Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) Secretary-designee Cheryll Olson-Collins, a native of Portage, Wis., spent more than two decades in the private sector banking industry before joining the State of Wisconsin in 2007. She began her banking career with the First National Bank of Portage. She later joined Associated Bank and over a period of 20 years served in a variety of leadership positions, including ten years as the community bank’s president in charge of 14 branches.
In 2007, Olson-Collins began her service to the State of Wisconsin as the Administrator of the DFI’s Division of Corporate and Consumer Services. In 2011, she became the Administrator of the DFI’s Division of Administrative Services and Technology, a position she held for more than three years. In May 2015, she became the Deputy Administrator of the DFI’s Division of Banking and was later appointed to be the Administrator of the DFI’s Division of Banking in May 2016. Olson-Collins most recently served as the DFI’s Deputy Secretary from January 2019 until being appointed by Governor Tony Evers to serve as the Secretary of the DFI in January 2022. Olson-Collins earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin School of Banking. She has been active in a variety of civic organizations.
The following is an interview with Secretary-designee Olson-Collins.
What put you on the path to your profession in the banking industry?
After college, I started working at the First National Bank of Portage. I thought I would just work there for a few years, but to my surprise, I fell in love with banking! I worked my way up from the accounting department to being the vice president of operations. When Associated Bank acquired First National Bank of Portage, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. Luckily, it created a fantastic opportunity for me to become a community bank president, which ultimately led me to where I am today!
What has been the most meaningful aspect of your career thus far?
I have had the privilege to help many people in my career: families, businesses, communities, and mentoring individuals career-wise. I believe to be an effective leader you need to truly care about people. That may sound corny, but it’s true. If you don’t care about the people you work with and the people you serve, it becomes very apparent and will be difficult to gain trust or get things done.
What/who inspires you and motivates your work?
I enjoy working. I feel accomplishment and tremendous satisfaction by doing a good job. My father was a tremendous influence on my work ethic. He was always planning ahead, which certainly helps when you are trying to do strategic planning, all the while working diligently. He was such a role model and his actions and encouragement made me believe I could do anything if I put my mind to it.
How would you describe your vision for the future of DFI?
My vision is for the DFI to remain a strong, effective agency that continues to evolve and protect the safety and soundness of Wisconsin’s financial institutions, safeguard the investing public, facilitate commerce, and increase financial capability throughout the state. We have a dedicated staff who work hard to carry out our mission and connect the dots between state agencies to serve the people of Wisconsin because we are stronger when all state agencies work together. My vision is for the agency to continue to work in this manner for many years to come.
What opportunities and challenges do you foresee in the coming years, and how should bankers prepare for them?
During my career, I have seen exponential change in banking – and it certainly seems the pace is faster than ever. We have seen banks interest in crypto-asset-related activities increase, including interest to engage in crypto safe-keeping and custody services, facilitation of customer purchases and sales of cryptocurrency, and loans collateralized by crypto-assets.
This emerging sector presents potential opportunities and risks to banking organizations, their customers, and the overall financial system. Banks looking to get into this sector should ensure that any activities promote safety and soundness, consumer protection, and compliance with applicable laws and regulations, including anti-money laundering rules.
Along those lines, banks are increasingly dependent on IT to deliver services every day, so cybersecurity continues to be an ongoing concern. Disruption, degradation, or unauthorized alteration of bank data through cyber-attacks, including ransomware, can affect operations and core processes. Banks must continue to be diligent and ensure they are protecting customer information and maintaining a solid, tested IT program.
These topics are not new to bankers. I know our Wisconsin bankers are very perceptive and are working diligently to address these opportunities and risks head on and will continue to do so in the years to come.
Is there anything else you would like Wisconsin bankers to know about you or your work?
During my time at the DFI, I have had the privilege of working with and getting to know our incredible bankers. I have seen firsthand how our banks stepped up to help customers in their communities — and not just during a pandemic — every day. I have the utmost respect for the hard work being done in this ever-changing environment. Although the past two years were filled with uncertainties, the health of Wisconsin’s financial industry remains strong thanks, in large part, to the efforts of our Wisconsin banks. Their leadership in a time of uncertainty, their commitment to our communities, and the assistance they provided to individuals and small businesses truly made all the difference. On behalf of Governor Evers and myself, I want to thank our Wisconsin banks and bankers for all they do to serve the people of Wisconsin. Keep up the great work!