Bank Five Nine has been awarded the 2022 Top Workplace honor by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for the 13th year in a row. The list is based solely on employee feedback gathered through a third-party survey administered by employee engagement technology partner Energage LLC.

Highlights of the Bank Five Nine award include:

  • Bank Five Nine is one of only nine companies in Southeast Wisconsin to have earned this recognition for 13 straight years.
  • Within the medium-sized company category, they ranked #9, and are the highest-ranked bank.
  • They earned a Specialty Award for Managers, which was based on employee feedback that their managers help employees learn and grow, make it easier to do their job well, and care about concerns.

“Because of the personal efforts of our employees to make lives better each day for our customers as well as their coworkers, we have earned a reputation of being a great place to work.  We have created something unique and our employees’ hard work and dedication have helped shape this company into who we are today, and what we will become tomorrow. This award is truly a team accomplishment” said Mark W. Mohr, Bank Five Nine president and CEO.

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Ken Thompson HeadshotBy Kenneth D. Thompson

As my time as WBA Chair comes to a close on May 31, and I prepare to hand the baton over to Daniel Peterson, I wish to reflect upon the remarkable efforts bankers throughout our state have made this year to ensure the success of our industry. Even as we continue to feel the residual impacts of the pandemic, Wisconsin bankers continue to face every challenge in stride and stand as trusted partners in their communities.

 

Advocacy

This year, over 100 bankers from around the state attended WBA’s annual Capitol Day at the State Capitol in Madison. In addition to hearing from Wisconsin political leaders, bankers met with legislators to convey how issues like credit union expansion, banking regulatory modernization, interchange fee legislation, and elder fraud directly impact their local economies and consumers.

Similarly, many bankers have testified on several WBA key issues in the last year. Your grassroot involvement was critical in preventing bills such as those allowing for the expansion of credit unions from moving past either House. Your engagement in testifying, commenting, and supporting WBA’s efforts further unites our industry.

Education

As bankers continue to embrace new post-pandemic realities, WBA staff too is learning and shifting to best meet the needs of WBA members. Between new hybrid approaches to specific conferences and events geared at keeping our bankers informed — thousands of bankers from throughout the state have benefited from WBA’s adaptability in times of uncertainty which has allowed banks across the state to continue to grow and embrace each challenge faced.

These challenges, though difficult, have also been extremely rewarding. Bankers have shown their innovation and flexibility not only for the sake of their team members, but for their communities. This year, over 100 banks participated in WBA’s fifth annual Power of Community Week to engage with members of their communities through various service events. Throughout the year, the efforts bankers make in establishing connections within the communities they serve prove valuable in aiding the financial wellbeing of our neighbors. Additionally, your efforts assist in shaping the public’s opinion of the banking industry — a valuable perspective to hold especially as we approach election season — continue to explore new ways of embracing technology, and evolve as an industry.

I would also like to extend a sincere ‘thank you’ to WBA President and CEO Rose Oswald Poels and her staff — I speak for many of us when I say I am deeply grateful for the work that the association does for the banking community in Wisconsin and beyond.

First Business Bank is pleased to welcome Lorna “Rory” Hemp Boll, JD, MBA, CFP, as vice president – trust advisor in our Private Wealth group.

“Rory brings strong, valuable experience to our trust and administration team,” said Brendan Freeman, president – private wealth. “We are pleased she joined us and expect our clients to be impressed with her knowledge and passion for helping them achieve their priorities.”

Prior to working at First Business Bank, Rory served as commissioner (chair) of the State of Wisconsin Tax Appeals Commission where she adjudicated tax cases and authored numerous legal decisions. Prior to her appointment to the Commission, Rory was a vice president & trust officer for SVA Plumb Trust Company/SVA Plumb Financial for ten years and a vice president at M&I Trust Company (now BMO) for five years. In her prior roles as a senior trust officer in the Madison and Milwaukee markets, Rory worked with both institutional and high net worth individual clients on issues involving estate and tax planning, trust administration, various aspects of financial analysis, investment management, and retirement planning. Rory also played key roles in the business development/proposal process for nonprofits and trust and investment prospects.

Rory has served as a volunteer and board member for a variety of organizations, including the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. She is an avid snow skier and tennis player and is currently the Edgewood High School girls varsity assistant coach. She and her husband have two sons and live in Madison.

Moves come as community bank continues to grow in Waukesha and Walworth Counties

Citizens Bank is pleased to announce the following promotions and new hire:

Adam Raychel has been named senior vice president – chief financial officer. He is responsible for overseeing the areas of finance and IT, along with the deposit and loan support areas. Adam received a master’s in accounting at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and has over 16 years of experience in the banking industry. He currently holds a CPA credential in the state of Wisconsin.

 

 

 

Ryan Lilly has been named first vice president – business banker. Ryan joined Citizens Bank in 2015 and has 15 years of banking experience. He has developed a customer-first philosophy that guides him to provide the best experience possible for each of his clients while helping them find and unlock the keys to their growth. Ryan is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

 

 

 

Frank Sterbin is welcomed as chief credit officer. In his role, he will be responsible for managing the bank’s Commercial Credit Team. Frank earned his bachelor’s in finance from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and his MBA from Marquette University. He is also a board member of RAMAC and is involved with other non-profit organizations.

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The second in a series exploring the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on banks in Wisconsin.

By Hannah Flanders

As COVID restrictions continue to subside and the days of isolation have since passed (we hope), bankers and customers alike return in droves to their community banks. However, the challenges
presented by the pandemic will forever leave a lasting impact on the way banks operate.

Like most Americans, banks were forced into the confusion and chaos of the COVID-19 lockdown with little to no time to prepare. With disaster plans in place, many banks quickly turned remote, began servicing loans through drive-ups or in the parking lot, and relied on technology to stay connected to their team and customers.

The pandemic’s ongoing impact has allowed banks around the country to reassess the needs of both their customers and staff in connection to the bank and its physical or online branches.

For well over a century, brick and mortar banks have been the cornerstones of communities throughout Wisconsin. Be it for the safety and security of their money, or the personal connection associated with meeting in person, consumers across the state highly value their local, physical bank branches. However, many banks are rethinking their approach to the ‘traditional’ bank.

“[The ways in which] banks interact with clients and where employees get their work done has changed,” says Laurie Richards, vice president and partner at LERDAHL, a workplace interiors company and WBA Associate Member. “Bank branches are remodeling their locations to accommodate a wider variety of expectations that have emerged over the last two years as competition increases for clients and employees.”

A key component of embracing post-pandemic life for Americans around the country has been implementing the lessons learned — and this is certainly no different for Wisconsin bankers. As new branches — including Capitol Bank on Madison’s east side and Farmers and Merchants State Bank in Lake Mills — pop up around the state, new challenges arise as to how banks reimagine themselves in their communities.

As the pandemic proved, accessible banking is the most important factor to both banks and consumers. “Horicon Bank has a renewed commitment to innovate the way we help our customers. The needs of our customers are changing — and in 2020 they changed rapidly,” says Grace Bruins, marketing officer at Horicon Bank. “We’ve had to take a look at the things that make us unique — personal service, community commitment — and find a way to offer that in a digital environment as well as a physical one.”

Throughout Wisconsin, community banks envision new ways of exceeding the expectations of their customers. “Our plan is to continue to invest in our people and technology to help the bank grow and be successful,” says Prevail Bank President Nathan Quinnell. Many banks throughout the state have made upgrades such as e-signatures, ITMs, and online chat functionality for customers — Prevail Bank also hopes to upgrade their online mortgage process, add online account opening functionality, and sustain remote employees.

While many banks offered remote options during lockdown, many Wisconsin bankers have returned with full force to their branches and remote employment is considered on a case-by-case basis. Finding ways to leverage technology and space within the office is not only critical to staying relevant to customers in a world with increasing interest in digital banking, but to finding and retaining talent in a competitive job market.

“As we are in the relationship business, in addition to valuing our customers, we value the presence and safety of our employees,” says Capitol Bank President and CEO Ken Thompson. With insight from having successfully navigated the challenges created by the pandemic, Thompson understands the value this new space adds for both his customers and employees.

The combination of private office locations balanced with the increasing need for open, conference-style spaces planned for the new Capitol Bank location highlights a shift from individual to collaborative work and supports the idea that the type of task, privacy, and level of collaboration required is flexible throughout the day. With the assistance of technology, bankers are now able to maintain the office environment and culture as well as offer support to branches across towns, cities, or the state.

“As well as providing legendary customer service, embracing future technology is an important aspect of nurturing our current and future customer relations,” says William Campbell, Farmers and Merchants State Bank president and CEO.

“As we transition into our new Lake Mills branch, offering secluded spaces where customers can meet with Lake Mills staff as well as virtually meet with Waterloo and Marshall team members, will not only allow for an easier transition but offer our customers a variety of services,” adds William Hogan, Farmers and Merchants State Bank CFO.

In reimagining accessibility, bankers have considered new ways customers are able to interact with bankers — via the drive-up, ITMs, and through their digital branches — and explored elevating
existing offerings.

“Since the pandemic started, [Horicon Bank] believes there are more customers looking for digital banking services,” says Horicon’s CFO Robert Traylor. Whether it be mobile banking or the desire to digitalize services already offered at the bank — there is no doubt to bankers that the use of technology in some capacity offers customers a greater personalized banking experience and, in the case of online banking, allows their money and other banking services to become accessible to customers no matter where they are.

Accessibility, be it of the physical branch or the online services, continues to be amplified by the days of COVID-19. In understanding the need for both brick and mortar and virtual banking practices as well as approaches to combine the two, Wisconsin bankers hit their stride and continue their growth looking beyond the pandemic.

Community banking is, and always has been, concerned with the relationship built between the banker and the customer. Providing safe and productive spaces — both in-person and online — that offer the relevant tools and foster growth for both the employees and clients, is ultimately beneficial to the success of any community bank.

 

Rose Oswald Poels By Rose Oswald Poels

Last week, the Federal Reserve Board (FRB), Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) released a joint statement proposing changes to the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) regulations. The joint proposal would both strengthen and modernize the regulations by expanding access to credit, investment, and basic banking services; adapt to internet and mobile banking changes; provide greater clarity and consistency with both banks and their customers; and create unique CRA evaluations requirements.

The CRA, originally enacted in 1977, encourages banks and savings associations to help meet the need of all borrowers — including low- and moderate-income individuals. In recent years, the industry has seen the agencies attempt to modernize CRA to better address new technologies and community-investment opportunities. However, those efforts left much frustration for the industry when OCC implemented its own “updated” CRA regulation in June 2020, while FDIC and FRB retained existing standards, interpretations, and regulations.

WBA advocated heavily against separate CRA regulations in meetings with the agencies and in filed comment letters. Successfully, late last year, OCC repealed its independent CRA regulation and now the agencies are once again acting together in proposing a unified CRA regulation. I am pleased to see the expansion of transparency between agencies.

The new joint proposal has the following key elements:

  • Expand access to credit, investment, and basic banking services in low- and moderate-income communities. Under the proposal, the agencies would evaluate bank performance across the varied activities they conduct and communities in which they operate so that CRA is a strong and effective tool to address inequities in access to credit. The proposal would promote community engagement and financial inclusion. It would also emphasize smaller value loans and investments that can have high impact and be more responsive to the needs of LMI communities.
  • Adapt to changes in the banking industry, including internet and mobile banking. The proposal would update CRA assessment areas to include activities associated with online and mobile banking, branchless banking, and hybrid models.
  • Provide greater clarity, consistency, and transparency. The proposal would adopt a metrics-based approach to CRA evaluations of retail lending and community development financing, which includes public benchmarks, for greater clarity and consistency. It also would clarify eligible CRA activities, such as affordable housing, that are focused on LMI, undeserved, and rural communities.
  • Tailor CRA evaluations and data collection to bank size and type. The proposal recognizes differences in bank size and business models. It provides that smaller banks would continue to be evaluated under the existing CRA regulatory framework with the option to be evaluated under aspects of the new proposed framework.
  • Maintain a unified approach. The proposal reflects a unified approach from the bank regulatory agencies and incorporates extensive feedback from stakeholders.

I highly encourage you to join WBA in commenting on this joint proposal by August 5, 2022. Please contact WBA’s Heather Mackinnon, vice president – legal, at hmackinnon@wisbank.com and Scott Birrenkott, assistant director – legal, at sbirrenkott@wisbank.com if you have any questions regarding the proposed regulation updates.

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Mike Molepske, chief executive officer of Bank First is pleased to announce the following promotions:

Elizabeth Miller has been promoted to vice president – deposit operations. Elizabeth joined the bank in 2009 as a teller/customer service representative and advanced into other roles such as personal banker, assistant branch manager, branch operations/training coordinator, and most recently as deposit operations manager. In her role, Elizabeth will continue to use her extensive banking experience to oversee deposit operations of the bank. She attended Lakeshore Technical College and plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in business administration at Lakeland University. Elizabeth enjoys spending time with her husband, Joe, and their three children. Her hobbies include crafting, spending time in her garden and flowerbeds, as well as hunting and fishing at their family cabin.

 

Phil Plagemann has been promoted to facilities officer. Phil joined the bank in 2018 with several years of maintenance and carpentry experience. He served as facilities specialist and was later promoted to facilities manager. In his current role, Phil performs and manages general branch maintenance and oversees the facilities team, which is responsible for day-to-day maintenance and courier needs. He works closely with external vendors, architects, and engineers and is instrumental in coordinating the bank’s construction projects including new branch designs and the renovation of current offices. He received his journeyman apprenticeship in Carpentry from Lakeshore Technical College. Phil has been a volunteer firefighter for 18 years and is active in his children’s athletic programs. He lives in Kiel with his wife and two children. They enjoy camping, sports, hunting, and woodworking.

 

Oak Bank, Fitchburg’s community bank since 2000, is pleased to welcome Pete Thostenson to the team as a deposit operations specialist.

Thostenson brings sixteen years of experience in banking to Oak Bank. Working closely with Deposit Operations Manager Amber Lehnherr, Thostenson will assist in several important activities, including ensuring internal deposit compliance and maintaining the bank’s deposit portfolio by analyzing and reviewing deposit accounting reports.

“We are excited to add Pete to our team,” said Amber Lehnherr, deposit operations manager. “His knowledge and experience in previous deposit operations roles, as well as with ACH, will be a great asset to Oak Bank and our ability to serve our clients.”

Thostenson will support Oak Bank clients in ACH (electronic financial transactions) areas, including debit/ATM transactions, mobile banking, and wire transfers. And, if a client has a debit card dispute, receives a security alert, or in the event of a fraud case, Thostenson will be right by their side.

“Scams and fraud are an unfortunate reality in the digital world we live in,” said Thostenson. “If one of our clients needs us, they can call me directly – not a 1-800 number with a bunch of automated responses. I am here to navigate what to do with as little disruption as possible.”

Thostenson enjoys biking on Madison’s many trails and volunteering at the Dane County Humane Society.

Legacy Private Trust Company recently announced the appointment of Mrs. Marissa Downs to their Board of Directors. Downs will fill a newly created board position, and all current Legacy directors will continue to serve. Legacy’s board now consists of Mr. Michael B. Mahlik, Mr. Joseph E. McGrane, Mr. James F. Beré Jr., Mr. Richard A. Bergstrom, Dr. Timothy T. Flaherty, Mr. Paul A. Klister, Mr. Fredrick W. Merizon, and Mrs. Marissa B. Downs.

According to President Michael Mahlik, “The Legacy Board of Directors is comprised of distinguished business and community leaders dedicated to contributing their expertise to support our mission of providing outstanding wealth management to our clients. Marissa was selected from an extensive list of potential board candidates because of her deep roots in the Fox Valley, the unique perspective she will bring to the board, her strong business acumen, and the level of both personal and professional respect she enjoys. Marissa will be a valuable resource in expanding our company brand, strategically analyzing and positioning our company, and expanding our service offerings and geographical footprint.”

Marissa Downs received a BBA from U.W. Madison in 2001 in real estate and urban land economics.  She began her career as an analyst at Related Capital, after which she has served as the director of development at SunStarr Real Estate Group and the senior vice president at Commonwealth Development Corporation. Marissa is currently a principal at Mosaic Property Ventures, a multifamily housing development company. According to Marissa, “Mosaic takes a thoughtful approach to community development by creating dynamic neighborhoods and housing opportunities for individuals, families, and older adults.”  Marissa currently serves on the board of the Trout Museum of Art and the Wisconsin Partnership of Housing Development Inc. She also serves as a committee chair for the Appleton Redevelopment Authority. When asked about her Legacy board appointment, Marissa replied, “I have tremendous respect for the existing Legacy board members both as individuals and professionals. Legacy has a successful history of assisting clients with wealth creation and protection, and during uncertain financial times, this is more important than ever. I’m proud to be a part of the leadership team, ensuring this tradition continues. I look forward to sharing my perspective as not only the first woman to serve but also as the first board member to represent my generation.”

How banks can grow their portfolio and assist communities in need 

By Hannah Flanders

As the disbursement of wealth in the United States becomes increasingly polarized by the year, there is a growing need in neighborhoods throughout the country for new sources of capital and greater access to financing. To accommodate this need, Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) were developed to expand economic opportunity to low-income and low-wealth communities.

What is a CDFI?

A CDFI is a private financial, non-profit institution that often receives federal funding through the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Ranging from banks and credit unions to loan funds and venture capital providers, these institutions are CDFI certified for their efforts in empowering underserved communities.

With the help of the CDFI Fund, established by the Riegle Community Development and Regulatory Improvement Act of 1994, CDFIs specialize in lending to individuals, organizations, and businesses in under-resourced communities. In addition to low-interest rate loans, CDFIs have the ability to provide clients financial education and business coaching in specific aspects of our economy.

What Sets CDFIs Apart?

To become a CDFI, the financial institution must first be certified. Certification requires the institution to have a primary mission of promoting community development, principally serve one or more eligible target markets as well as be accountable to the target markets served, and to not be either a government entity or controlled by a government entity, among other conditions.

All CDFIs, with the assistance of federal funding and investments made for the purpose of community development, have the ability to take greater risk on lending to individuals, businesses, and communities that meet the CDFI’s specific funding source requirements. Because of this, CDFIs are able to expand the opportunities given to Native Americans, people of color, women, military-connected families, and many other underbanked individuals who may slip between the cracks of mainstream financial services.

CDFIs in Wisconsin

As of March 2022, there are 20 certified CDFIs in the state of Wisconsin, and throughout the U.S., CDFI institutions have increased by over 70% in the last 11 years to 1,395. In Wisconsin, CDFIs are represented by two banks (such as Bay Bank, Green Bay), one bank holding company (Bay Bancorporation, Green Bay), four credit unions, and 13 loan funds (such as Forward Community Investments, Inc., Madison). In addition, qualifying institutions may also be defined as either a venture capital (such as RFLF 2, LLC in Chicago, Ill.) or a depository institution holding company (such as American Bancorp of Illinois, Inc. in Oak Brook, Ill.). These 20 Wisconsin CDFIs play a critical role in establishing economic growth and opportunity for disadvantaged communities throughout the state.

Banks in Wisconsin eligible for certification are not only better suited in supporting underserved communities into mainstream banking, but also help grow their loan portfolio in their ability to serve all members of their community. Additionally, CDFI-certified banks are eligible for a range of program awards which assist in financing specific activities.

“With the recent health crisis, economic crisis, and social justice crisis there has never been a more needed time for quality loan programs to start and grow all businesses in Wisconsin, the U.S., and our world,” says Wendy Baumann, president and CEO of Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation (WWBIC), a Wisconsin CDFI and WBA Associate Member aimed at assisting women, people of color, veterans, rural populations, and lower wealth individuals. “We need different lending institutions with different expertise and products to meet all the demands and foster a vibrant small business sector in both urban and rural communities.”

Working Alongside CDFIs

There are many other ways, besides becoming certified, that banks work in tandem with CDFIs. “Most [CDFI] clients are unable to meet the credit requirements of the commercial banks,” says Gary Mejchar, co-executive director/development at First American Capital Corporation (FACC), a WBA Associate Member and CDFI promoting economic development in Wisconsin’s Indian Country. “In turn, FACC welcomes referrals from banks for prospective borrowers not yet ready to meet the banks’ credit requirements.”

Additionally, working alongside CDFIs provides banks with the opportunity to enhance their Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) performance and become involved in new ways within their community. These activities include providing technical assistance, collaborating to invest in loan pools and consortiums, and providing funds for lending. For the full list of ways your bank can become more involved with CDFIs, visit fdic.gov/resources.

Establishing working relationships between banks and CDFIs is becoming increasingly critical to each institution’s ability to provide development opportunities to those who need it most. “CDFIs, SBA Microlender Program intermediary lenders, and banks are integral elements of the continuum of credit available to entrepreneurs, micro- and small-business owners in Wisconsin,” continues Mejchar. “In fact, a growing number of FACC borrowers are growing capacity, capital, and collateral to ‘graduate’ from our Native CDFI portfolio and qualify for forming business banking relationships statewide.”

In assisting local, Wisconsin CDFIs — or by becoming certified — banks allow themselves greater opportunity to commit to distinguishable change in underserved communities throughout Wisconsin. By increasing their ability to support low-income and low-wealth individuals, families, and businesses, banks across the state will help lead the way to sustainable, economic equality.