WBA President and CEO Rose Oswald Poels has been selected as the recipient of the Wisconsin Society of Association Executives 2022 Association Leadership Award. The award was presented at the recent WSAE Summit, “Purpose + Passion = Impact,” held at The Madison Concourse Hotel and Governor’s Club. Oswald Poels was recognized at the event alongside three other outstanding association professionals:
- Hall of Fame Award: Kathy Raab, CAE, CNAP, Metropolitan Builders Association
- Visionary Award: Jamie Michael, Badger Bay Management Company
- Young Professional Award: Monica Goeke, CAE, Wisconsin Hotel and Lodging Association
The award winners exemplify WSAE’s organizational values:
- Fostering a welcoming and inclusive community;
- Operating with integrity by being open, honest, and transparent;
- Promoting association management rooted in passion, a positive attitude and fun; and
- Shaping the future by identifying industry trends and developing dynamic responses.
Oswald Poels has dedicated over 30 years to the Wisconsin Bankers Association, where she began her career with a summer internship as a law student. She returned after graduation and grew WBA’s legal department. Her commitment to operating with integrity and being an open, honest, and transparent leader earned her a series of promotions, first to oversee WBA’s education and training department. Eventually, she oversaw the member relations and communications staff as well. Oswald Poels served as senior vice president and counsel for WBA until 2011, when she was named the first female president and CEO in WBA’s more than century-long history. Oswald Poels is highly respected throughout the organization and the industry, in large part due to her open-door policy and focus on member service.
Oswald Poels’s passion for creating a welcoming and inclusive community is evidenced daily. From the creation of a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Advisory Group of WBA members, to integrating DEI into all of WBA’s conferences, to hosting a “Diverse Voices in Banking” video series, to creating an Employee Resource Group (ERG) for bankers across the state and much more, Oswald Poels has demonstrated that DEI is not only a part of her job, but a large part of who she is as a leader. She is a trailblazer in the association profession for her work and serves on the national American Bankers Association DEI Advisory Group. Her focus on inclusivity extends to Wisconsin communities through her work on financial literacy and capability as chair of the Wisconsin Bankers Foundation and an active partner of Bank On Greater Milwaukee, Wisconsin Saves, and BankWork$.
Oswald Poels’s remarkable work ethic is matched by her ability to stay positive and have fun. She holds a number of successful staff fundraising initiatives each year. The activities often have a theme and activities that bring staff together in meaningful ways to support advocacy efforts and nonprofit organizations in the local community.
In order to retain and recruit talented staff and to optimize the member experience at the WBA headquarters, Oswald Poels led a major building renovation that completed in 2020. The new office includes modern workspaces and a state-of-the-art Engagement Center for member trainings and meetings. The headquarters provides an ideal space for people to come together and will continue to do so for years to come.
Oswald Poels leads by example, motivating staff and members to get involved, bring their best ideas to the table, and achieve outstanding results. By engaging over 110 member advocacy officers, a dozen committees and sections, and six member peer groups — on top of hosting over 5,000 members annually at WBA training events — Oswald Poels inspires the kind of dynamic member engagement that is a model for highly relevant, modern trade associations.