering music for a variety of clients. He has also volunteered teaching Junior Achievement courses and helped co-found multiple startup companies. Part of what Smith loves about using his many skills outside of the banking industry is getting to collaborate with others and make a difference in their success.

“Associated Bank is proud to work with Employ Milwaukee to provide adults with an opportunity to learn skills in the financial industry through the BankWork$ program,” said Sandra Meka, talent acquisition consultant manager, Associated Bank. “Associated is pleased to celebrate Anthony’s graduation from the program and will continue to help him grow in his position.”

As Smith continues his time with Associated Bank on his new journey, there’s a lot that intrigues him about the banking industry that he looks forward to learning more about — especially as it relates to technology. From the growing shift toward online banking to the ways that artificial intelligence helps banks with underwriting decisions, he’s grateful that there’s always been someone at the bank willing to offer their insight. He anticipates all the new information to be gained, skills to be learned, and ways he can use his many talents to help his fellow bankers and customers.

Finding the right career path can be complicated when there are so many to choose from. Although Smith was confident that his role as a business analyst would be the right fit, it wasn’t until the opportunity through BankWork$ came along that things began to really make sense. For others exploring professional possibilities of their own, Smith had some words of wisdom to offer from his own experience.

“Start early, and get involved in as much as you can,” he said. “Find a way to connect what you want to do with what you love, and then you can avoid being pulled in too many directions that don’t fit together.”