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Community Advocate of the Month: Paul A. Foy, Cornerstone Community Bank, Grafton

The following is a brief interview between WBA President and CEO Rose Oswald Poels and Cornerstone Community Bank President Paul A. Foy.

Rose: How did you first get into the banking industry?

Paul: I was working as a marketing product manager for an orthopedic company in the mid-to-late 1990s. I worked with surgeons around the country as we developed new products for total knee and shoulder joint replacement systems. It was a great job, but not conducive to raising a young family. My father-in-law was an investor in a start-up bank and was increasing his stake around the same time. He was encouraging me to join the bank, so I could be closer to family and have more time to be with my kids. After several attempts by him, I saw the light. I really enjoyed banking more than I thought I would, and I was able to participate in my kids’ lives by coaching little league, attending plays, recitals, and chaperoning many field trips over the years!

What is your favorite aspect of your role at your bank?

I enjoy visiting our customers and seeing all the different ways people earn a living in this world. I especially like to see how the money we lend enables people to be more productive and add jobs to the local economy. It is rewarding to see the money we lend at work invested in these companies.

What do you wish the general public understood about the banking industry?

Banks and credit unions are not the same! Unlike the credit unions, banks pay state, local, and federal taxes that add about 30% more in operating costs. Yet, credit unions have been able to expand their scope of services competing on an uneven playing field. Credit unions boast that they are not-for-profit as if it’s some sort of admirable quality. People need to know that it’s the community banks who pay their fair share and contribute significantly more to the communities that they serve than credit unions.

Where do you believe the industry’s greatest challenges are in the next three to five years?

Fraud is going to be one of the industry’s greatest challenges in the next few years. Cyber-crime attempts are more widespread and far more sophisticated than in times past. As bankers, we invest significant funds in hardware, software, and training to help prevent fraud.

Loan closing instructions are being hijacked to the point that we’ve moved back to the fax machine. Corporate email servers are being manipulated to the point where employees are being “instructed” to perform significant fraudulent transactions by actors posing as authorized signers of accounts held by their companies. Elder fraud is another area becoming more intense and personal as the fraudsters use social media posts to learn of familiar relationships helping fraudsters make a convincing case to unsuspecting victims. We experienced a situation recently where an elderly victim couldn’t be convinced by me and another officer of the bank that a contrived situation was fraudulent. We then involved the police, and still she didn’t believe the officer when he told her she didn’t need to send the fraudsters money!

Please share one of your more rewarding or memorable experiences with us.

We support many of the local charities in the communities we serve. In addition to the hours our employees volunteer to support several charitable organizations, we also assist at Chamber of Commerce events for Grafton, Mequon, Thiensville, and Greater Menomonee Falls-Sussex. However, the most recent memorable experience of supporting our community was in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic when we assisted our customers with the SBA Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). In a very short period of time, we came up with policies, procedures, and documents to support a program which was not fully defined. Our small community bank helped our new and existing customers by originating 278 loans in the first round totaling approximately $29.5 million. This came at a time when we were already very busy generating mortgage applications and modifying loans to numerous commercial loan customers to help them through the pandemic. Much of this work was performed with employees working remotely from one another as we weren’t sure if we were going to lose several staff members to the virus itself. We ended up producing another $16.5 million in the second round for our customers. However, it was far less hectic given the lessons learned in round one, thanks, in part, to the WBA.