Rose Oswald PoelsBy Rose Oswald Poels

As WBA’s fiscal year concludes at the end of May, I am continually impressed with how bankers and WBA staff members alike take each challenge in stride. While disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic have yet to fully subside, our Association has continued its focus in promoting a healthy environment for banks in Wisconsin through actively advocating, educating, and supporting members.

In March, the Association celebrated 130 years of serving Wisconsin banks. Like it was in the first meetings of the WBA, advocacy continues to be a major focal point in our mission to support the banking industry. This year, 100 bankers from across the state attended WBA’s annual Capitol Day in Madison. Additionally, 112 banks designated Advocacy Officers to coordinate regulatory, legislative, and community advocacy efforts alongside the WBA.

With your help, 10 WBA legislative priorities or WBA-influenced bills were signed into law during the 2021–22 legislative session. WBA’s government relations team has also been busy this past fiscal year fundraising and looking ahead to the 2022 elections in Wisconsin. As of this writing, Wisconsin bankers have contributed a total of $192,193 to WBA’s political action and issue advocacy funds. Be it a donation or attendance at a public hearing, I deeply appreciate your efforts in ensuring the success of our industry!

In addition to advocating on behalf of the Wisconsin banking industry, our Association prides itself on providing bankers with in-depth and up-to-date educational opportunities. WBA offered 95 training programs and events tailored to every level of the bank this fiscal year. Of these events, 4,750 bankers were in attendance to expand their expertise and network with peers. As COVID restrictions continually loosen in the state, many WBA conferences and events have returned either in person or to a hybrid setting.

Above all, WBA’s top priority for the last 130 years has been supporting its members however possible. This year alone, nearly 1,600 bankers utilized WBA’s Legal Hotline and each day, over 2,600 bankers across the state receive the Wisconsin Banker Daily, featuring recent industry and compliance-related news, straight to their inbox.

Looking ahead to WBA’s next fiscal year, in addition to our efforts advocating and educating, WBA staff will continue to update resources and provide Wisconsin banks with the best tools for insurance, services, and products. For more information on WBA’s 2021–22 fiscal year, please look for a complete, in-depth Year in Review in the upcoming June Wisconsin Banker.

As always, I thank you for your support of WBA. Your membership continues to allow us to advocate for our industry both at the state level and in D.C., educate beginning and experienced bankers, and provide resources for all areas of the bank. Invoices for the new fiscal year dues will arrive in the mail by the beginning of June. If you have any questions or concerns about your membership, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Triangle Background

The following is a brief interview between WBA President and CEO Rose Oswald Poels and Farmers & Merchants Bank of Kendall President Cynthia Erdman.

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

Cynthia: I first wanted to become a Certified Public Accountant. As I started college and had little money, I found a part-time job at a bank as a teller with the hopes of getting into their accounting department. As time progressed, I began to learn all the other opportunities for a career that the banking industry offered. I did, however, leave for an internship at an accounting firm. Fast forward, I decided that was not the path that I found the most interesting and rewarding, so back to banking I went. Now, 37 years later, I can truly say it has been a great career!

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

This is an easy one! It has been and always will be about all the amazing people you get to meet. Listening and working with clients to meet their financial goals, purchase their home, start or grow their business, or just be that trusted advisor for financial advice is very rewarding. Another favorite part of my role is mentoring and watching my coworkers develop and advance their knowledge.

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

Just the simple message that we are always there to help them as best as possible. We work to find solutions and when they succeed — we all succeed.

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

I believe that our industry will continue to be tested by the increasing cost and challenges related to cybersecurity, talent recruitment, as well as the increasing reach of credit unions along with their unfair tax advantage.

Please share one of your more rewarding or memorable experiences with us.

Bankers do extraordinary things every day that go above and beyond normal business. As community advocates and leaders, it is our duty to help where and when we can. The fabulous part about this is it is so rewarding and not a duty at all! As I reflect on the numerous organizations that I have volunteered at, there are so many great memories. It is hard to pick out any one that was the most memorable because each has had its rewards.

I would say the things that have stuck with me the most are the more individual/personal encounters over the years. A particular couple comes to mind — they both were great volunteers of the community and the bank recognized them as “Extraordinary Citizens” at an event that we held. We later placed their picture on a billboard saluting them and promoting volunteerism. A few years later, the gentleman passed away, and I attended his funeral. When entering the service, the first thing displayed was the scaled down version of that billboard we gave them as a keepsake. In talking with his wife, she expressed how much that meant to him and how proud he was of being a part of promoting the good people do and encouraging others to do the same. Little did she know how much that meant to me as well.

Rose Oswald PoelsBy Rose Oswald Poels

For 130 years, advocacy has been at the core of WBA’s mission and a key focus of the banking industry. While advocacy is not directly in the job description of most banking positions, bankers have long recognized that being actively engaged in all aspects of advocacy helps preserve the franchise value of banks.

I’m incredibly proud of how many bankers took time out of their busy schedules to send letters, make calls, participate in hearings in Madison, travel to Washington, D.C., attend public meetings of elected officials, and personally contribute to the industry’s political action funds throughout this last year! All of these efforts were critically important to augment WBA’s own work in achieving policy success for our industry. Recently, we mailed each member the WBA Advocacy Report which highlights the industry’s advocacy accomplishments this biennium. It was a very active session with WBA working hard on both offense and defense!

In that same mailing, each member received a copy of our Advocacy Toolkit which contains our annual fundraising request for political funds from you, your team, and your bank. With the number of banks in the state shrinking, it is more important than ever for everyone to step up and contribute to this industry effort. I recognize that the money side of advocacy is not always the most appealing; however, it is critical to make sure those who support banking are elected to office in Madison and in Washington, D.C. Our goal for this calendar year is to raise $300,000 — a feat we have not accomplished in the last four years. Ideally, we would welcome every banker contributing as even small dollar contributions help make a big difference. I personally give at least $4,000 each year, and I encourage executive management to give generously this year as well since our livelihoods depend on the success of this great industry. In 2021, 152 bankers earned the Silver Triangle award by contributing at least $500 to our advocacy efforts. I encourage new members to consider joining at the Silver Triangle level and urge existing members to double, triple, or quadruple their donation amount. Your contribution to any combination of the Wisbankpac, ABW, or the issue advocacy fund would dramatically move WBA closer to achieving its calendar year fundraising goal.

In addition to personal contributions, I encourage each bank to consider making an issue advocacy contribution. This is a corporate contribution, payable to WBA, that we use to join with our business coalition partners to create pro-business public policy messages. These dollars are also extremely helpful to achieve our advocacy goals. I welcome and encourage corporate contributions of any amount; and for those whose bank give at least $5,000, we are hosting three special outings in Kohler, June 20–21, that two individuals may attend.

Finally, the WBA advocacy team is very willing to come and speak in person to your staff and/or board of directors on our current advocacy work. I promise this is not going to only be a sales pitch for money (although we will mention political giving at the end). Our team is able to structure the presentation in a manner to which you prefer and can include talking about policy issues affecting the banking industry here in Wisconsin and in DC, as well as redistricting, key legislative races, regulatory initiatives, and other similar topics. Contact me anytime to schedule this type of presentation.

If you did not receive the Advocacy Toolkit in the mail or would like additional fundraising templates/materials to share with your staff, please let me know. Thank you for all you do to advocate for the banking industry!

How your bank can make the most out of April

By Daryll J. Lund

During the week of April 18–23, the fifth annual Wisconsin Bankers Association (WBA) Power of Community Week will once again bring bankers, Associate Members, and WBA staff together to highlight the collective impact the banking industry has on the communities it serves. This tradition has allowed Wisconsin bankers to demonstrate to the public their ongoing commitment through participating in community service events.

This campaign, held in conjunction with Community Banking Month and Financial Literacy Month, allows bankers not only to further engage with local businesses and organizations, but celebrate the work they do each day in equipping their community members for financial success. Whether it be volunteering with a local non-profit or taking part in National Teach Children to Save Day on Thursday, April 28, bankers have time and time again shown diligence and creativity in their efforts to connect with and empower individuals across the state.

In 2021, over 70 banks across Wisconsin participated in WBA’s Power of Community Week and reported over 2,700 volunteer hours. This remarkable achievement encompasses the dedication and compassion WBA members have for their neighbors. While I understand bankers’ commitment to serving their communities is a year-round practice, I invite you to participate in one or more service events during April to showcase your efforts in empowering members of your community.

During the campaign and continuing after it ends, WBA will highlight your hard work to show the ongoing commitment displayed by Wisconsin’s banking industry. If you know how you’ll be participating in Power of Community Week or want inspiration, visit wisbank.com/BanksPowerWI to share your plan and be added to our state map! Please contact WBA’s Lori Kalscheuer at lkalscheuer@wisbank.com with any questions.

By Lorenzo Cruz

March Madness marks the start of the NCAA basketball tournament and the conclusion to an active 2022 legislative session for the Wisconsin Bankers Association (WBA) government relations (GR) team.

A Successful Legislative Session in the Books

WBA successfully defeated two bills which would have negatively impacted the banking industry. AB 478/SB 451 would have broadened the powers of credit unions by allowing for: non-member participation in loans, the ability to issue and offer supplemental forms of capital for all credit unions, the automatic adoption of federally chartered credit union activities or powers for state-chartered credit unions, and the broadening of the authority of credit unions on holding property. During the negotiations, it became evident that the priority for the Wisconsin Credit Union League (WCUL) was their supplemental capital change which contributed to the demise of the bill. WBA effectively lobbied and defeated the bills in the Assembly and Senate.

Another piece of legislation that drew a great amount of WBA’s lobbying attention was a bill related to interchange fees. AB 587/SB 572 would have prohibited the application of the interchange fee to the tax portion of the credit card transaction and would have provided a penalty for a violation. A retailer coalition advocated aggressively for the legislative change and WBA, WCUL, and several credit card companies opposed the effort. If passed, the bill would have required credit card companies to implement a split tender transaction for purchasing products or services, which means customers would have to swipe their credit card for the retail sum purchase and then pay with either cash or check for the tax portion of the transaction. WBA warned legislators of the cost shift, customer confusion and frustration that could follow from the change. The bills died in the Senate and Assembly Financial Institutions Committees.

Other bills worth noting are AB 596/SB 596 related to banking modernization and AB 45/SB 19 and AB 46/ SB 20 related to elder fraud. The banking modernization bill would have removed outdated regulation and other impediments to banking and the elder fraud bill would have provided banks with more tools to help protect older customers from fraud and abuse. The legislative proposals passed overwhelmingly in one House but then failed to be acted upon in committee or placed on the calendar for a floor vote. In some ways, the bills became collateral damage from the credit union battle. WBA did make considerable progress on both issues and will collaborate with legislators to reintroduce similar bills in the next legislative session.

Looking Ahead to Next Year

With the end of the March session, WBA GR shifts the team’s focus to political fundraising, member outreach, and strategic planning for the 2023 session. Many of the legislative issues identified above will return and be debated in the next state budget or advanced as separate pieces of legislation. WBA needs to prepare and lay the groundwork for the fight ahead on these critical public policy initiatives.

All members — big, medium, and small — must be more engaged financially in the political process and committed to grassroots advocacy to advance the industry’s priorities. Political campaigns have continued to trend upwards in cost, and the 2022 fall elections should see more spending records broken for state and federal races. With control for the East Wing in play and majorities at stake in both State and Federal Houses, expect hundreds of millions of dollars to be spent in Wisconsin which has become a battleground state for the rest of the country. WBA can ill afford to be a spectator. Sitting on the sidelines runs the risk of electing anti-banking candidates which could have severe negative consequences for our industry. It is imperative to have the political funds in place for WBA to support pro-banking incumbent legislators and challengers. Individual members are strongly encouraged to give to the Wisbankpac or Alliance of Bankers for Wisconsin (ABW) Conduit and corporations are urged to contribute generously to WBA’s issue advocacy fund. For more information go to www.wisbank.com/give.

Rose Oswald PoelsBy Rose Oswald Poels

While the Wisconsin Legislature’s 2021–22 regular session has concluded, our work to oppose the expansion of credit union powers continues. On February 15, the Wisconsin Office of Credit Unions (OCU) filed a final rule to broaden which state-chartered credit unions can accept secondary capital.

Last week, WBA filed written comments with OCU expressing our concerns with this expansion and requesting specific limitations. This followed several phone conversations various WBA staff had with different individuals at DFI. Previous rules allowed only low-income designated state-chartered credit unions the authority to accept secondary capital. The revised rule would broaden this to allow nearly any credit union to issue subordinated debt, for among other things, pure asset growth purposes.

During this year’s legislative session, WBA and 87 banks strongly objected to credit union expansion legislation, AB 478/SB 451, which would have permitted, among other concerns, any credit union to issue supplemental capital. During negotiations with elected officials, the credit union industry stated that their interest in expanding a credit union’s ability to issue supplemental capital beyond only low-income designated credit unions was for the sole purpose of restoring a credit union to minimum capital levels. While the credit union legislation (which contained this broad supplemental capital provision) did not pass this session, it seems the industry is using the regulatory process to achieve this same outcome. As a result, WBA is very concerned with the expansion of powers presented by OCU’s recent rulemaking activity.

While there is no formal comment process for this type of rulemaking, I urge each of you to join WBA in emailing written comments to OCU in opposition of yet another example of credit union powers expansion in our state. I have included a template comment letter for your use in these efforts. Comments should be submitted before April 1 through email to Kim.Santos@wisconsin.gov. The rule issued by OCU will take effect on April 1 as originally published unless OCU agrees to make a change prior to this date. Thank you for your quick action on this important matter!

Submit a comment letter by April 1!

Triangle Background

By John Cronin

In a 7–2 decision released Wednesday afternoon, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the decision the Wisconsin Supreme Court delivered three weeks ago on new state legislative district maps. The U.S. Supreme Court denied a similar request to overturn congressional boundaries set by the Wisconsin Supreme Court. A brief timeline:

  • November 11, 2021 – GOP-controlled Legislature passes new legislative and congressional maps
  • November 18, 2021 – Dem. Governor Tony Evers vetoes those maps
  • November 30, 2021 – Wisconsin Supreme Court sets “least change” approach to analyzing proposed maps parties submit to the Court
  • January 19, 2022 – Wisconsin Supreme Court oral arguments on redistricting case, proposed maps submitted by interested parties (Legislature, Governor, Wisconsin members of Congress, etc.)
  • March 3, 2022 – Wisconsin Supreme Court delivers a 4–3 ruling in favor of maps Gov. Evers submitted to the Court (Ziegler, R. Bradley, and Roggensack dissent)
  • March 7, 2022 – GOP-controlled Legislature appeals the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing the Governor’s maps adopted by the Court were inconsistent with the Equal Protection Clause in the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. In question were seven districts fully or partially located in the City of Milwaukee.
  • March 23, 2022 – U.S. Supreme Court rules the Wisconsin Supreme Court erred in their application of Court decisions on the guarantee of equal protection and the Voting Rights Act. (7–2 decision, Justices Sotomayor and Kagan dissent)
What’s next?

The U.S. Supreme Court remanded the case back to the Wisconsin Supreme Court to either select a different map submission or reconsider the Governor’s maps in a manner consistent with the Court’s opinion today.

An April 15 deadline looms: this will be the first day legislative candidates may circulate nomination papers to get on the ballot for the Fall election.

Rose Oswald PoelsBy Rose Oswald Poels

The Wisconsin Bankers Association (WBA) offers many opportunities for bankers around the state to get involved and shape the future of their industry. From serving as advocacy officers and taking part in Power of Community Week service activities to joining one of twelve WBA committees or sections — there are options for every member of your team.

WBA will be accepting applications for the 2022–23 committees and sections for a few more days! Ranging from marketing, human resources, and mortgage lending to financial crimes and government relations, WBA offers committees that not only tie into your bankers’ specialties but offer the chance to explore their interests as well.

As members of WBA committees, bankers directly impact what legislation WBA staff lobby for and what educational programs, trainings, and conferences are offered to the membership. Your efforts in diversifying our knowledge and ideas not only help WBA staff better understand your needs but allow us to provide WBA members with information, resources, and events that are relevant to them.

Along with the benefit engaged bankers provide the banking industry, WBA committees offer growth and leadership opportunities, peer networking, and special discounts on select educational programs.

WBA is your association. Your expertise and ideas directly aid us in making the greatest impact on your association and industry. I encourage you to volunteer for a WBA committee by March 14 to get involved with WBA and your professional peers for the benefit of our entire industry!

Apply Today!

The following is a brief interview between WBA President and CEO Rose Oswald Poels and Cornerstone Community Bank President Paul A. Foy.

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

Paul: I was working as a marketing product manager for an orthopedic company in the mid-to-late 1990s. I worked with surgeons around the country as we developed new products for total knee and shoulder joint replacement systems. It was a great job, but not conducive to raising a young family. My father-in-law was an investor in a start-up bank and was increasing his stake around the same time. He was encouraging me to join the bank, so I could be closer to family and have more time to be with my kids. After several attempts by him, I saw the light. I really enjoyed banking more than I thought I would, and I was able to participate in my kids’ lives by coaching little league, attending plays, recitals, and chaperoning many field trips over the years!

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

I enjoy visiting our customers and seeing all the different ways people earn a living in this world. I especially like to see how the money we lend enables people to be more productive and add jobs to the local economy. It is rewarding to see the money we lend at work invested in these companies.

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

Banks and credit unions are not the same! Unlike the credit unions, banks pay state, local, and federal taxes that add about 30% more in operating costs. Yet, credit unions have been able to expand their scope of services competing on an uneven playing field. Credit unions boast that they are not-for-profit as if it’s some sort of admirable quality. People need to know that it’s the community banks who pay their fair share and contribute significantly more to the communities that they serve than credit unions.

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

Fraud is going to be one of the industry’s greatest challenges in the next few years. Cyber-crime attempts are more widespread and far more sophisticated than in times past. As bankers, we invest significant funds in hardware, software, and training to help prevent fraud.

Loan closing instructions are being hijacked to the point that we’ve moved back to the fax machine. Corporate email servers are being manipulated to the point where employees are being “instructed” to perform significant fraudulent transactions by actors posing as authorized signers of accounts held by their companies. Elder fraud is another area becoming more intense and personal as the fraudsters use social media posts to learn of familiar relationships helping fraudsters make a convincing case to unsuspecting victims. We experienced a situation recently where an elderly victim couldn’t be convinced by me and another officer of the bank that a contrived situation was fraudulent. We then involved the police, and still she didn’t believe the officer when he told her she didn’t need to send the fraudsters money!

Please share one of your more rewarding or memorable experiences with us.

We support many of the local charities in the communities we serve. In addition to the hours our employees volunteer to support several charitable organizations, we also assist at Chamber of Commerce events for Grafton, Mequon, Thiensville, and Greater Menomonee Falls-Sussex. However, the most recent memorable experience of supporting our community was in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic when we assisted our customers with the SBA Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). In a very short period of time, we came up with policies, procedures, and documents to support a program which was not fully defined. Our small community bank helped our new and existing customers by originating 278 loans in the first round totaling approximately $29.5 million. This came at a time when we were already very busy generating mortgage applications and modifying loans to numerous commercial loan customers to help them through the pandemic. Much of this work was performed with employees working remotely from one another as we weren’t sure if we were going to lose several staff members to the virus itself. We ended up producing another $16.5 million in the second round for our customers. However, it was far less hectic given the lessons learned in round one, thanks, in part, to the WBA.