The following is a brief interview between WBA President and CEO Rose Oswald Poels and Community Bank, Grantsburg President Ted Gerber.
Rose: How did you first get into the banking industry?
Ted: My family was involved in many businesses, including banks, in northwestern Wisconsin when I was growing up. Banking seemed the most interesting to me, so I pursued a degree in finance and started working for Norwest Bank in St. Paul, Minn. as a credit analyst. After a few years, my grandfather Franz and father Terry were interested in opening a branch in Grantsburg, Wis. and asked me to be the branch manager.
What is your favorite aspect of your role at your bank?
I love working with small business customers — they are the heart and soul of our economy, especially in rural areas. Helping them succeed is good for business, but it is also great for our communities. Beyond that, I respect and admire the dedication it takes to run your own business and really enjoy lending a helping hand.
What do you wish the general public understood about the banking industry?
Not all banks are the same. While many times the products we provide are very similar, how we deliver those products can be vastly different. Two banks across the street from each other might have vastly different philosophies on technology, underwriting, service, etc. I think the general public assumes we are all the same on everything, and that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Where do you believe the industry’s greatest challenges are in the next three to five years?
Like all bankers, I worry about credit union expansion, data breaches, and non-bank competition, but perhaps my biggest fear is regulatory overreach. I believe there is a segment of the government bureaucracy that thinks charging for financial services is inherently wrong. It seems as though banks are an easy target as the regulatory framework is already in place to enforce whatever perceived “wrong” they want us to correct. Holding the line on regulation will be key to our industry going forward.
Every day, bankers serve their local communities by helping their customers achieve their financial dreams. Please describe your current role at your bank and share with us one of your more rewarding experiences.
I believe that all of us have talents, and the best way to serve our community is to share those talents with others. As president of the bank, it is my responsibility to set a good example.
My passions are business and baseball. Not surprisingly — like almost every other small-town banker — I’ve served as treasurer for many organizations over the years, from the local chamber of commerce to our town’s industrial development company. I have also coached baseball at the youth and high school levels in Grantsburg for over 20 years.
Watching the boys I coached grow into men has been incredibly rewarding. Recently, I was helping with a youth practice and told a youngster that his swing looked like a guy I used to coach. He smiled and said, “That’s my dad, he told me you were going to say that.” That smile and comment (and the slap on the back I got from his dad after practice) are one of the many memories that show you get back much more than you give when you share your talents.