The following is a brief interview between WBA President and CEO Rose Oswald Poels and Citizens State Bank, La Crosse President and CEO Dennis Vogel.
Rose: How did you first get into the banking industry?
Dennis: The summer after my junior year of college, I interned at Coulee Bank in La Crosse as a credit analyst. I fell in love with the industry right away because of one’s ability to work with so many different businesses and also not be seen as the typical “boring banker!”
What is your favorite aspect of your role at your bank?
Since starting at Citizens State Bank of La Crosse, my favorite facet of my role has changed over the years from a financial aspect to an impact aspect.
Daily, I’m fortunate to see and hear how Citizens has impacted its employees, customers, and community. Inspiring this impact and the status quo has created something special. There is nothing more rewarding than hearing how Citizens has changed so many lives. When a spouse of an employee thanks me for how Citizens has impacted their spouse, marriage, and family, there is nothing more gratifying.
What do you wish the general public understood about the banking industry?
That a bank isn’t just a bank or a transaction and it doesn’t have to be a boring place to work or do business with. The general public shouldn’t have to settle for just a transaction or poor customer service. Also, the majority of community banks offer the same products as the big banks do with better service. If the general public does their research, they can find that the stereotypes of banking are not always the case if you find the right community bank. Do your homework and it isn’t always about the rate.
Where do you believe the industry’s greatest challenges are in the next three to five years?
I could list off some of the common answers: cybersecurity, fraud, fintech, commoditization, credit unions, etc.; however, with all banks facing the challenge of quality staffing, I think it is only going to get worse.
Yes, technology is helping with being able to do more with less; however, in community banking, it is about people. Unfortunately, the number of students going to college to pursue banking is lower and lower. At Citizens, we have worked very hard to create a culture like no other and break some of the stereotypes; however, as an industry there is a big opportunity for all of us to get the message out on the industry overall and all the opportunities which exist. With no new talent coming into the industry, it makes all the other challenges very difficult to address.
Please describe your current role at your bank and share with us one of your more rewarding experiences.
Being engaged in the community is one of our core values and is one of several components to an employee’s review at Citizens; it is not optional if one is going to work at Citizens State Bank.
If there is something or someone in need, Citizens and its employees are always there to help. Whether it is the Children’s Museum calling with no notice that they have a delivery truck with an exhibit and help is needed to unload the exhibit, getting together as a team to do iFeed on a Saturday, or an employee knowing a customer doesn’t have enough money to eat so they help by buying him lunch — it is in our DNA to give back and make an impact in the community.
Just recently, I had a customer call to thank me for everything I did for him and his business over the years. Years ago, he was on the verge of closing his doors because he couldn’t cover payroll; however, I stuck behind him and since then, the company has flourished with significant wealth.