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By Rose Oswald Poels

Rose Oswald PoelsFor over a year, WBA has been executing a Board-developed plan focused on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives, accomplishing many of our objectives. With direction from our banker-led DEI Advisory Group, WBA prepared a template policy for members, offered DEI topics and speakers at many education programs, created a DEI Connect peer group, and began a Diverse Voices in Banking video series, among other initiatives. These member-facing resources along with other DEI information can now be found in a central place on our new website.

Last December, WBA hosted an all-member webinar on anti-racism that was thought-provoking and well-received. This year, I would like to invite you to join me in another one-hour webinar with TJF Career Modeling CEO Tara Jaye Frank on Driving Workplace Equity and Inclusion, held on December 7 and sponsored by the Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago. Ms. Frank will address the topics of equity and inclusion and share perspectives from her newest book that comes out on December 10 — The Waymakers: Clearing the Path to Workplace Equity with Competence and Confidence. Each registered attendee will also receive a hard copy of the book upon its launch.

Frank will lead us through facilitating “waymaking,” a way to embrace diversity and in turn, create an environment where people and the company are able to thrive. “Waymaking” is more than approaching inclusiveness from a gendered or racial perspective; it is seeing and having the ability to emphasize the potential in every person.

The registration fee of $29/connection includes one connection to the live program, access to the online recording for 30 days following the live program, and a copy of Tara Jaye Frank’s book, The Waymakers, mailed to you. We do have a team discount in place as well, so for every five attendees you register, you get one attendee free. Last year, many member banks offered our program to all or nearly all of their staff. If your bank would like to coordinate a larger group of attendees (more than 18), we will certainly work with you on further discounting.

Bankers are leaders in their communities, serving the needs of all persons in their communities, and I’m always proud to highlight so many diverse bankers working in this industry. This webinar is intended to help you and your team continue to grow in your DEI journey both as an employer and as a community servant. I hope you will join me on December 7!

By Hannah Flanders

From the National Guard and reserves to veterans, every branch of the military is already integrated into our communities. With their vast training, service members and veterans are ready to translate their skills in leadership, collaboration, and communication into making the banking industry a more diverse environment.

Staff Sergeant Jennifer Splittgerber, credit analyst at PremierBank and Russ Turk, president and CEO of PremierBank

Staff Sergeant Jennifer Splittgerber is currently on active duty with the Wisconsin National Guard working as a recruiter in Sussex and Pewaukee, Wisconsin. She also holds a civilian job at PremierBank’s Fort Atkinson location as a credit analyst in the loan department.

From the start, SSG Splittgerber knew that she had an underlying desire to help her community in some way. Since joining the Wisconsin National Guard she has had multiple opportunities to assist with riot control, flooding, and hurricane relief situations — experiences she has found to be fulfilling and rewarding.

“The military has given me a sense of purpose. And now, serving as a recruiter, I’m able to help kids who might not have the opportunity to get a college degree,” told SSG Splittgerber. “It’s also very satisfying to help those kids who are headed down the wrong path in life. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the military.”

Through the National Guard and some encouragement from her now-husband, SSG Splittgerber completed her bachelor’s degree with a major in finance. In 2016, while attending UW-Whitewater, SSG Splittgerber applied to be a teller at PremierBank. From there, she applied to be a credit analyst intern, which turned into a full-time credit analyst position.

“PremierBank has been outstanding in supporting me. They have always been flexible with me whenever I’ve had orders or training,” said SSG Splittgerber. “Without the bank allowing me flexibility to complete my education, and their willingness to support me during my military leave of absences, I wouldn’t have been able to successfully complete my education or quickly grow in my banking career.”

D'Juan Wilcher

Lieutenant Commander D’Juan Wilcher; head of diversity, equity, and inclusion at Associated Bank

Similarly, D’Juan Wilcher is the head of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) with Associated Bank, working at the Chicago office in support of the entire organization. Wilcher also serves as a lieutenant commander with the U.S. Navy Reserves and was previously assigned to Japan and Chicago and served in the Persian Gulf aboard USS Mesa Verde.

Once in Chicago, Wilcher assisted in conducting training and indoctrination for our nation’s newest sailors. This allowed for a smooth transition into banking in how “military leadership requires leveraging both direct and indirect authority” said Wilcher. “This bodes well to manage up, down, and across the corporate structure in highly matrixed environment.”

His transition into DEI was straightforward in that it so clearly aligned with his passions. “Banking is an industry that sorely needs DEI improvement. It is also one of the toughest industries to move the needle,” highlighted Wilcher, “and I generally opt for the toughest assignments to make an impact.” As a lieutenant commander, Wilcher brings to Associate Bank not only high levels of expertise in leadership, but the ability and desire to strive for the greater good of his community.

Being a reservist also means Wilcher has commitments to serving for a period of consecutive weeks and requires added flexibility in order for him to complete the assignment. “This summer, Associated Bank served me well by allowing me to [serve] with no interruption,” said Wilcher.

Banks make good employers of both active and retired service members for several reasons, according to Russ Turk, President and CEO of PremierBank. “They are trained problem-solvers,” he said, “[and have] the ‘servant-heart’ mindset.”

Turk has found these attributes to be highly valuable to community banks like PremierBank. “Our main role in our local economy is to help our communities grow and prosper,” says Turk. “We do that best by building relationships and serving our fellow citizens. Service members embody these character qualities and complement our mission quite well.”

The PNC Foundation is awarding a $600,000 grant to support the launch of the Black Business Boost Fund, an ecosystem designed to increase opportunities for Black entrepreneurs and business owners in underinvested neighborhoods of Milwaukee. The program will include direct equity investments, technical assistance, credit recovery, incubation, access to co-working space, working capital and strategic, ongoing one-on-one mentoring.

The fund, administered by the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation (WWBIC), is the second PNC pilot program of its kind, and will provide direct micro equity investment, and educational and technical support for qualified businesses. The initiative aligns with PNC’s broader commitment announced in June 2020 to dedicate $1 billion to help end systemic racism and support the economic empowerment of Black Americans and low- and moderate-income communities.

“Today we must be bold about the initiatives that can change the narrative for Black businesses in historically under-resourced neighborhoods. We believe this alignment between the public and private sector helps demonstrate our pledge to be an active participant in the journey towards economic vitality in areas of Milwaukee that need it the most,” said Chris Hermann, PNC regional president for Wisconsin. “When you teach a person to fish, they retain a lifelong skill. But if you help them buy a boat and hire a crew, they can then create a long-lasting business and build a legacy of wealth for their family.”

Black Business Boost is designed to connect at least 100 qualified individuals and business entities with resources and “friend- and family-” type capital. The fund will support a “concept-to-launch” approach to help a business – regardless of where they stand in their lifecycle, covering everything from early stage ideation to long-term sustainability strategies.

“We are thrilled to advance a unique model that will support Black-owned businesses, the economic engines in the heart of our communities,” said Wendy Baumann, WWBIC president and chief visionary officer. “What differentiates this program is access to equity. With our quality training and microlending experience, we will bring the needed expertise to support participants with credit repair, greater access to co-working spaces, accelerators and lending solutions to advance business growth.”

WWBIC, one of Wisconsin’s first Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI), and the Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee (HACM) will partner to deliver technical assistance, and educational and mentoring opportunities.

“Black Business Boost is designed to help close gaps in economic opportunity that have long kept Black entrepreneurs and business owners from starting and growing their businesses,” said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. “I am thankful to the PNC Foundation, WWBIC, HACM and other partners for launching this innovative pilot project that will support a new generation of Black businesses and build a stronger, more equitable Milwaukee.”

The PNC grant will be dispersed into the fund over a three-year period. Profits from the investment will be reinvested into succeeding program cohorts and other philanthropic and institutional support to continue to expand the program’s reach. Interested entrepreneurs and business owners can register at: https://www.wwbic.com/black-business-boost/.

“The Housing Authority is pleased to join this journey with our longtime partners PNC Foundation and WWBIC to launch Black Business Boost and elevate opportunities for Black entrepreneurs to overcome barriers to their success,” said HACM Acting Secretary-Executive Director Willie L. Hines, Jr. “This new fund will complement other economic development programs and investments being made in the area through the Choice Neighborhood Initiative, including hundreds of new housing units, neighborhood amenities, business façade improvements and quality-of-life initiatives.”

Patient and flexible repayment terms are available to allow an entrepreneur the time to develop, grow and scale their business. No payment will be required for the first two years, followed by an additional year of priority returns only. After the third investment year, the business owner will have the option of paying off the investment or converting it to a traditional amortizing loan. This structure alleviates the financial burden during the most crucial years and allows the business owner to focus on building a viable and sustainable business.

“Equitable access to economic development resources is critical to the health of our city, and more resources are needed specifically to support our community’s Black entrepreneurs and business owners,” said Milwaukee Common Council President and 2nd District Alderman Cavalier Johnson. “Black Business Boost will provide local, tailored support that can fuel opportunities for economic empowerment and strengthen Milwaukee’s local economy.”

The Black Business Boost Fund is part of a broader commitment by PNC to provide support in underserved communities in Wisconsin with more than $27 million already invested in 2021 for economic empowerment, community development and early education. In the last decade, PNC has provided more than $200,000 to support WWBIC in its mission to advance business growth and financial education for local businesses. In Westlawn Gardens, PNC Tax Credit Solutions Group, a PNC Real Estate business, has invested more than $150 million in low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) equity and more than $60 million in financing to support more than 600 units of high-quality affordable housing.

The The Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation (WWBIC), is a leading, statewide innovative economic development corporation “Putting Dreams to Work” and is one of Wisconsin’s first Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI). WWBIC’s primary focus is on women, people of color, lower-income individuals and Veterans and Military connected families, providing direct lending and access to fair and responsible capital, quality business training, one-on-one technical business assistance and education to increase financial capability. Since 1987, WWBIC has lent over $85 million in micro and small business loans with a current loan portfolio of $23.5 million and over 600 active borrowers. To learn more about WWBIC visit: www.wwbic.com.

Founded in 1944, the Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee (HACM) provides high-quality affordable housing options to over 10,000 households in Milwaukee. HACM’s award-winning programs foster strong and inclusive communities that support self-sufficiency, good quality of life and the opportunity to thrive. Learn more at www.hacm.org.

The PNC Foundation, which receives its principal funding from The PNC Financial Services Group (www.pnc.com), actively supports organizations that provide services for the benefit of communities in which it has a significant presence. The foundation focuses its philanthropic mission on early childhood education and community and economic development, which includes the arts and culture. Through Grow Up Great, its signature cause that began in 2004, PNC has created a bilingual $500 million, multi-year initiative to help prepare children from birth to age 5 for success in school and life.

Rose Oswald PoelsBy Rose Oswald Poels

This year, WBA formed a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Advisory Group of bankers from around the state to inform and propel our association’s efforts forward. One of the initiatives identified by the Advisory Group is supporting banks in developing and evolving their DEI policies. In my conversations with WBA members, it is evident that bankers understand that fostering a positive environment for all employees and customers is not only the right thing to do, but also a wise business decision that can improve talent recruitment and retention, spark innovation, and bolster your bottom line.

You don’t need to be an “expert” to start a DEI initiative at your bank. To paraphrase what one of our Advisory Group members so eloquently shared in a meeting, having the heart gives you the authority to speak on something you care about. Sincerity is key as people bring their own unique perspectives and learn from each other.

Banks across Wisconsin are at different stages in their DEI journeys, and the best approach often differs from one institution to another. For banks that are looking to put their values and commitment in writing, WBA and the DEI Advisory Group have created a customizable DEI Sample Policy. The sample policy is designed to serve as a template or discussion prompt to help banks develop and maintain a DEI framework that fits their organization’s specific mission, values, and strategy. Banks that already have a DEI policy in place may also find the sample policy useful as they regularly revisit and update their policy.

The DEI Sample Policy is one of the things you will find on WBA’s new DEI Resources webpage. We will continue to build this page out with more tools to help banks engage in DEI-related topics.

Please also consider participating or designating someone from your team to be involved in the new WBA Connect DEI peer group. Membership in the WBA Connect DEI group comes with access to the group’s exclusive online peer-to-peer listserv, and four peer connection meetings per year.

There are many facets of diversity, which span far beyond the quick definitions of race and gender. The attention we devote to DEI enriches our workplaces and communities. Thank you for all you are doing to reflect on your journey and take action to foster a culture of inclusiveness.

Events

A conversation with Tara Jaye Frank

Hosted by the Wisconsin Bankers Association, Sponsored by FHLBank Chicago

Presented virtually on Tuesday, December 7, 2021 from 10:00 – 11:00 a.m. CT.

Making a Way

The ability to manage through change has always been a critical leadership skill, and the last several months have certainly tested our agility. Now more than ever, we must make a way out of seemingly no way – for ourselves and for those we lead. Join Tara Jaye Frank for a compelling look at what leaders of the future must believe, know and do differently to unleash our own power while unlocking the potential of every ONE.

It’s Virtual – so register a team of your bank’s leaders. Take advantage of the team discount by registering everyone at the same time – for every 5 attendees that you register, you’ll get one free attendee.

Why register individually? Each registered attendee will receive a copy of Tara Jaye Frank’s new book, The Waymakers, that will be released in spring 2022 (please note that due to global supply chain and shipping issues, the book release has been delayed – registered attendees will receive their copy of the book as soon as the publisher has them in stock).

Register Your Team Today!

The registration fee of $29/connection includes one connection to the live program, access to the online recording for 30 days following the live program, and a copy of Tara Jaye Frank’s book The Waymakers mailed to you.

Register your team at the same time to take advantage of our special pricing – for every 5 attendees that you register, you get one attendee free.