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The Wisconsin Bankers Association is grateful to the banks that go above and beyond to help achieve our advocacy goals. For these efforts, we are pleased to present these members with our Bankers Involved in Grassroots and Government (BIGG) award. The BIGG award is our highest level of recognition for advocacy by our member banks. Congratulations to the 19 banks that have attained BIGG status so far in 2021:  

  • American National Bank – Fox Cities
  • Associated Bank
  • Bank of Wisconsin Dells
  • Capitol Bank
  • Charter Bank
  • East Wisconsin Savings Bank
  • FNC Bank
  • Horicon Bank
  • Investors Community Bank
  • Mound City Bank
  • National Exchange Bank and Trust
  • Northshore Bank
  • Northwestern Bank
  • State Bank Financial
  • The Equitable Bank
  • Stephenson National Bank and Trust
  • Town Bank
  • Waldo State Bank
  • Wolf River Community Bank

To achieve BIGG status, institutions must meet at least five of these seven criteria:

  • Have named an Advocacy Officer
  • Obtain Gold Triangle award
  • Contribute to WBA’s issue advocacy fund
  • Have at least one bank employee attend WBA Capitol Day
  • Have a member of the bank participate in a Federal delegation meeting or go on a D.C. regulatory trip
  • Have the bank hold a Take Your Legislator to Work Day
  • Other (e.g. testify on a bill, host a fundraiser, analyze legislation, etc.)

 2021 isn’t over yet! We have several banks close to both Gold Triangle (fundraising) and BIGG, and we will be reaching out to those members to try to get them over the hump!

Wisconsin state capital building view from above

Rose Oswald PoelsBy Rose Oswald Poels

In all facets, 2021 has been a busy year for WBA. Between keeping up with COVID-19 regulations and providing up-to-date resources for our member banks, WBA staff have worked tirelessly to advocate for the banks which our association serves.

Our government relations team has had a particularly busy fall from a policy perspective and so we decided to create periodic videos to keep you, your staff, and your board of directors easily (and quickly) informed not only on what is occurring in the industry but also how these key issues impact Wisconsin banks.

On October 6, WBA and 87 member banks joined in opposition of the Credit Union Legislation (AB 478/SB 451) which would provide credit unions with even more tools to grow beyond the intention of their original chartered mission much to the detriment of Wisconsin’s taxpaying banks and citizens. The grassroots involvement by bankers from around the state that signed on to the letter as well as appeared in person at the hearing allowed us to stop the bill’s current progression, though the work is certainly not done yet. It is because of your engagement that WBA is able to effectively fight against threats to our industry. In taking time out of your day to meet with legislators, they become more informed about the issues that impact us the most.

Twice in the fall session, banks have faced threats related to interchange/credit card swipe fees which call for the prohibition of interchange fees on the tax portion of a transaction. WBA successfully opposed this from being included into the state budget but have and will continue to oppose it as a standalone bill (AB 587/SB 572) as brought forth by the retail coalition.

While both of these bills will remain on our radar as we look onward into 2022, through the efforts of WBA and its member banks, each bill has only been heard by the Assembly Committee of Financial Institutions. It remains important for us to maintain momentum with our legislators until the sessions on each of these bills expires early next year.

Please share this inaugural video with your staff and Board so that they are informed of the top state legislative issues affecting banks. We plan to continue to produce the advocacy-focused videos periodically throughout the year to share both policy and political updates. Thank you again for your active engagement on policy issues as we navigate the next several months of the legislative session. Your voice on behalf of the industry leaves lasting impacts on legislators and doesn’t go unnoticed.

Rose Oswald PoelsBy Rose Oswald Poels

This time of year, perhaps more than others, causes us to pause and think about all that we are thankful for. As a member-driven trade association, I am always grateful for your membership and support. I want to highlight today a few notable accomplishments that WBA achieved this calendar year with your input and partnership.

The communications team has been working since spring of this year to develop a brand-new website for WBA members, which was recently launched in October. The process leading up to its launch involved feedback from members of various banker committees sharing how they used the site and what they wanted to see in a new site. Traffic to the site has increased since the launch, and thanks to the improved layout and navigation, the number of searches conducted on the site has dropped by over 80%. We are extremely proud to have made our resources more navigable for you and to continue to provide reliable information to you each day.

At the request of members and with support from the Board, WBA also ran a public awareness campaign this spring and summer, building off of the goodwill that was generated by banks throughout Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) lending during the pandemic. The campaign included billboards, digital ads, and media relations to highlight the ways Wisconsin banks serve their communities.

Many of our events and schools returned in person in 2021 while we also continued to offer virtual options for members. The flexibility developed by our education team has allowed thousands of bankers to attend conferences around the state, visit WBA’s engagement center in Madison, and view webinars at their convenience. WBA staff continue to receive feedback from members as to how they want training delivered to them, and we continually work to accommodate everyone’s needs.

As always, our government relations team spent time with legislators on our key issues and were crucial in passing helpful legislation but preventing what would hurt our industry the most. The number one priority this year was getting COVID-19 premises liability protection passed and enacted, and our team was instrumental in doing so. The WBA government relations team, along with voices from our membership, also helped prevent the advancement of legislation that would have expanded the authorized powers and abilities of credit unions (AB 478) as well as the advancement of legislation that would disrupt the electronic payment system (AB 587/SB 572).

Last, but not least, the legal team has stayed busy staffing the legal call program to promptly respond to member questions, creating new compliance toolkits and resources for members, and writing comment letters and amicus briefs on regulatory and judicial issues important to the banking industry.

WBA is your association, and we would not exist without your involvement and support of our many programs and services. Our staff is proud to work with you and support the great work you do in your banks and in your communities. Thank you for your membership and engagement — looking back over this year’s accomplishments makes it clear that we have accomplished many things together that no one institution could have done alone. I wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving!

The Wisconsin Bankers Association Advocacy Officer list just crested 100, and we are looking for 25 additional banks to designate an Advocacy Officer by the end of the year. The Advocacy Officer program is a leadership opportunity to coordinate regulatory, legislative, and community advocacy efforts for the bank by working with WBA. Advocacy Officers work with other bankers, WBA staff, state, local, and federal levels of government, and other state or national trade groups.

A major event for Advocacy Officers will be the upcoming WBA Capitol Day in Madison on January 18, 2022. Participants will receive training and support to meet with their elected officials in the State Capitol and share their stories about how legislative issues impact their professions and their communities. While this is an important opportunity for Advocacy Officers, you do not need to be an Advocacy Officer to participate in WBA Capitol Day.

If your bank has not yet designated an Advocacy Officer, consider someone who has an interest in public policy, a strong understanding of the banking industry (compliance, credit, external relations, etc.), the ability to speak for the bank on matters of regulatory or public policy, and a fairly flexible schedule that is at their own discretion.

More advocacy officer voices speaking together as one to advance WBA’s legislative agenda can make a meaningful impact on very important issues like credit union expansion of powers and interchange fee prohibition.

Thank you to the banks that have already signed up to participate in the Advocacy Officer program:

American Bank of Beaver Dam
American National Bank – Fox Cities
Associated Bank
Badger Bank
Bank Five Nine
Bank of Lake Mills
Bank of Luxemburg
Bank of Mauston
Bank of Milton
Bank of Prairie du Sac
Bank of Sun Prairie
Bank of Wisconsin Dells
Bankers’ Bank
Baraboo State Bank
BLC Community Bank
Bluff View Bank
BMO Harris Central National Association
Bristol Morgan Bank
Capitol Bank
Charter Bank
Citizens Bank
Citizens First Bank
Citizens State Bank
Citizens State Bank of La Crosse
Citizens State Bank of Loyal
Commerce State Bank
Community Bank of Cameron
Community First Bank
Community State Bank
Cornerstone Community Bank
Dairy State Bank
Denmark State Bank
East Wisconsin Savings Bank
Farmers & Merchants Bank of Kendall
Farmers & Merchants State Bank
First Business Bank
First Citizens State Bank
First Community Bank Milton
First Federal Bank of Wisconsin
First Midwest Bank
First National Community Bank
First State Bank
Flagstar Bank, FSB
Fortifi Bank
Forward Bank
GreenLeaf Bank
Greenwoods State Bank
Horicon Bank
Hustisford State Bank
Incrediblebank
Independence State Bank
Intercity State Bank
Investors Community Bank
Ixonia Bank
John Deere Financial, F.S.B.
Johnson Bank
JPMorgan Chase Bank
Ladysmith Federal Savings and Loan Association
Laona State Bank
mBank
MidWestOne Bank
Monona Bank
Mound City Bank
National Exchange Bank and Trust
Nicolet National Bank
North Shore Bank
Northwestern Bank
Oak Bank
Old National Bank
One Community Bank
Oostburg State Bank
Park Bank
Partners Bank of Wisconsin
Peoples State Bank
PNC Bank
Premier Community Bank
PyraMax Bank, FSB
Quad City Bank and Trust
River Falls State Bank
Royal Bank
Settlers Bank
Spring Bank
State Bank Financial
State Bank of Chilton
State Bank of Cross Plains
The Bank of Brodhead
The Bank of New Glarus
The Equitable Bank, S.S.B.
The Farmers State Bank of Waupaca
The Huntington National Bank
The International Bank of Amherst
The Park Bank
The Peoples Community Bank
The Pineries Bank
The Port Washington State Bank
The Stephenson National Bank and Trust
Tomahawk Community Bank
Town Bank
U.S. Bank National Association
Unity Bank
Waldo State Bank
Waukesha State Bank
Wells Fargo Bank
Westbury Bank
Wolf River Community Bank
WoodTrust Bank

Mound City Bank Take Your Legislator to Work Day

On Thursday, WBA VP of Government Relations Lorenzo Cruz and WBA Director of Government Relations John Cronin updated the Mound City Bank board of directors on state and federal legislative topics and banking industry advocacy. Cruz, Cronin, and bank President and CEO Donna Hoppenjan then hosted a presentation to the board by Representatives Todd Novak (R – Dodgeville) and Travis Tranel (R – Cuba City) as part of a Take Your Legislator to Work day.  

Take Your Legislator to Work days are win-wins for everyone involved. It is extremely beneficial for legislators to hear directly from their constituency about the issues concerning them the most while back home in their districts. Banks benefits by being able to convey valuable community and economic information to elected officials and provide real-world perspective on issues facing the banking industry. We also get the opportunity share our positions on bills before the Legislature and keep their attention on key items like credit unions.  

Legislators are always looking for ways to meet with key members of their communities (read: banks). If you would like to bring a legislator to your institution, please let Lorenzo or John know. 

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We are happy to report that 40 institutions have now achieved Gold Triangle status for political fundraising so far this year. Gold Triangle is the highest level of fundraising recognition for banks and achieved through bank employee or director contributions to the Alliance of Bankers for Wisconsin (ABW) political conduit or Wisbankpac, or corporate contributions to WBA’s issue advocacy fund. ABW and Wisbankpac funds are utilized as part of our overall effort to support pro-banking candidates, regardless of whether they have an R or D next to their name. Issue advocacy dollars are used to in several capacities to shape public opinion on pro-banking, pro-business issues.

A number of banks have recently joined in the effort, and it’s not too late to contribute. We have numerous banks on the cusp of achieving Gold Triangle, and WBA government relations staff will be reaching out to those institutions to help them get across the finish line.

Demand on our political action funds is as high as it has ever been, and we are battling on numerous fronts in Madison. If you have not already done so, please consider contributing to WBA political action funds. You may contribute via credit card here.

2021 Gold Triangle Club Members

American National Bank – Fox Cities, Associated Bank, Bank Five Nine, Bank of Brodhead, Bank of Sun Prairie, Bank of Wisconsin Dells, Bankers’ Bank, Bluff View Bank, Capitol Bank, Charter Bank, Citizens Bank, Citizens State Bank of Loyal, Coulee Bank, East Wisconsin Savings Bank, The Equitable Bank, First Citizens State Bank, First National Community Bank, Forward Bank, Horicon Bank, IncredibleBank, Investors Community Bank, Mound City Bank, National Bank of Commerce, National Exchange Bank and Trust, Nicolet National Bank, Northshore Bank, Northwestern Bank, Oak Bank, Park Bank, Peoples Community Bank, Port Washington State Bank, Premier Community Bank, State Bank Financial, State Bank of Chilton, Stephenson National Bank and Trust, Superior Savings Bank, Town Bank, Waldo State Bank, WBA, and Wolf River Community Bank

Gold Triangle Club Contribution Levels by Bank Asset Size

Bank Assets Total Banker Contributions
$0-25 Million $500
$25-100 M $1,000
$100-250 M $1,500
$250-500 M $2,000
$500-750 M $2,500
$750 M – $1 Billion $3,500
$1 B+ $4,500

THANK YOU to all the banks, Gold Triangle or not, that have contributed to our advocacy efforts.

If you have questions or would like to make a contribution, please contact WBA’s Lorenzo Cruz, vice president – government relations or John Cronin, director – government relations.

Rose Oswald PoelsBy Rose Oswald Poels

Last week for the first time in two years, I was back in Washington D.C. with a small group of nine bankers from Wisconsin for meetings with banking regulators and a few members of Congress. Joining WBA was a delegation of six bankers and two staff from the Illinois Bankers Association. While our meetings with regulators were still virtual, all meetings were productive affording the smaller group of bankers ample time to ask questions and hear directly from senior officials about a wide variety of issues.

We began the first day in the afternoon with briefings from the FDIC and OCC. FDIC Board Director Martin Gruenberg led the conversation highlighting the fact that while the FDIC anticipated stress in the banking system heading into the pandemic that did not materialize and notably, there have not been any bank failures in 2021. Areas of focus for the FDIC remain on commercial real estate, tailoring climate change risk concerns based on the impact to different markets and/or the size of the institution, and on the impact of non-bank companies to the financial system. OCC Acting Director Michael Hsu led the discussion with bankers emphasizing his support for community banks, his understanding of the need to tailor regulation to the size and complexity of each institution, and robust discussions around both FinTechs and climate change.

The next day featured conversations with FinCEN and CFPB. Naturally, the discussion with FinCEN was largely around the status of their development of a beneficial ownership registry which remains in process. Until one is finally launched, banks will still have to follow the current beneficial ownership rules. A representative from FinCEN’s Financial Intelligence Division indicated that they have seen an increase in all types of crime notably COVID-19 fraud, work at home scams, cyberthreats of all types (e.g. ransomware and account takeovers), and illicit use of cryptocurrency. The primary focus of our conversation and questions with the CFPB was around the upcoming Section 1071, small business data collection proposal. The bankers took turns stressing the hardships of the current proposal and asking for an extension of the comment period deadline so that the industry had adequate time to respond to the many issues raised in the over 900-page document. CFPB staff indicated that they have been in meetings with the core providers on this proposal already to help prep them ahead of time so that data collection would be easier once the proposal is finalized.

These meetings are impactful largely due to the proactive engagement of the bankers in the room. I encourage you to take advantage of these opportunities as they arise and be involved because each regulator we met with unequivocally stated they want to hear directly from bankers about the impact proposals have on their operations. While WBA certainly represents the industry’s concerns, bankers truly make the best advocates in sharing specific examples about the impact on the operations of individual banks.

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Dan Peterson

By Daniel J. Peterson, president and CEO of The Stephenson National Bank & Trust

We typically do not raise issues occurring in Washington with the public, but because the people in our community are important to us, we want to inform our neighbors of proposed legislation that could significantly impact millions of families and small businesses.

There is currently proposed legislation that, if enacted, would require all financial institutions to report to the IRS the gross financial inflows and outflows of every business and personal customer account above $10,000. The proposal would use banks as a third-party information source to find and report taxpayers’ income.

As a bank, The Stephenson National Bank & Trust strongly believes in protecting our customers’ private financial information. We only collect personal, financial data for the purpose of serving consumers and businesses – and we do our utmost to safeguard their money and their privacy. The proposal would require financial institutions to transfer a large amount of personal data to the IRS, significantly more data than has been shared with the IRS before. The IRS is already a common target for cyberattacks (approximately 1.4 billion attacks annually) due to the amount of personal data currently in its control. Therefore, adding a new set of sensitive consumer data puts the privacy and financial data of millions of Americans at greater risk.

We felt it was important to share this information with the public so each individual can determine whether to take action. If a person would like to express their opinion, they may contact their member of Congress.

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Rose Oswald PoelsBy Rose Oswald Poels

A focus on community is one of the values the Wisconsin Bankers Association staff shares with our members. Last week, WBA held an annual fundraiser for staff to help raise money for the United Way. As an organization, we strive to be advocates for the wellbeing of our community. This fundraiser provides an opportunity to engage with the social and societal issues such as education, health, poverty, and income that in turn impact the communities our banks and employees are a part of.

The United Way focuses on building stability and establishing diverse communities, a goal that aligns well with the banking industry and its ability to thrive. The vision of the organization involves every aspect of a family, from preparing children for education through decreasing poverty and homelessness to identifying and treating health issues early.

The fundraiser was a three-day event and included an assortment of treats, raffles for staff-favored items, stickers for casual dress days, and the ability to e-pledge. We set an ambitious goal this year to help raise $5,500 for the United Way and our community and welcomed any amount that staff members were willing to donate. Although participation in the event was not required, I am excited and pleased to announce that the staff of 45 people raised over $6,000 in pledges!

Coming together for a common goal was also an opportunity to promote a positive workplace culture. Employees commented that they enjoyed the chance to connect with colleagues they don’t necessarily work with on a day-to-day basis and that they liked having an easy way to get involved in a service activity together.

I am proud of our staff members who donated on behalf of our association and continue to advocate for the communities around us. Like our member banks and Associate Members, we at WBA are eager to empower the communities that we live and work in

In addition to the Wisconsin Bankers Association’s advocacy in opposition to Assembly Bill 478, WBA Director – Government Relations John Cronin and Capitol Bank SVP/Retail Banking and Chief Compliance Officer Gary Kuter testified in favor of Assembly Bill 596 at Wednesday’s hearing held by the Assembly Committee on Financial Institutions. AB 596 is designed to update several statutes relating to banking practices. WBA is very appreciative of the efforts of Rep. Terry Katsma and Sen. Howard Marklein for bringing this legislation forward.

In many ways, banks are the cornerstones of Wisconsin’s communities, having long provided services to individuals and business customers. Bankers relish the opportunity to build and maintain relationships and offer products that help propel Wisconsin’s diverse and vibrant economy.

Banks are also subject to many rules and regulations and are regularly examined for safety and soundness. Therefore, regulatory compliance, operations, and security are key areas of emphasis for financial institutions both large and small.

AB 596 will help us realize efficiencies in all three of these areas without jeopardizing safety and soundness. The common-sense pieces of regulatory relief in this legislation will allow our members to spend more time focusing on what’s most important: serving their customers.