The following is a brief interview between WBA President and CEO Rose Oswald Poels and Community First Bank President/CEO Dan Klahn.
Rose: How did you first get into the banking industry?
Dan: After graduating from college with a degree in economics, I began working in a sales and lending position with a finance company. I discovered I really enjoyed the customer contact and finding ways to help meet customer needs. While working there, I was able to see the positive effect that community banks have on their customers and communities. This led me to join a small community bank in southwest Wisconsin. A few years later, I joined Community First Bank in Boscobel, where I have been for the last 33 years of my career. Working in a smaller community bank has given me the opportunity to learn and grow as one must wear many hats and do a little bit of everything. This eventually led to my current role as president and CEO.
What is your favorite aspect of your role at your bank?
My favorite aspect of my role at the bank is the ability to positively affect people’s lives. I have been fortunate to be able to develop relationships with individuals and businesses that have lasted 30+ years. This includes being there for them through the good times and bad. Some of these long-term relationships began as start-up businesses that have grown and prospered and are now major employers in the communities we serve.
Another favorite part of my job has been mentoring employees and being able to watch them learn and grow within our organization. Community First Bank has had a number of employees who started with us in high school or college and have now grown into leadership positions within the bank.
What do you wish the general public understood about the banking industry?
I wish the general public better understood the commitment and contributions that community banks and their employees make to their customers and communities every day. We truly have a vested interest in helping our communities thrive as our employees and their families live, work, and go to school in the communities they serve. I believe we’ve “gained some ground” through the pandemic as the extraordinary efforts put out by the banking industry to help our customers was more visible and recognized. However, we as an industry need to continue to educate the general public about the positive effects we have on the economy and the communities we serve.
Where do you believe the industry’s greatest challenges are in the next three to five years?
I think one of community banking’s greatest challenges over the next 3 to 5 years will be related to keeping up with rapidly evolving cybersecurity risks, technology, and complying with the ever increasing regulations. Our industry will need to continue to focus on ways to manage these challenges as we go into the future. In Wisconsin, we are fortunate to have a very strong trade group in the Wisconsin Bankers Association (WBA) to lead advocacy efforts and help us manage some of the challenges we face.
Please share one of your more rewarding or memorable experiences with us.
I think the most rewarding experiences for me in my career revolve around participating and watching our employees step up to the plate when our communities needed us most. A couple of examples of this include watching our employees fill and deliver sandbags to businesses during the 2008 and 2018 floods in Reedsburg and assisting in cleanup efforts for the tornado that hit Boscobel in 2021. It was also extremely rewarding to serve witness to the Community First Bank team working tirelessly to help our customers by quickly processing hundreds of PPP loans during the pandemic in 2020 and 2021.