Chairman’s Column: Banks as Protectors

It seems like every day the news features another story about some new scam or a business that experienced a breach, putting consumers’ private information in the hands of criminals. Increasingly, banks must not only take responsibility for protecting our customers’ money and information while it is in our possession, but we must also help them guard it on their own.

On behalf of our industry, the WBA is supporting legislation introduced by Sen. Patrick Testin (R-Stevens Point), Rep. John Macco (R-Ledgeview), and Rep. Robert Wittke (R-Racine) which aims to address part of this challenge. The collection of four bills would strengthen financial institutions’ “ability to block or delay suspicious transactions of financial exploitation against older adults,” Testin explained in a recent opinion editorial. WBA President and CEO Rose Oswald Poels attended a press conference on Aug. 20, where she spoke on behalf of the banking industry in support of this measure.

In addition to our association’s advocacy efforts, many bankers demonstrated their commitment to staying up-to-date on the latest technologies and strategies for keeping our customers’ information safe by attending the WBA Secur-I.T. Conference in Wisconsin Dells. Attendees participated in sessions covering topics ranging from the blurred lines between physical and cyber security, cloud computing attacks, due diligence documentation, security awareness education, things that make a hacker’s job easy, and video security.

Another way banks protect our customers is through consumer education. Bankers regularly take it upon themselves to help our customers protect themselves. Whether it’s hosting community shredding events, holding informational seminars about identity theft, or offering tools to help our customers monitor their accounts (and teaching them how to use those tools), we take an active role in educating our business and consumer clients about the threats they face. In fact, over 40 WBA member banks reported to the Wisconsin Bankers Foundation that they took action to educate their customers and community during the past fiscal year. Many of these banks will be recognized with Excellence in Financial Education awards from the Foundation at the upcoming WBA LEAD360 Conference in November (see for more information).

There will always be ill-intended individuals who try to steal our customers’ identities and funds, and there is no silver-bullet answer to this industry-wide problem. However, if banks take care to create good internal controls and educate our customers, together we can help keep one another safe.

Meloy is CEO of First Business Bank, Madison and WBA Chair.

By, Ally Bates