Markesan State Bank is pleased to announce the hiring of Megan Connor. Connor joins the lending team as a Consumer/Residential Lender in our Randolph Branch. Her primary areas of lending will be focused on Residential and Consumer Lending.

Connor comes to Markesan State Bank with over 7 years of mortgage lending experience. 

Connor holds an Associate’s degree from Madison Area Technical College and comes to us with a vast knowledge of the mortgage lending industry. She is excited about taking her knowledge and skills to assist people in finding and creating their dream homes.

Connor grew up south of Madison, WI and moved to the Fox Lake area in 2010. She enjoys supporting her children in their school related activities, gardening, and restoring classic trucks.

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By, Ally Bates

WBA continues to monitor the implementation of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) updated Medicaid Asset Verification Data Matching program (AVS). In July 2017, DHS informed WBA that AVS was being temporarily suspended due to the expiration of the contract between DHS and its data match vendor Health Management Systems Inc. DHS has selected a new vendor, Accuity Asset Verification Services, and sent out a letter with more information Monday, April 9, 2018.

Accuity Asset Verification Services sent emails to Wisconsin financial institutions on Friday, April 27. These emails are valid, and part of the AVS implementation process. WBA has since spoken with DHS and learned that these emails went to previous contacts Accuity Asset Verification Services had with each individual financial institution. As a result, the email may have been missed. 

DHS is implementing AVS next month, and Accuity Asset Verification Services will follow up with another email next month to correspond with the implementation. If a financial institution has not received the April 27 email, WBA recommends reaching out directly to or 855-807-9822. DHS has also informed WBA that financial institutions may contact Autumn Arnold at

By, Eric Skrum

"First and foremost, we would like to thank Paul for his service to this state and our nation over the past 20 years. He represented Wisconsin admirably during his entire tenure in the House, demonstrating remarkable leadership during difficult times. He was instrumental in providing stability and direction during the financial crisis, and his hard work and leadership were integral in passing recent tax reforms that provide much-needed relief to consumers and businesses. 

His ability to promote compromise and unity will certainly be missed in Washington. We wish Paul the best of luck in his future endeavors."

By, Amber Seitz

The Wisconsin Bankers Association offers for your use the following consumer education column. Your bank is free to use this as a community column in your local newspaper, a letter to the editor, a press release or in any other way you see fit. The purpose is to give our members an easy-to-use tool for promoting the banking industry to Wisconsin’s communities.

New Year, New Me, right? We’re a few weeks into the new year and you may have dropped your New Year’s Resolution to become financially fit. Don’t despair. It’s still early in the new year and a great time to clean up your financials, adopt better spending habits, and start saving more. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

Make a budget and stick with it
This almost cliché financial advice is repeated so often for one important reason: it works. Start by tracking your spending, once you’ve tracked how much money you spend over the course of a few weeks, you can look for trends in what you’re spending. These trends help you start planning on how much income goes towards necessities (like rent/mortgage, utilities, groceries), and see areas where you can cut back (rarely-used subscription services, eating out less) and start putting away a portion of your income towards a savings goal. The most important part of a budget is sticking with it, once you start tracking your spending you should make sure to take time every day or every few days to log your spending and compare that to your planned spending.

Deal with any debt
Debt is an extremely stressful thing to deal with but the new year is a time to get a handle on any debt that may have piled up around the holidays. Debt should be something factored into your budget like your electric bill and tracked. Although it may be daunting, contact your creditors to discuss your situation, they may be willing to work with you to put together a repayment plan. If you're carrying debt on multiple credit cards, talk to your local bank about the possibility of consolidating that debt into a single payment so you can close the extra card accounts. No matter what you do, addressing debt instead of ignoring it will help you get a handle on it and make positive progress.

Shop around
Many times people will stick with whatever they find first, be it their internet provider, car insurance, or brand of soup, but that may not be the best deal, especially a few years down the line. There’s nothing wrong with being loyal to a company but just because they’ve been your cable provider for a few years isn’t necessarily a good reason to stay with them and doesn’t ensure that you are getting the best value for what you are paying. Look around to see what other companies are charging for similar services, you may find that your current company is priced competitively or you may find that you can get a better deal elsewhere. One thing to beware of is a cheaper product or service that is cheaper for a reason, make sure you are still getting a similar quality or ask yourself if you are ok with a downgrade.
Making a commitment to financial health and wellness can be a great way to start the New Year on good footing that can last throughout the year and your life.   

An archive of Consumer Columns is available online at

By, Eric Skrum

The banking industry’s future is difficult to predict. Fintech, compliance, technology, branch strategy… The list of potential challenges and opportunities seems endless. Who will lead your bank through this shifting landscape of tomorrow?

Succession planning must be more than a list of names. It requires detailed planning and follow-through. “Our belief is that the purpose of long-term succession planning is to create an ideal plan for the future that takes into account all the things that are important to the bank, such as culture, philosophy, and goals,” said Executive Benefits Network (EBN) Managing Partner and Founder R. David Fritz, Jr. “The ultimate goal is to have a smooth and strong transition.” Integrated talent management and leadership development plans are essential for senior management to position key successors for success in their future roles—and to ensure they stay with the bank long enough to fill those shoes.

Common Challenges

Wisconsin banks—and the industry in general—face several challenges when it comes to successful succession planning. Foremost is the lack of young, incoming bankers. “The key challenge that banks face today is finding qualified, driven individuals that fit with the job and with the culture of the bank,” said Kevin Piette, COO at State Bank of Cross Plains and chair-elect of the 2017-2018 WBA BOLT Section Board. “You’re looking for a long-term fit so you can grow that talent.” According to Chief Operating Officer and Market President at Coulee Bank, La Crosse Mike Gargaro, current BOLT Chair, part of the solution to this problem is to do a better job of telling the story of community banking. “We need to get the stories of what community banking is about and what the jobs are like to our potential hires,” he said. “We need to be seen in the communities we serve.” This is especially important in rural parts of the state, where the pool of potential employees is much smaller. “It’s a challenge for community banks, especially in rural areas, to attract talent, but by continually advocating we can show how great our industry is,” said Piette.

Another challenge is the population differential in today’s workforce. “There’s a leadership gap, where you have Baby Boomers leaving the workforce and Millennials entering it,” explained AmyK Hutchens, founder of AmyK International, Inc. “Millennials are the fastest-promoted generation post-Industrial Revolution.” Not only are Millennials filling large shoes because there simply are not enough Gen X bankers to do so, but senior management often are unsure of how to manage these different generations in a way that encourages growth and retention.

Finally, effective succession and development planning must take place in tandem with exit strategy planning. “If the current CEO is not simultaneously preparing for his or her exit, then all the great planning and development you’ve done will get pushed down the line,” said Fritz. “The board needs to keep the CEO honest with the timeline that is agreed-upon.”

Identifying Candidates

The first step in integrating a development plan into the succession plan is to determine which key roles are likely to experience turnover in the near future (typically 3-5 years). Next, senior management must identify the individuals within the bank who may be tapped for a leadership role in the future. Note: this is different from having a “backup plan” in case of an emergency departure, though that is a useful exercise. “Know what would happen if one of your key people left suddenly,” Fritz advised. “That’s your immediate short-term succession plan. We call it the ‘lifeboat drill,’ and it’s different than the long-term plan.” A successful long-term plan requires identifying and developing key individuals.

The most fundamental quality to look for in future leaders is drive. “If you ask someone if they’re interested in leadership and they say ‘yes,’ you have to support their growth and possible advancement,” said Hutchens. “Give everyone who raises their hand to lead an opportunity to do so.” According to Piette, that “can-do attitude” is more important than trainable skills. “Most of the functional attributes you can train for, but it’s the proactivity and ability to communicate effectively that is the foundation of leadership,” he said. In some cases, proactive employees are also seen as risk-takers, says Gargaro. “Watch for someone who’s willing to step outside their norm and look at problems differently to try to come up with results that work in favor of the bank and the bank’s customers,” he advised.

An effective development plan also differentiates between necessary personality traits and trainable skills. “Good leadership is both innate and learned,” said Piette. “You need to have an inquisitive and positive personality which provides the foundation for the desire to learn and develop your leadership.” Some individuals will have a natural ability to lead, but that doesn’t mean employees who don’t exhibit that trait should not be considered for development. “There is a little bit of truth to the ‘born leader’ idea,” said Gargaro. “On the other hand, attending leadership training can bring out abilities within yourself that hadn’t been exposed previously.”

Finally, the development plan should identify the bank’s appetite for hiring outsiders versus promoting from within. Statistically, home-grown talent leads to better results. “One thing we find is that companies that promote from within often outperform those that recruit outsiders,” said Fritz. “The more you can bring people in and develop them, the better the outcome is.” In addition, a strategy centered around growing from within is more feasible for smaller and/or rural institutions. “Smaller community banks don’t always have the same opportunities,” said Gargaro. “When you can promote from within, strive to do that. They’re already in your culture and understand what your bank is about.”

However, banks should not adhere to a “grow from within” strategy if the talent just isn’t there. Sometimes recruiting outside talent is the best path forward. “I’m a firm believer that you look for the right person for a particular job,” said Piette. “Hiring from the outside can be an important opportunity for community banks because you bring in the experience and talent necessary to run your bank in the 21st century. You’re growing the people you have internally while infusing the bank with new talent to make the entire organization better.”

Development Plan Essentials

Every bank succession plan should incorporate a leadership development strategy, and that strategy should meet three essential criteria: strategic alignment, formalization, and retention. Of the three, the most critical is alignment with the bank’s overall strategic plan. “A well-designed strategic plan identifies where you want to go and what talent and skills you’ll need to get there,” Hutchens explained. “The key is alignment.” That said, no strategy should be set in stone. Allow for adjustments as circumstances change. "Adjust the plan when you have staff turnover," Gargaro advised. "You may hire someone who turns out to be a real high-performer, or maybe someone wants a career path change."

The second essential criteria for an effective leadership development plan is that it be formalized—that is, written down. “If you don’t have an organized development program, it becomes something you make a mental note of in the middle of the night,” said Fritz. “If you have it in writing and need to give monthly or quarterly reports to the board about it, you’re more likely to be actually following those plans.” The exact steps in each plan should be customized to the individual employee and their stated goals. “Find out what areas they’re interested in and create a leadership development pipeline for them,” Hutchens recommended. The goal is to close the gap between the skills they have and the skills they will need in order to be successful in a future role.

Finally, each leadership development plan must include a retention strategy, and it must be customized for each high-potential employee. “Most banks have Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millennials all in the same bank, and they all have different ideas of what’s important from a compensation and retention standpoint,” said Fritz. For example, many institutions have traditional hierarchical structures where employees climb up the rungs of a ladder as they advance—this structure doesn’t appeal to every generation. “If you want to keep Millennials, turn the ladder horizontal,” Hutchens advised. “Each rung is no longer a raise and a new title, but a new project that tangibly shows them you’re investing in them.” One retention strategy that works for nearly every employee: communication. “Open and honest communication with the individual you see potential in is critical,” said Gargaro. “They need to know they’re being considered for a future leadership position.”

The need for generationally customized retention tactics directly correlates with the top challenge banks face with recruitment. “Many Millennials coming up are looking for professions other than banking,” said Piette. “We need to continually share the reasons why banking can be a fun and great, rewarding career opportunity for individuals coming out of college. That’s the heart of our industry moving forward: attracting and retaining that talent.”

When creating your bank’s leadership development plan, focus on the desired end result. “At the end of the day, leadership development and investment is about enhancing and supporting the way your people think, problem-solve, and influence others,” said Hutchens. “Change the thinking, and you’ll change the behavior and change the results.”

Seitz is WBA operations manager – senior writer.

EBN is a WBA Bronze Associate Member.

By, Ally Bates

“We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten. Don’t let yourself be lulled into inaction.”

-Bill Gates

“Disruption” is one of the biggest buzzwords in banking today. Many within the industry associate it with various technological developments and the fintech companies selling them. True disruption, however, goes much deeper. Even more importantly: traditional banks are not doomed to watch helplessly as the industry they know disappears. In fact, by focusing on their customers’ wants and needs—something Wisconsin’s banks have always excelled at—community banks can continue to thrive in a disruptive world.

Defining “Disruption”

According to JP Nicols, managing director of FinTech Forge, disruption in banking occurs on three layers. The first is the experiential layer, which includes everything that directly impacts consumers, such as mobile banking and P2P payments. Second is the tactical layer, which is the digital connective tissue between customer experience and the bank’s core operations. Disruption in this layer includes technologies like open API and process reengineering. Finally, the strategic layer of disruption is home to developments such as artificial intelligence and blockchain. “Most of the disruption we have experienced so far has been in the experience layer,” Nicols said, but noted that the other layers will have more impact in the future.

Despite its pervasiveness, disruption can be difficult to define. “It doesn’t mean something new is launched and all the current players disappear,” Nicols explained. “In this day and age, no industry is invulnerable to disruption,” he continued. “Our customers’ expectations are being reshaped by technology.” Ultimately, disruption can be defined as change driven by customer expectations.

Setting New Standards

Perhaps the biggest challenge disruption presents to the banking industry is that banks are no longer only competing against other financial institutions. Instead, non-bank retailers and fintech companies are transforming their customers’ expectations, particularly in mobile banking. “The digital products are the most discussed disruptors in the banking industry,” said Kyle Manny, CPA, CGMA, senior manager, financial services at Plante Moran. “Consumers are demanding well-developed mobile banking applications as a qualification for who they’re going to bank with.” Fintech companies have been quick to develop mobile applications to meet that demand, but while they are attractive to consumers, haven’t been able to achieve scale on their own in many cases. “Fintech companies are reimagining how banking should work in a mobile world,” said David DeFazio, partner at StrategyCorps. “When you pull back the curtain, among the most successful are the ones who have partnered with banks.” DeFazio will demonstrate some of that during his presentation at the upcoming WBA Bank Executives Conference.

Even more disruptive than the fintech companies that tend to attract the most attention from the industry, giant non-bank retailers are the true impetus behind rising standards for digital services. “Where we haven’t paid enough attention is to well-funded players from other industries, such as Amazon, Walmart, and Facebook,” said Nicols. “Financial services used to exist in a unique middle zone where all competitors looked the same, and we only competed with one another. Every single line on the balance sheet now has one or more non-bank competitors.” Again, this is particularly noticeable within consumers’ expectations for the mobile experience. “Companies like Facebook, Apple, Amazon, and Starbucks are changing the way that customers expect things to work in the mobile world,” DeFazio explained. “Looking outside of our industry to see how these non-bank retailers are setting new standards for mobile payments is very important.”

Disintermediation—another buzzword—is the ultimate side-effect of this non-bank disruption. “Banks have been a trusted third party in the middle of a value network for a long time, and if we don’t need that third party anymore, for example because Amazon now offers its own financing, that’s true disintermediation,” Nicols explained. In the days before mobile wallets, PayPal, Venmo, and other digital payments disruptors, banks could count on the fact that with every purchase, their customers would reach into their wallets and pull out a debit or credit card (or checkbook) with the bank’s name and logo on it. “We were always there,” said DeFazio. “Today, that is disappearing. Sometimes consumers even forget which credit cards are attached to their mobile wallets. These companies that are outside of banking are stealing the experience from banks.”

In today’s highly digital, interconnected world, consumers also cause disruption directly. “Customers these days are far more researched than they’ve ever been before,” Manny explained. “Even within small communities, they’re walking into a business having already done research. Many have made their purchase decision before they walk in.” That includes for financial products and services, such as mortgage loans, which reduces the banking industry’s monopoly on customer relationships. For example, rather than automatically going with the bank and product recommended by their realtor, a potential customer may shop around and get a lower rate with Rocket Mortgage from QuickenLoans.

Finally, today’s regulatory environment is also capable of disrupting bank operations. “People don’t think of the regulatory environment as being a disruptor,” said Manny, explaining that some banks have chosen to exit small lines of business because of the perception of the regulatory compliance risks they present. “People who specialize in compliance and consumer protection are very difficult to attract or retain,” he said. “Companies may need to invest significant resources in employees or consultants to ensure they remain compliant, and it might not be cost-beneficial to do it.”

Keeping Up

So, what can Wisconsin banks do to keep up with today’s rapid pace of change and adapt to disruption? The first thing is to shift your mindset; see disruption as an opportunity, rather than a threat. “The natural reaction is to see disruption as a problem,” said Manny. However, he pointed out that banks have more data on their customers’ purchase habits than any vendor out there, enabling them to hyper-personalize opportunities and options for their customers. “Even if the customer gets a loan through another entity, typically the bank can see those payment transactions,” Manny explained. “If banks can find ways to better target new products and services to their customers, they can take away some of the market share that’s going to nontraditional competitors whereby they can ensure consumers understand their value proposition that is likely very different.”

Creating and communicating value within the customer experience is key. “Be the keeper of the experience,” DeFazio advised. “Try to understand and exceed the expectations of your customers.” Bank staff also need to know how to communicate that value to current and potential customers. “You have customers who are more well-versed in the competitive landscape than your front-line employees,” said Manny. “That can be a challenge if your front-line employees don’t know how to effectively differentiate your products to your customers. Make sure you understand your service model so you can empower your front-line employees to be able to react to those issues.”

It is also important for bank management to understand that, for most community institutions, they will not be able to keep up on their own. “Be willing to partner,” Nicols advised. “Banks are used to building things in-house and testing them for years before releasing them. That’s not going to be sustainable.” For many institutions, the solution will be to rely on the bank’s core provider or current technology vendor. “Form strong relationships with your core providers and other vendors,” said DeFazio. “In some cases, you’ll need to challenge your vendors to close the gap.” Some banks may also find value in partnering with a non-bank company to offer digital products/services. “Identify partners and consider joint ventures or other arrangements where you can dip your toe in the water to provide products or services in new ways,” Manny suggested. “I would encourage banks to listen and be open to those opportunities as they arise.”

Finally, the key to successful adaptation in a disruptive world is for bank leaders to become more aware of the new reality. “Our biggest challenge is that bankers understand there are disruptions happening around us, but they’re not studying them,” said DeFazio. “I challenge bank leaders to be more aware.” Attending this year’s Bank Executives Conference is one way for bank management to expand their knowledge of industry disruptors. Another is to experiment with various mobile applications and products as a consumer. “Community bank leaders need a better understanding of the competitive landscape outside of their communities,” Manny advised. “Know who your competitors are.”

The one thing banks must not do if they are to survive: nothing. “The default is to keep doing what you’ve always done, since you’re good at it,” said Nicols. “But, your plan only works well until it doesn’t. Pay attention to what’s relevant to your customers so you can continue to deliver value. The way your customers perceive value is the most important thing that’s changing.” 

Seitz is WBA operations manager – senior writer.

Plante Moran is a WBA Silver Associate Member.

By, Ally Bates

(Madison) – Bankers are strongly optimistic and confident about Wisconsin’s current economy as well as what 2018 holds in store for the Badger State. That’s according to 100 Wisconsin bank CEOs and Presidents who contributed to the latest Wisconsin Bankers Association (WBA) Bank CEO Economic Conditions Survey. 

The Wisconsin economy’s current health is good according to 80% of the respondents. This is the highest rating by bankers in the last 10 years of this survey. Additionally, 9% believe the economy to be excellent. Equally encouraging is the fact that 53% believe Wisconsin’s economy will grow over the next six months.

Business loans seem to be fueling that optimism with 59% saying that current demand is good with another 3% stating it is “excellent.” Demand for business loans will also increase according to 53% of respondents.

“This is very encouraging news from our bankers on what 2018 holds for Wisconsin. Our bankers have a unique perspective on the economy. Their knowledge is fueled by their efforts in helping local businesses grow and families prosper,” explained Rose Oswald Poels, WBA president and CEO. “Bankers are the first to see and understand Wisconsin’s economic trends because of their customers’ activities and use that information to help their communities prosper.”

The survey was conducted over the first two weeks of December with 100 respondents. 

Below is a breakdown of the questions and responses.

How would you rate the current health of the Wisconsin economy…  
a) excellent 9%
b) good 80%
c) fair 11%
d) poor 0%
In the next six months, do you expect the Wisconsin economy to …   
a) grow 53%
b) weaken 2%
c) stay the same 45%
Rate the current demand in the following categories:  
Business loans  
Excellent 3%
Good 59%
Fair 37%
Poor 1%
Commercial real estate  
Excellent 15%
Good 48%
Fair 34%
Poor 3%
Residential real estate  
Excellent 15%
Good 53%
Fair 31%
Poor 1%
Excellent 0%
Good 25%
Fair 61%
Poor 14%
In the next six months, do you anticipate the demand for the following loan categories will…  
Business loans  
Grow 53%
Weaken 4%
Stay the same 43%
Commercial real estate  
Grow 41%
Weaken 6%
Stay the same 53%
Residential real estate  
Grow 38%
Weaken 6%
Stay the same 56%
Grow 13%
Weaken 23%
Stay the same 64%

By, Eric Skrum

The Equifax data breach will affect millions of consumers, and Wisconsin’s banking industry stands ready to assist their customers. It is the banks in Wisconsin and across the nation that shield their customers from the financial harm caused by data breaches. It is as simple as this: when a breach occurs, banks often bear the brunt of the costs so their customers won’t have to.
“Have I been compromised?” is the biggest question on consumers’ minds.  The Wisconsin Bankers Association offers the following tips for consumers who are not sure if their information has been compromised, as well as steps for consumers who know their information was stolen:
Not sure if your information has been compromised?
  1. Visit, an online service Equifax has set up, to check if your information has been compromised. 
  2. Check all of your accounts via online services provided by your bank or credit card provider. If you don’t have access to or haven’t set up an online account, you can call the company directly for assistance in reviewing your accounts. Consumers should be looking for any discrepancies in their purchasing habits. Be sure to do this over the next few months! Just because the bad guys have your information now, it doesn’t mean they will use it immediately.
  3. Monitor your accounts closely and frequently. Balance your checkbook monthly and match credit card statements with receipts. By viewing accounts online and checking throughout the month, you’ll be able to identify possible problems sooner.
  4. Review your credit report every three or four months. You are entitled to one free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus per year. Request a single report from one of the bureaus every three or four months. By staggering these requests, you will be able to monitor your credit throughout the year.
  5. 5. Register for eNotify from the Wisconsin Department of Motor Vehicles. This service, among other things, will allow you to set up alerts confirming transactions regarding your drivers license. If you didn’t request the transaction, this serves as an early alert system that someone is making unauthorized changes.
You know your information has been compromised:
  1. Contact the security departments of your creditors or bank to close the compromised account(s). Explain that you are a victim of identity theft and this particular card or account has been compromised. Ask them to provide documentation that the account has been closed. You should also follow up with a letter to the agency documenting your request.
  2. Contact the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Trans Union and Equifax) via phone immediately to request a fraud alert be placed on your file. Once again, explain that you are a victim of identity theft and ask that they grant no new credit without your approval. Again, follow up with a letter to the agency documenting your request.
  3. File a report with your local police department and request a copy of the report. This is good documentation to have on hand to prove your identity has been stolen as you begin the process of restoring your credit and good name.
  4. Document all of your actions and keep copies of everything.
Whether you are sure or unsure your financial information has been compromised, one of your first calls should be to your bank. Your bank has a variety of resources available for customers that can help with situations like these. Their staff are also knowledgeable and more than willing to help.
Contact information for the three major credit bureaus.
Order credit report: 888-397-3742
Report fraud: 888-397-3742
Trans Union
Order credit report: 800-888-4213
Report fraud: 800-680-7289
Order credit report: 800-685-1111
Report fraud: 800-525-6285

By, Eric Skrum

The August 2017 edition of the WBA Compliance Journal has been published.

This month's Special Focus article is about demand letters from FCRAs. Regulatory Spotlight features final rules on HMDA reporting thresholds and recordkeeping requirements for Qualified Financial Contracts, as well as a request for comment on the Volcker Rule. Information regarding CFPB's online portal for informal regulatory guidance can be found in the Compliance Notes section.

Click here to download the full issue.

By, Ally Bates

The July 2017 edition of the WBA Compliance Journal has been published.

This month's Special Focus article is an update on loan renewals in Wisconsin. Regulatory Update features final rules on arbitration agreements, TILA-RESPA amendments, and Regulation CC. Information regarding the suspension of the Medicaid Asset Verification Data Matching Program can be found in the Compliance Notes section.

Click here to download the full issue.

By, Ally Bates