Chair’s Column: Now is the Time to Take Action

Wisconsin banks have always been catalysts for economic growth. Serving our communities is at the heart of what we do, and this seems to only grow more apparent each day. I believe it is important for us to take pride in these efforts, take in this new energy, and take action on behalf of our industry.

To encourage taking action, of course, is not an implication that bankers have not done so in the past year – in fact, just the opposite is true. Bankers have worked long nights and weekends to assure that their communities would rise above the surface of the challenges we have faced. We have been successful in this goal, and the assistance we provided continues to positively impact our communities in ways that we may never fully know.

This call for action is a reminder of all the exceptional work bankers have done. As we step into a more hopeful outlook, our colleagues, our communities, and our industry will surely face new challenges. To take action is to ride this momentum into a new fiscal year by getting involved, exploring educational opportunities, and advocating on behalf of Wisconsin bankers. I recognize that many of you already dedicate your time to these objectives, but the ways in which these can be accomplished are always evolving and expanding.

Making Your Voice Heard

Demonstrating the different ways your bank engages with its community is one of the most effective ways to advocate for our industry, and it is also one of the easiest. Your voice plays a critical role in making change, and this can be done by sharing your positive stories with WBA so we can highlight our collective community impact. This is essential for emphasizing our goals and values, because no one can tell the story of Wisconsin bankers better than us.

Getting Involved

Continue to support a culture at your bank of giving back – not only through donations, but by serving on local boards, committees, or as an advocacy officer. These officers coordinate regulatory, legislative, and community advocacy efforts for the bank by working with other bankers, WBA staff, state, local, and federal levels of government, and other state or national trade groups. About 60% of all member banks currently have a designated officer, and we are nearing closer to WBA’s goal of 70% to help further our priorities. 

Supporting Our Advocates

Last year, 27 banks earned the BIGG (Bankers Involved in Grassroots and Government) Award, the highest achievement for bank involvement in advocacy for WBA. The list of Gold Triangle Award banks – those at the forefront of the industry’s political actions efforts – included 38 banks that contributed a specific threshold of support to the Alliance of Bankers for Wisconsin political conduit or WBA's political action committee, Wisbankpac, for the support of pro-banking candidates. Earning one of these awards supports important banking legislation and spotlights your bank at the annual WBA Bank Executives Conference. 

Expanding on Education

Now is the time to refocus on giving our employees the knowledge and training they will need for tomorrow and explore new ways to leverage these opportunities to develop the level of professionalism we are known for. Carving out time to understand the important issues impacting Wisconsin banks can entail signing up for one of the many classes offered by WBA’s education department or be as simple as allocating a few minutes to checking on news and current updates. 

There is no single correct way to take action, and it cannot be done alone. Gaining the momentum that we need to create the change we strive for is a collective matter requiring the strength, innovation, and diversity of the industry. Only then can we double down on our past success and carry out our mission of helping our local communities. With such a bright outlook on the upcoming year, I am grateful to be joined by such passionate, knowledgeable, and dedicated bankers as we turn a new focus toward the path ahead.

By, Ally Bates