Chairman’s Column: Creating a Better Year

The start of 2020 feels like decades ago, and the predictions made at the time reflect that. While many of us were drafting our forecasts for the industry and the economy, we were quietly being blindsided by a virus that no one could have seen coming. Despite previews that may not have fully lined up with the reality of this past year, one thing that remains true from one prediction to the next is the optimism we are so fortunate to provide through our banks and extend to our communities.  

In a recent survey conducted by WBA, many bankers pointed to the status of vaccines as an answer to how they believe the economy will be during the first half of the new year. With the distribution process underway, a post-pandemic life feels close for the first time, and with that, a stronger and more prepared economy.   

It will take time and dedication, but many of the pieces have already been put in place for success. Through the constant efforts put forth by bankers to keep up with Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, we helped maintain spirits for countless businesses and individuals. More than 50 million jobs were saved during the initial distribution. Over five million loans worth $525 billion were given to support workers through the pandemic.  

Moving on to 2021, the newest round of loans will be critical to the survival of small businesses, and changes are already being made to assure it is done properly. While this will be another challenging year for many, bankers are prepared to provide for their customers however they can. With a large population of people still working from home, this has meant expanding digital capabilities to assure everyone can have access to their community bank. More employees will progressively start to return to the office and customers to the branches, but we’ve come to understand the future of banking will never be quite the same. The next 11 months are sure to be indicative of this. 

The events of the past year beg our outlooks to be anything but positive. Even still, we continue to diversify our industry, expand our leadership training, and develop innovative ways to assure our culture grows both internally and for those we serve. With Wisconsin’s legislative session in full swing, WBA also continues to focus on the banking issues that matter most to you. The optimism that we as bankers hold for 2021 far outweighs anything 2020 threw our way, and I anticipate the industry and our communities to hold this with them during each step through the new year. 

By, Alex Paniagua