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Pictured left to right are: Raynique Scott; Christina Summerville; Bianca Carroll McDaniel; Jovo Potkonjak, BankWork$ program manager; Janiaya Rainey; Davina McKee; Ayleene Rodriguez; Rose Oswald Poels, WBA’s president and CEO; and Adriene Wright, BankWork$ instructor. Seated in the center is Rayan Berryman.

The August BankWork$ class has now graduated! The Wisconsin Bankers Association is proud to partner with Employ Milwaukee to bring this nationwide program to Wisconsin. BankWork$ is a free, eight-week training program to prepare participants in primarily underserved neighborhoods for retail banking careers.

This graduating class of seven included Rayan Berryman, Bianca Carroll McDaniel, Davina McKee, Janiaya Rainey, Ayleene Rodriguez, Raynique Scott, and Christina Summerville. WBA’s Rose Oswald Poels attended the ceremony and congratulated the graduates on their achievement.

Over the eight weeks, these students learned the hard and soft skills necessary for entry-level retail and operations positions. The program began in 2019 and has so far provided more than 4,000 graduates in the Milwaukee area the opportunity to begin a career in banking.

Thank you to the following banks for sponsoring this program:

  • Associated Bank, Green Bay
  • Bank Five Nine, Oconomowoc
  • First Federal Bank of Wisconsin, Waukesha
  • First Midwest Bank, Milwaukee
  • Johnson Financial Group
  • PyraMax Bank, Greenfield
  • Spring Bank, Brookfield
  • The Equitable Bank, Wauwatosa
  • Waterstone Bank, Milwaukee
  • Wells Fargo

Pictured left to right are: Dawanda Street, Darnesha Wilson, Evan Taylor, Nayeli Rocha, and Yesenia Delgado — graduates of the June BankWork$ class.

The June BankWork$ class has now graduated! The Wisconsin Bankers Association is proud to partner with Employ Milwaukee to bring this nationwide program to Wisconsin. BankWork$ is a free, eight-week training program to prepare participants in primarily underserved neighborhoods for retail banking careers.

This graduating class of five included Yesenia Delgado, Nayeli Rocha, Dawanda Street, Evan Taylor, and Darnesha Wilson. WBA’s Daryll Lund attended the ceremony and congratulated the graduates on their achievement.

Over the eight weeks, these students learned the hard and soft skills necessary for entry-level retail and operations positions. The program began in 2019 and has so far provided more than 4,000 graduates in the Milwaukee area the opportunity to begin a career in banking.

Thank you to the following banks for sponsoring this program:

  • Associated Bank, Green Bay
  • Bank Five Nine, Oconomowoc
  • First Federal Bank of Wisconsin, Waukesha
  • First Midwest Bank, Milwaukee
  • Johnson Financial Group
  • PyraMax Bank, Greenfield
  • Spring Bank, Brookfield
  • The Equitable Bank, Wauwatosa
  • Waterstone Bank, Milwaukee
  • Wells Fargo

Pictured left to right are: Jovo Potkonjak, BankWork$ program manager; Foumi Sudheer; Kathryn Socher; Tiana Rivera; Adriene Wright, BankWork$ instructor; See Yang; Laretha Gransberry; Brianna Edwards; and Daryll Lund, WBA executive vice president.

The March BankWork$ class has now graduated! The Wisconsin Bankers Association is proud to partner with Employ Milwaukee to bring this nationwide program to Wisconsin. BankWork$ is a free, eight-week training program to prepare participants in primarily underserved neighborhoods for retail banking careers.

This graduating class of six included Brianna Edwards, Laretha Gransberry, Tiana Rivera, Kathryn Socher, Foumi Sudheer, and See Yang. WBA’s Daryll Lund attended the ceremony and congratulated the graduates on their achievement.

Over the eight weeks, these students learned the hard and soft skills necessary for entry-level retail and operations positions. The program began in 2019 and has so far provided more than 4,000 graduates in the Milwaukee area the opportunity to begin a career in banking.

Thank you to the following banks for sponsoring this program:

  • Associated Bank, Green Bay
  • Bank Five Nine, Oconomowoc
  • First Federal Bank of Wisconsin, Waukesha
  • First Midwest Bank, Milwaukee
  • Johnson Financial Group
  • PyraMax Bank, Greenfield
  • Spring Bank, Brookfield
  • The Equitable Bank, Wauwatosa
  • Waterstone Bank, Milwaukee
  • Wells Fargo
Triangle Background
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.

BankWork$ graduates (left to right) Chenille Cole, Tinamaria Adams, Sophia Strong, Jonathan Gitter, Meenakshi Das, Maxwell Sebastian, and Linda Class celebrate achievement with WBA’s executive vice president, Daryll Lund on November 18.

The November BankWork$ class has now graduated! The Wisconsin Bankers Association is proud to partner with Employ Milwaukee to bring this nationwide program to Wisconsin. BankWork$ is a free, eight-week training program to prepare participants in primarily underserved neighborhoods for retail banking careers.

This graduating class of seven included Tinamaria Adams, Linda Class, Chenille Cole, Meenakshi Das, Jonathan Gitter, Maxwell Sebastian, and Sophia Strong. WBA’s Daryll Lund attended the ceremony and congratulated the graduates on their achievement. Immediately after the graduation ceremony, a hiring event for students was held. More information on the course can be found here.

Over the eight weeks, these students learned the hard and soft skills necessary for entry-level retail and operations positions. The program began in 2018 and has so far provided more than 4,000 graduates in the Milwaukee area the opportunity to begin a career in banking.

Thank you to the following banks for sponsoring this program:

  • Associated Bank, Green Bay
  • Bank Five Nine, Oconomowoc
  • First Federal Bank of Wisconsin, Waukesha
  • First Midwest Bank, Milwaukee
  • Johnson Financial Group
  • PyraMax Bank, Greenfield
  • Spring Bank, Brookfield
  • The Equitable Bank, Wauwatosa
  • Waterstone Bank, Milwaukee
  • Wells Fargo

A Graduate Profile of Tionne Riley, Bank Five Nine
By Hannah Flanders

Tionne Riley leads life with ambition for anything she sets her mind to. A former customer service representative at a local grocery store, Riley was ready for a change. When her stepmother gave her a Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development flyer for BankWork$, it was meant to be.

Riley graduated from Primavera Online High School with a passion for math, networking, and finances but wasn’t entirely sure where her path would take her. However, her dedication and persistence allowed her to develop even more skills, such as customer service and cash handling, that would make her the ideal candidate for the BankWork$ program and ultimately a career in retail banking.

After completing two interviews and allowing program directors to get to know her, she was accepted to participate in the eight-week program which covered topics ranging from customer relationships and the fundamentals of finances to preparing for employment. Riley described the program as “extremely hands–on” and the small class sizes allowed for one-on-one learning within a team-oriented environment.

“I was looking for a career rather than a job” said Riley, who graduated from BankWork$ in June 2021. After the graduation ceremony, a hiring event is held for banks to connect with qualified talent. “We have been incredibly impressed with the program, its leaders, its instructors, and of course, the students!” said Ann Knutson, senior vice president, human resources director at Bank Five Nine. At this event, Riley was recruited by Bank Five Nine’s Brookfield branch as a universal banker. With her interests in finance and service to her community, she was a wonderful fit for their team.

“Tionne has been a great addition to the team,” said Bank Five Nine branch manager Michelle Kurth. “I feel the BankWork$ program has allowed her to adapt very quickly to her surroundings, which allows her to accurately process her transactions, assist our customers in a professional convenient manner, and even assist her peers!”

“Bank Five Nine has been involved with the BankWork$ program since its inception in 2018,” told Knutson. Alongside fellow advisory committee members from around the U.S., Knutson has been able to offer guidance and input into the program and offerings at BankWork$ to help create graduates that are ready to succeed at any bank.

Riley spoke of both BankWork$ and Bank Five Nine with pride, “Everybody here wants to see you win.” She has gained mentors throughout the industry, even in a short time, and has enjoyed working with like-minded, focused individuals who encourage her to consider the possibilities of her future in banking.

Riley perfectly exemplifies quality talent that needed the right opportunity, as offered by BankWork$ and Bank Five Nine, to help turn their interests into something more. “Completing the BankWork$ program really gave [Tionne] a sense of pride and accomplishment in a work environment that maybe she would not have otherwise explored or realized she would be successful in,” said Kurth. For banks looking to recruit talented, young individuals to join their organizations or even those looking into connecting with BankWork$, Riley offered some words of advice from her experience in completing the interview process.

“My advice for banks would be to make sure the people you hire are dedicated,” she said. “This job is not for everyone, and we are changing people’s lives, make sure you have a team to execute the goals of the industry.”

By Alex Paniagua

A Graduate Profile of Anthony Lamar Smith, II, Associated Bank

An entrepreneurial spirit, Anthony Lamar Smith, II has been interested in how businesses operate since he was a kid. But as he explored a few different professional paths, he never expected this passion might lead him to a career in the financial services.

Smith graduated from the University of Dayton with a degree in management information systems. Although his education and aspirations felt like the perfect combination, something never felt quite right once he earned a business analyst position with a major health insurance provider. Still on the job hunt, Smith came across an eight-week career training program called BankWork$ designed to help young adults establish a career path in banking. He described the occurrence as something that almost ‘fell in his lap’ after exhausting the options he thought were sure to be the best fit.

“I received an advertisement through the [Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development] for BankWork$,” Smith said. “I read a bit about it, completed the inquiry, and received a call back to do the initial interview process.”

Smith immediately connected his business background with the similarities in banking. His knowledge of economics, background in retail, and his keen interpersonal skills were only a few things that played a role in bridging the gap between the two industries. Although certain elements such as compliance and regulation were new to him, Smith caught on quickly and enjoyed not only the information the program offered, but the experience overall.

After graduating from BankWork$ in June of 2021, Smith is now one of over 4,000 individuals who have had their career in financial services launched with the help of the program. He was offered a job at Associated Bank, Milwaukee, as an entry-level banker and is currently participating in 13 weeks of training where he receives hands-on experience and learns the ins and outs of the bank. He works as a teller but also trains his way toward being a certified banker. Each day he has ample opportunities to observe the tasks of his coworkers and has started on account openings and other services where he can interact with customers. This side of his role is Smith’s favorite part of the industry.

“Being able to build rapport with clients and offer solutions that they find tangible and advantageous to their situation is so important,” said Smith. “Learning more about the customers, understanding how their financials look and work, what their expectations are, and recommending the best options have all been great.”

Whether in or out of the office, Smith has proven himself to be a self-starter. When he’s not working at Associated, his time is spent designing graphics, building websites, or mixing and mastering music for a variety of clients. He has also volunteered teaching Junior Achievement courses and helped co-found multiple startup companies. Part of what Smith loves about using his many skills outside of the banking industry is getting to collaborate with others and make a difference in their success.

“Associated Bank is proud to work with Employ Milwaukee to provide adults with an opportunity to learn skills in the financial industry through the BankWork$ program,” said Sandra Meka, talent acquisition consultant manager, Associated Bank. “Associated is pleased to celebrate Anthony’s graduation from the program and will continue to help him grow in his position.”

As Smith continues his time with Associated Bank on his new journey, there’s a lot that intrigues him about the banking industry that he looks forward to learning more about — especially as it relates to technology. From the growing shift toward online banking to the ways that artificial intelligence helps banks with underwriting decisions, he’s grateful that there’s always been someone at the bank willing to offer their insight. He anticipates all the new information to be gained, skills to be learned, and ways he can use his many talents to help his fellow bankers and customers.

Finding the right career path can be complicated when there are so many to choose from. Although Smith was confident that his role as a business analyst would be the right fit, it wasn’t until the opportunity through BankWork$ came along that things began to really make sense. For others exploring professional possibilities of their own, Smith had some words of wisdom to offer from his own experience.

“Start early, and get involved in as much as you can,” he said. “Find a way to connect what you want to do with what you love, and then you can avoid being pulled in too many directions that don’t fit together.”

The June BankWork$ class has now graduated! WBA was proud to partner with Employ Milwaukee to bring this nationwide program to Wisconsin. BankWork$ is a free, eight-week training program to prepare participants in primarily underserved neighborhoods for retail banking careers.

This graduating class of seven students included Asjura Cole, Nakecia Dean, Alpha Jalloh, Lynn Kuester, Tionne Riley, Anthony Smith II, and Josiah Young. WBA’s Daryll Lund attended the ceremony and congratulated the graduates on their achievement. Immediately after the graduation ceremony, a hiring event for students was held. More information on the course can be found here.

Over the eight weeks, these students learned the hard and soft skills necessary for entry-level retail and operations positions. The program began in 2019 with the goal of training 400 students for positions in the banking industry over the next three years.

Thank you to the following banks for sponsoring this program:

Associated Bank, Green Bay
Bank Five Nine, Oconomowoc
The Equitable Bank, Wauwatosa
First Federal Bank of Wisconsin, Waukesha
First Midwest Bank, Milwaukee
Johnson Financial Group
Spring Bank, Brookfield
Waterstone Bank, Milwaukee
Wells Fargo

By, Alex Paniagua

Another BankWork$ class has now graduated! WBA was proud to partner with Employ Milwaukee to bring this nationwide program to Wisconsin. BankWork$ is a free, eight-week training program to prepare participants in primarily underserved neighborhoods for retail banking careers.

This graduating class of four students included Tyree Anderson, Pia Moore, Petra Theurich, and Boonna Vue. Immediately after the graduation ceremony, a hiring event for students was held. Thank you to the following financial institutions for sponsoring this program:

  • Associated Bank
  • Bank Five Nine
  • The Equitable Bank
  • First Federal Bank of Wisconsin
  • First Midwest Bank
  • Spring Bank
  • Waterstone Bank
  • Wells Fargo

By, Alex Paniagua