Rose Oswald PoelsBy Rose Oswald Poels

Ensuring the financial success and prosperity of our community members is at the heart of the banking industry. Recently, the FINRA Investor Education Foundation released its National Financial Capability Study results, providing insights into the financial capability of U.S. adults. The findings are a helpful resource in understanding the financial circumstances of households in Wisconsin compared to the region and nation.

The summary of FINRA’s findings — split into specific sections such as making ends meet, planning ahead, managing financial products, and financial knowledge — underscore a few of the most important areas relating to financial literacy. Conducted June through October 2021, the results show that Wisconsinites stand ahead of the rest of the U.S. in many critical areas such as having emergency funds, a savings account, and a plan for their future.

Bankers play an important role in outreach efforts in your communities to equip consumers young and old with the knowledge and resources needed to achieve financial stability and prosperity.

In countless ways, Wisconsin bankers do so much to promote financially healthy communities. To support you in this work, the Wisconsin Bankers Foundation (WBF) serves as the hub for all things financial literacy. Annually, Wisconsin bankers venture into schools as part of Teach Children to Save Day in April using WBF’s Reading Raises Interest Kits. In addition, the Foundation is actively working to curate relevant resources bankers can use with people of all ages and levels of financial experience — please to view what we have available now.

As a reminder, the 2022–2023 Financial Education Summary Forms are now open. Not only does the Foundation assist Wisconsin bankers in providing resources for all consumers, but we also celebrate these important contributions you make each day to our state. If your bank employees participate in any financial education-related event from June 1, 2022 through May 31, 2023, please submit a form as you go to record your activity. Questions related to WBF and resources available for your bank can be directed to Hannah Flanders, WBF coordinator.

Bankers should also be aware of programs such as America Saves, Wisconsin Saves, and ELEVATE Wisconsin that can be implemented in the office, shared with business customers, and members of the community.

  • America Saves: Accessible online guidance, best practices, and goals consumers can pledge themselves to.
  • ELEVATE Wisconsin: An online wellness program providing interactive, effective, and unbiased instruction in personal finance and investing fundamentals to Wisconsin employees.
  • Wisconsin Saves: Small- and medium-sized employers can promote to their employees the ease and benefits of saving automatically for emergencies through split deposit.

Thank you to every bank that assists our industry in continuing its commitment to serving and educating members our communities. Time and time again, data such as FINRA’s National Financial Capability Study reminds us of the strength in our industry — where we’ve come from and where we have yet to go.

*Graphs provided by the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) based on information provided by the FINRA Investor Education Foundation National Financial Capability Survey.

Tim Schneider

Bank Five Nine is pleased to announce the hiring of Tim Schneider as its next president and CEO.

Schneider has extensive experience in community banking throughout Wisconsin, and most recently served as a senior vice president at Nicolet National Bank. Prior to that, he was the CEO and co-founder of Investors Community Bank in Manitowoc. Investors Community Bank was acquired by Nicolet National Bank in 2021.

“We conducted a national search for our next president and CEO, and Tim quickly rose to the top of a very competitive candidate pool,” said Bob Snyder, Board chairman at Bank Five Nine. “We are excited to have Tim lead our organization and I look forward to working with him.”

When asked what Schneider found to be attractive about Bank Five Nine, he said there were several factors. “Bank Five Nine has an outstanding reputation in Wisconsin, and I really like the communities that the bank serves,” he said. “I look forward to continuing the tradition of strong support in those areas, and to working with the bank’s outstanding team.”

Schneider describes himself as a collaborative leader, who is looking forward to joining an organization with a strong culture. “I believe strongly in family-oriented cultures. When employees care about each other, they work together to best serve customers. Bank Five Nine is exactly that type of organization,” he said.

Bank Five Nine expects Schneider to join the organization in October. The bank’s current President and CEO Mark W. Mohr will continue with the bank through his retirement into early next year and will remain active with Bank Five Nine by continuing as a member of their board.

Triangle Background

Associated Bank has announced a 20-year, $10 million sponsorship of Milwaukee Repertory Theater (“Milwaukee Rep”) in support of the theater’s campaign to create a visionary new theater complex attached to the Associated Bank River Center. In recognition of its leadership, Milwaukee Rep’s new theater complex will be named the Associated Bank Theater Center through 2042.

“Milwaukee Rep has been a cornerstone of Milwaukee’s cultural heritage for nearly 70 years. We couldn’t be more proud to provide this enduring commitment to their mission and to making Milwaukee a more vibrant place to live and work,” said Andy Harmening, president and CEO, Associated Bank.

Each year, Milwaukee Rep, which is housed within the Associated Bank River Center complex at 815 N. Water St., welcomes more than 300,000 guests to downtown Milwaukee for its season of theatrical performances intended to entertain, provoke, and inspire meaningful dialogue among audiences representative of Milwaukee’s rich diversity. These performances also bring travelers to the community, stimulating local economies, and supporting businesses in downtown Milwaukee. What happens on stage is only part of the story. Through more than 100 school and community partnerships, Milwaukee Rep’s educational programs continue to help teach reading comprehension and other critical skills in the classroom.

“Theater has changed since we moved into our current home in the 1980s — and so has our community. While it has served us well for four decades, our aging and inefficient complex limits the productions we stage, the plays we develop, and the kind of educational impact we create,” said Chad Bauman, executive director of Milwaukee Rep. “With a new theater complex, Milwaukee Rep will ensure world-class theater remains in the heart of downtown Milwaukee for decades to come. Associated Bank’s support of our campaign is critical to our success, and we are proud that our new complex will be named for a company that gives so much to Milwaukee.”

After successfully navigating the challenges associated with the pandemic, the Board of Trustees of Milwaukee Rep unanimously approved plans to remain at its current location and build an entirely new, expanded complex with state-of-the-art theaters, abundant community gathering spaces, an education center to expand student programming, and modern audience amenities. Joining Associated Bank are hundreds of community leaders, corporations and foundations who have already made generous pledges. Working with Eppstein Uhen Architects, Hunzinger Construction, and Chamberlin LLC, Milwaukee Rep also completed concept designs, budgeting, and planning for construction. More information about the complex, designs and timeline will be provided by Milwaukee Rep in the coming months.

Associated Investing in Milwaukee

In addition to today’s announcement with Milwaukee Rep, Associated has recently announced several significant investments in the Milwaukee community, especially surrounding its redevelopment of its River Center complex, including:

  • The title sponsorship of The Pabst Theater Group. The group’s Pabst Theater is housed within the Associated Bank River Center.
  • The opening of the Center for Professional Development in partnership with ALIVE Milwaukee. The center offers a dedicated space to foster advancement toward a diverse and inclusive
  • Milwaukee community, and houses and supports several leading nonprofit organizations and community initiatives geared toward supporting young people in business, the arts, professional development and educational attainment.
  • A full-service branch in the River Center, opening in 2023, to service Milwaukee Rep patrons, the bank’s tenants in the River Center tower, Private Wealth clients served by the River Center and other customers in the River Center area.

Previously named the Milwaukee Center, Associated purchased the River Center complex in 2016 and has been since redeveloping the site. Last week, Associated also announced three new dining venues and a new riverfront bar that are expected to open in spring 2023. Once complete, the Associated Bank River Center will bring together the best of Milwaukee — the arts, finance, business, tourism, and dining inspiring and inspired by the City.

Triangle Background

By Jennifer Sobotta

Attending and enjoying the June BOLT Summer Leadership Summit, listening to the speakers, and connecting with old and now new friends makes me think of how I got to be where I am today. This year’s BOLT Summer Leadership Summit made me think of it even more as we talked about career pathing. So much so, that during my next turn at the podium I introduced myself as “Jen, the Accidental Banker.”

During my studies at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point back in the 90s, I had no intention of going into banking. I wanted to be a marketer after all and didn’t (and still don’t) care for numbers enough to be a lender. That was how I looked at banking back then — only the positions that you would see walking in as a customer.

My senior year, with the help of UWSP Career Services, I sent over 80 resumes, had 30 interviews, nine second interviews, and three job offers. Not one was in the financial services industry.

My first real job was on a marketing team at a rural hospital/nursing home. It was very community focused and located in a lovely rural area. I had the chance to learn from an experienced leader more than tactical marketing, but the art of navigating internal meetings, public relations, and community events.

When it came time to look for more growth with another company, a friend recommended a local bank that was expanding. I took a chance and happily joined the team at the end of 1998 with a lot to learn. My mentor there had led teams at a few other banks previously and shared her expertise constantly. My path to where I am today wasn’t straight, but it was paved by leaders willing to share. That’s an important lesson.

Within two years, that mentor retired, and I took a leap of faith that I could be the next marketing director. The bank took a chance on me and invested in me as I grew as a leader. They sent me on to the ABA School of Bank Marketing & Management and countless other conferences and seminars to learn new methods and software to fine-tune my craft. Through the years, I built my team up to three in the marketing department, and the bank grew to $500 Million in assets and 14 locations. Yet, it was again time to move on to the next challenge.

I received a call from an old colleague, a lender who I didn’t always have a chance to talk with much. He told me about the opening at Forward and encouraged me to apply. That gentleman has risen to the role of president and is the leader I now report to. A great lesson that every interaction with people is important — you don’t know when and what is noticed.

The past 12 years have been a blur, much like when you are speeding down a highway. I’ve seen the same level of investment in me as a team member and more in all of us as leaders. We all challenge each other to innovate, to remove the traditional roadblocks, and push back at the naysayer mindset sometimes found in financial services. We understand that banking isn’t a transaction, it’s now an experience.

Forward is now approaching $1 billion in assets with 12 locations, seven insurance offices, and three investment offices. When I look around, there are many accidental bankers like me with the list growing each year.

As the current Building Our Leaders of Tomorrow (BOLT) Board chair and thinking of the time spent working with and learning from the Wisconsin Bankers Association (WBA), we are all lucky to have this resource. From serving on the Marketing Committee, then as its chair to being part of BOLT and now proud to be this year’s chair, I wonder what will be next. Where else can I continue to learn and lead through that process?

One final lesson that has stayed with me for over 20 years. My 90-year-old grandfather swung a golf club for the first time as I was practicing in the yard after his birthday party. Knowing he would never play a course, I asked him why even learn to swing the club. He told me, “you never stop learning until you leave this earth.” Best lesson ever.

I may not have chosen initially to be a banker, but the path I’ve taken has been created by the lessons of leaders around me. Good luck on your journey.

Interested in attending the next BOLT Summit?

Sobotta is vice president – marketing director at Forward Bank in Marshfield

Rose Oswald PoelsBy Rose Oswald Poels

The Society of Bank Executives, a nationwide organization for building new connections and accessing accelerated programing related to leadership, is looking ahead to the official launch in January 2023. Currently, the Society is comprised of over 120 executives from 15 states, including several from Wisconsin, and these bankers are participating in the pre-launch cohort this fall.

As I have announced in previous publications, the Society was established by several banking trade groups across the country — including WBA — to promote individual professional development. The initiative focuses specifically on granting C-suite bankers the opportunity to network among peers, attend relevant and flexible education seminars by experts, and enhance critical leadership competencies and skills.

As we all work to navigate within our ever-evolving industry, I encourage you to consider the importance of taking part in opportunities such as the Society of Bank Executives. Unlike other leadership seminars, the program offers bankers not just the education, but the relationships and soft skills necessary to masterfully lead our banks. In addition to studying, analyzing, and applying knowledge learned during the four-month program, bank executives will form invaluable networks among peers outside of our markets.

Although the pre-launch session is in full swing, Wisconsin bankers are invited to join the Society during its third meeting in Sun Valley, Idaho. The three-day event focuses specifically on the power of peer groups, and will kick off on October 19. I encourage bank executives who have not already registered for Society membership to consider utilizing this opportunity to garner a sneak peek of what’s in store for programing as the initiative formally launches in January.

Thank you to those Wisconsin bankers who have already registered as a member the Society. If you would like to learn more about the Society and how its program could impact your bank, please visit Additionally, if you are interested in taking part in the Society’s upcoming in-person educational event in Sun Valley, please click here for details on how to register.

General Session Conference

Rose Oswald PoelsBy Rose Oswald Poels

As our Association continues its efforts to support bankers of historically underrepresented backgrounds, finding new ways to invest in the personal and professional development of every one of our employees is top of mind.

WBA’s employee resource group (ERG), which launched in June, continues to provide a safe space for our colleagues of color and individuals of underrepresented backgrounds to engage in employee-led conversations once a month related to their identity or feelings, ideas, and developments in the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) space.

The next meeting will be held Thursday, September 22 at 10:00 a.m. The conversation will include the topic of professionalism and an open discussion with staff from Peoples State Bank, Wausau regarding their involvement with the local Hmong community. Bank leaders, managers, and HR professionals are encouraged to forward this opportunity on to bankers who may benefit from this inclusive forum.

Additionally, in conjunction with WBA’s DEI Plan to provide professional development opportunities and foster a welcoming, inclusive culture, I am excited to announce that WBA will be offering three educational scholarships to select WBA events this fall.

These scholarships, offered in partnership with the Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago, will be presented to bankers of historically underrepresented backgrounds — including, but not limited to, individuals of African American/Black, Asian/Asian American/Desi, Indigenous, Hispanic/Latinx/Spanish origin; members of the LGBTQ+ community, people with disabilities, and those part of a religious minority. Please share this scholarship opportunity with members of your staff as they look to expand their career within the banking industry.

WBA’s three educational scholarships will cover the registration fee of the selected program along with any overnight accommodation, as needed.

Scholarships are available for:

I encourage bankers to take this chance to invest in their professional development and share these various opportunities with members of their staff. It is ever so important for the prosperity of our banks and the communities in which they serve that individuals of all backgrounds and experience levels are supported in their pursuit of new degrees of leadership and opportunities to expand their career and network.

Dan PetersonBy Daniel J. Peterson

As technology continues to advance faster than ever before, the importance of staying up to date on the latest trends and best practices for the safety of both the bank and its customers is quickly becoming the number one concern for Wisconsin bankers.

As the last several years have shown, a growing number of consumers throughout the state rely on technology and online banking for their day-to-day needs. It is critical that, for continued success and relevance of our industry, bankers are aware of not only how best to serve our customers through offering modern banking amenities, but how to best protect our communities from increasingly more sophisticated — and prevalent — fraudsters.

For this purpose, in addition to ensuring that all Wisconsin banks remain a safe, secure place for finances and sensitive information, the Wisconsin Bankers Association (WBA) will once again host a combined Secur-I.T. & BSA/AML Conference. The conference specifically targets BSA/AML, operations, security, and technology banking professionals looking to remain educated on our ever-evolving industry.

This year’s annual conference will be held September 20 and 21 at Glacier Canyon Lodge in Wisconsin Dells and features a unique variety of speakers. From local professionals and WBA Associate Members to world-famous cyber security expert and ethical hacker Bryan Seely, WBA’s Secur-I.T. & BSA/AML Conference will assist banking teams in understanding how best to protect against hackers, what trends to watch for in money laundering, and so much more. This is an event you don’t want to miss!

By engaging in conferences such as WBA’s Secur-I.T. & BSA/AML Conference, bank leaders can ensure their staff is gaining the most relevant and up-to-date banking-related information from the most knowledgeable individuals in the industry. Along with over seven hours of presentations focused on the safety and security of our banks and customers, bankers will enjoy networking with professionals from across the state and meeting with exhibitors offering products and services that help community banks further advance their customer service capabilities.

Please visit to register or for additional details.

Peterson is president and CEO of The Stephenson National Bank & Trust, Marinette, and the 2022–2023 WBA Chair.