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Community Advocate of the Month: Shane Ilstrup, Citizens First Bank, Viroqua

The following is a brief interview between WBA President and CEO Rose Oswald Poels and Citizens First Bank President Shane Ilstrup.

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

Shane: I’m a fourth-generation banker, so in a way my future was predetermined by my family. My great grandpa and grandma had a bank in northern Minnesota. They moved around a bit and took the bank with them to the Dassel area of Minn., they traded the bank they owned there with Curt Carlson and Carl Pohlad for a bank in Newton, Iowa, where they lived next to Grandma Maytag. Upon the passing of my great grandmother, the bank in Newton, Iowa was sold, and my family purchased First National Bank in Viroqua, Wis., and Farmers State Bank in Viola, Wis. We then bought Trempealeau, and Sparta, and built Centerville in the later years.

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

Relationships with internal and external customers. Seeing the growth and success of the customers over the years and how they have taken on risks and grown their businesses and assets is very rewarding.

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

We (i.e. community banks) aren’t like the big banks, the average person on the street pays more in taxes than a credit union, and how much each community bank supports the communities they are located in.

Where do you believe the industry’s greatest challenges are in the next 3-5 years?

Decentralized finance (DeFi), regulation, alternative currencies, the hard trend line of number of banks declining in the state.

Every day, bankers serve their local communities by helping their customers achieve their financial dreams. In addition, bankers also provide significant charitable support both financially and through countless volunteer hours. Please describe your current role at your bank and share with us one of your more rewarding experiences (e.g., A time you had to go above and beyond to help a customer, a memorable customer interaction, stepping in to help the local community after a disaster, etc.).

During the PPP process, I had the opportunity to help customers in the time of uncertainty. Through collaboration with the customer and the bank, we were able to work together to get through the unknown of what was going to happen next. In seeing our staff support each other and their communities, I felt relief in knowing the bank was providing stability and peace of mind during a turbulent time.