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Adriene Wright

Adriene Wright

By Hannah Flanders

Adriene Wright not only brings more than 25 years of retail banking experience to her students, but she also mentors and supports them through the BankWork$ program and beyond. As an instructor in the program partnered with Employ Milwaukee, CareerWork$, and the Wisconsin Bankers Association (WBA), Wright is able to provide individuals the banking 101 entry-level training needed to fill positions with numerous partner banks.

Wright began her retail banking career as a teller and progressed to a learning and development instructor training new hires. Not only did this role prepare her for her transition to BankWork$ in terms of her retail banking abilities, but it gave her the opportunity to give back to her community and the industry.

“Through the [program’s] eight weeks of training, practice, coaching, and feedback, the students graduate with a clear knowledge of [the] expectations to be successful in banking,” says Wright. “This includes the topics of banking 101, professionalism, attendance, dress code, customer service, rapport, public speaking, technology, team building, sales skills, building relationships, resume building, and interviewing skills.”

Currently, the BankWork$ program in Wisconsin has 14 partner banks and growing interest throughout the state. This could potentially result in growing class sizes, more locations, and new partnerships. BankWork$ recruits from diverse communities with an emphasis on underserved, low-income, and unemployed individuals who are looking for the opportunities to grow and have a successful career. This means not only that these young adults bring “a fierce commitment and drive to never give up,” according to Wright, but their wide range of education, work experience, and languages introduce important factors of diversity and inclusion that align with banks’ missions.

Many BankWork$ graduates are successfully retained and often promoted from their entry-level positions to roles in supervision or management. When these individuals have the ability to provide for themselves and their families, they are able to begin imagining their future and setting goals.

Building confidence, banking knowledge, and providing students with both in-person and virtual skills is critical in ensuring that students feel prepared to put their talents into practice on their first day on the job. In their partnership with 13 other sites nationwide, Wright and her fellow BankWork$ instructors have the ability to make a substantial difference for employers with positions to fill. The role of BankWork$ instructors is unique and impactful in that they help employers, job seekers, and their communities.

Wright’s passion and experience in helping new hires become successful in the banking industry has touched the lives of many in the Milwaukee area. Beyond her compassion for her community, Wright aspires to prepare her students for a stable career and opportunities rather than just a job.

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Danny Opelt has joined Forward Bank as a commercial lender serving Marshfield and the surrounding communities.

In joining the experienced commercial lending team in Marshfield, Opelt will work with area business customers to match the best lending solution to their unique needs. He will serve as the quarterback of the relationship bringing in other experts from the Forward team to address deposit, insurance, and investment needs.

“It’s been exciting joining a new team and learning the approach and culture at Forward,” commented Danny Opelt, commercial lender at Forward Bank. “I’m looking forward to building on the tradition started by this experienced team of lenders in adding value to the customer relationship. I’ll be out in our community learning about the businesses we serve so I can make their financial lives easier and allow them to focus on running their businesses.”

Opelt has his bachelor of business administration from the University of Wisconsin – Green Bay. He has 4 years of banking experience and will be using those years of credit analysis knowledge as a commercial lender. Opelt is excited to get involved in our communities, and he is happy to be able to his family closer to his hometown of Neillsville.

“Danny is a great addition to our commercial lending team,” said Ron Wilczek, vice president \ commercial lending manager of Forward Bank. “He brings new energy and a new perspective on serving our customer base and will be dedicated to helping businesses in all aspects of their relationship.

BLC Community Bank will break ground on its fifth and final expansion in January 2022 to support the continued increase of assets and team members.

BLC Community Bank still operates out of a single branch — which includes the original Bank of Little Chute building from 1906. The growth of the Bank over the last five years has led to the current facility being completely occupied. Since 2016, BLC has increased from assets from $185 to $327 million and added 29 employees.

The importance of history and community to BLC means remaining part of the downtown Village of Little Chute as long as possible. To maintain the connection to the roots they’ve come from, bank management determined the best option would be one final addition to the Main Street building.

According to President Steve Tramp, “We have tried to be as efficient as possible, but with the growth BLC has experienced, we are simply out of space. A number of options were considered to resolve this issue and the building addition made the most sense from a cost and productivity standpoint.”

Expansion History:

  • 1952: $2MM in assets
  • 1972: $9MM in assets
  • 1997: $100MM in assets
  • 2017: $231MM in assets

Remaining a single branch in the current location allows the bank to continue offering the same competitive fees and rates that have contributed to BLC’s phenomenal growth, and allows the bank to remain strong and independently owned.

The addition will also add an increased level of safety for the employees. The current setup of the lot has been used more as a road than parking, which is dangerous at times when employees attempt to access their vehicles.

Keller, Inc, the general contractor, will begin breaking ground in January of 2022 and finish construction by the middle of the year. The new addition will add 6 offices and a conference room.

By Daryll J. Lund

The Wisconsin Bankers Association Employee Benefits Corporation, Inc. (WBA EBC) was formed in 1982 and as our Association Health Plan (AHP) begins its fourth year, I would like to thank each WBA member that has chosen to trust us for their insurance needs.

The flexibility of our high-quality health benefits (dental insurance, medical insurance, prescription drug plans, and vision) as well as life and disability insurance are typically reserved for large employers but — through the purchasing power of WBA EBC — are offered exclusively to WBA members at preferred prices. In the last three years alone, our member banks have collectively saved $1.8 million thanks to their member-driven AHP.

This year we are pleased that nearly 40 banks throughout the state have chosen the WBA AHP through UnitedHealthcare for their health insurance program. Through your enrollment in our AHP, 1,800 members will have access to affordable, highquality benefits and insurance throughout Wisconsin. In addition, our partnership with Lincoln Financial provides life and disability coverage for 10,000 members and our Delta Dental plans cover 7,000 members.

I, along with WBA EBC Vice President Brian Siegenthaler and our dedicated team look forward to continuing to assist you and your employees through our one-stop-shop for members enrollment and administration. We thank you once again for choosing WBA EBC to provide for the well-being of all employees in your organization.

Visit www.wisbankins.com or contact Brian Siegenthaler at bsiegenthaler@wisbank.com or 608-441-1211 to learn more about the advantages we offer.

Challenge Bowl competition

Rose Oswald PoelsBy Rose Oswald Poels

The Wisconsin Bankers Foundation (WBF) has existed since 2015 with a mission to empower financial decisions through education and research. I’m pleased to share that the Foundation has recently awarded a $5,000 grant to a Wisconsin non-profit organization, Asset Builders, to support its Finance and Investment Challenge Bowl.

The Finance and Investment Challenge Bowl (FICB) is a quiz bowl competition that helps teach high school students about personal finance and economics. Teachers of subjects including personal finance, economics, business, and marketing can sign up teams of students to compete in the Challenge Bowl.  The program aligns with statewide learning standards and is an effective strategy to complement what students are learning in the classroom. The tournament features student teams competing for trophies and fabulous prizes in an atmosphere of friendly competition.

I recently had the opportunity to attend a Challenge Bowl event held at the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) headquarters in Madison and was delighted to see how engaged and enthusiastic the students were. Among the “quizmasters” were DFI leaders and a number of young professionals from the banking and financial services industry that had volunteered as judges. This provided the high school students with a unique way to gain exposure to various career paths and to ask the quizmasters and judges questions about their jobs. Volunteering at the competitions is a fun and rewarding service opportunity for staff from your bank. If you or members of your staff would like to get involved with a competition in your area, please contact me.

Challenge Bowl competition

The excitement of the students, teachers, and volunteers was clear to see as the student teams rushed to hit the buzzers to earn points for their answers. There was even the occasional lively debate over the competition rules and technicalities. I was impressed to see the level of the material the students had mastered in preparation for the tournament and how much pride they took in answering the questions correctly. It was evident that the program is helping to provide the tools students need to make good financial decisions that will empower their futures.

Teams that finish in first and second place in each regional championship then advance to the state championship tournament. Because the Challenge Bowl is held at multiple locations, it is accessible for students around the state to participate in the live tournaments. The value teachers see in the Challenge Bowl is evidenced by their continued participation year after year.

Your support makes it possible for the Foundation to promote financial literacy through initiatives like the Challenge Bowl and our Reading Raises Interest program. Please consider making a financial contribution or donating an item to the silent auction fundraiser, which will be held at the WBA Bank Executives Conference, February 9–11 in Wisconsin Dells. Bankers share a commitment to bolstering the financial wellbeing and quality of life in our communities, and through the Wisconsin Bankers Foundation, we can make an impact on a statewide scale.

Kalvin Vacho

Lindsey Sprague

Brenna Dugenske

Ladysmith Federal Saving and Loan is pleased to announce the promotions of Kalvin Vacho and Lindsey Sprague. Ladysmith Federal also extends a belated ‘welcome back to Brenna Dugenske.

Vacho has been promoted to commercial lender and Sprague has been promoted to consumer lender. Dugenske has returned to be Ladysmith Federal Saving and Loan’s accountant.

Each day, bankers work for the economic wellbeing of their customers and communities. On January 18, those efforts were brought to the forefront at the State Capitol. Over 100 bankers attended WBA Capitol Day (a.k.a. “Cap Day”) in Madison; for some, it was the first-time stepping foot into a legislator’s office, and for others, it was an opportunity to build on established relationships with their elected officials.

The day kicked off at the Monona Terrace with a panel discussion moderated by WisPolitics President Jeff Mayers. Participants heard straight from Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu, Assembly Minority Leader Greta Neubauer, and Senate Minority Leader Janet Bewley. Discussion topics included: an outlook for the final two months of the legislative session, the state’s economy, the impact the COVID pandemic continues to have on their communities and constituencies, and ways the Legislature can work to address workforce issues.

Scott Jensen and Chuck Chvala, “The Insiders,” covered many political topics and focused on what this fall’s election likely has in store. They covered the Governor’s race, the US Senate race, and how the candidates in those races will affect other races down the ballot. They also took us back in time to the Tommy Thompson heyday several times to illustrate how much Wisconsin politics has changed over the last 25 years.

Over the lunch hour, Department of Revenue Secretary Peter Barca provided perspective on the state’s economy and outlines several of Gov. Tony Evers’ ongoing priorities as we enter the final year of his first term.

The WBA Government Relations team gave a rundown of state legislative topics, a state government 101 review, and an overview of key 2022 political races to watch. After the prep session was complete, participants headed to the Capitol to advocate on key issues with the unique perspectives only bankers can provide. Legislators learned directly from bankers how issues like credit union expansion, banking regulatory modernization, credit card swipe fees, and elder financial exploitation affect their local economies and constituents.

Thank you to the attendees and sponsors — Bankers’ Bank, FHLBank Chicago, the KeyState Companies, Mastercard, and Visa — who made the event a success! This event is the culmination of the work that the WBA Government Relations staff, Government Relations Committee, Advocacy Officers, and civically engaged bankers do year-round. The positive impact is evident in the feedback WBA receives from legislators and bankers alike — Capitol Day makes a difference!

Tifanie Tremble

Tifanie Tremble has joined The Stephenson National Bank & Trust (SNBT) as vice president and director of treasury management. She has nearly two decades of treasury management experience in the Great Lakes region.

With Tremble’s addition, the bank has made a commitment to expand its treasury management services. This expansion allows SNBT to offer an even higher level of service to help businesses streamline their finances. In addition, it will bring more robust products to assist businesses with managing cash and financial assets.

“Over the decades, our business banking department has grown because business owners appreciate our local, trustworthy bankers who roll up their sleeves to help them achieve their business goals. We understand that continuing to provide them with superior business products and personalized service means expanding our treasury management department,” said Daniel J. Peterson, SNBT president and CEO. “That process began with finding the right person to lead the division. We are excited to add such an experienced, knowledgeable banker as Tifanie to our team.”

Tremble brings with her 19-years of experience in treasury management and has helped businesses and municipalities of all sizes manage their financial assets and maximize their holdings. She is currently attending the prestigious Graduate School of Banking at University of Wisconsin-Madison, a comprehensive course focused on the management of strategic issues faced by banking professionals.

“Tifanie was selected because of her diverse understanding of the financial industry in both large and small organizations across the region. Combining Tifanie’s relationship-focused approach with our bank’s exceptional accounts and services will only enhance our depth, strength, and quality of performance in the future,” said Greg Salmen, executive vice president & trust manager. “She has the ideal experience and knowledge to strengthen our existing team of business bankers as SNBT continues to achieve its mission of being the premier provider of trusted financial solutions.”

Tremble received a bachelor’s degree in finance from Walsh College of Accountancy in Troy, Mich., followed by her master’s degree from Northwood University in Midland, Mich. She also holds two professional designations related to treasury management, the CTP – Certified Treasury Professional and the AAP – Accredited ACH Professional designations.

Scott Rockwell, president and CEO of Bank of Wisconsin Dells, is pleased to announce the following promotions:

Travis Bolcerek has been promoted to senior vice president/commercial loan officer. Bolcerek has been with the bank as a commercial lender since 2013. He will continue serving his loan clients in his new capacity of senior vice president.

Matthew Schaefer has been promoted to senior vice president/credit officer. Schaefer started at the bank in 2003 as a consumer lender and then transitioned to the compliance area. In his new role he will maintain the overall credit policy and quality of the bank’s loan portfolio with serving as a member of our senior management team.

Tanya Walsh-Laehn has been promoted to vice president/commercial loan officer. Walsh-Laehn joined Bank of Wisconsin Dells lending team in 2018 as a commercial lender and will continue managing her loan portfolio out of our Lake Delton Office.

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First Business Bank announces the funding of a $12 million ledgered line accounts receivable finance facility by its accounts receivable financing group. The facility will allow existing management to purchase 100% of the company and will also support increasing working capital needs.

As a transportation broker, the company is experiencing significant growth opportunities. The First Business Bank facility will allow the company to double in size.

“We had to move quickly on this transaction in order to comply with the terms of the stock purchase agreement,” said Bill Elliott, president – accounts receivable financing at First Business Specialty Finance, LLC, a subsidiary of First Business Bank. “We issued our proposal within 24 hours of our initial call, met personally with the company two days later, and completed underwriting within two weeks. Our experienced staff allow us to identify and address underwriting issues very quickly, accelerating the entire process.”

The accounts receivable financing team provides funding in amounts of $100,000 to $15,000,000 to companies seeking to improve cash flow and take advantage of every business opportunity.