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!

Rose Oswald PoelsEach day I am astounded at the work Wisconsin bankers do to promote financial literacy and responsibility to their customers and community members. In 2015, the Wisconsin Bankers Foundation (WBF) was established to promote financial literacy and financial responsibility to the public and to broaden consumer empowerment in the financial services industry through research, education, grants, and scholarships.

On Wednesday morning, the WBF honored several financial literacy award recipients at the LEAD360 Conference in the Wisconsin Dells. I am not only pleased to celebrate this remarkable achievement but also to note that, through their outstanding efforts, Wisconsin bankers reached nearly 6,000 members of their communities during a challenging year.

This year, Sue Krause of Fox Valley Savings Bank was awarded the Financial Literacy Banker of the Year Award. The Financial Literacy Banker of the Year Award is presented to the individual banker who reported the highest number of financial education presentations. Sue was able to do 45 presentations throughout the 2020-2021 fiscal year. Of course, this is quite the feat even during a “normal” year but through her commitment to improving financial education in her community, she went above and beyond this year — thank you, Sue!

The Financial Literacy Banker Award will be presented to Dena Hineline of the Bank of Sun Prairie, who reported the second-highest number of financial education presentations during the fiscal year. Her 21 presentations alone have created a lasting impact on adults, teens, and children throughout the bank’s communities. Both Sue and Dena will also receive a Certificate of Excellence Award for achieving 20+ presentations during the fiscal year.

WBF will also recognize 12 Wisconsin bankers for giving between five and 19 presentations in the fiscal year. Thank you to Pam Blattner, Jimmy Kauffman, and Rob Stelzer, Bank of Sun Prairie; Kelley Jensen and Amy Shorougian, Citizens Bank in Mukwonago; Joshua Pauling, Farmers State Bank of Waupaca; Rachael Danielson, Ryma Lindquist, and Erik Thompson, First Bank of Baldwin; Craig Much, Horicon Bank; and Beth Durow and Julie Matthews, The Stephenson National Bank & Trust.

Ten banks will also be awarded the WBF Excellence in Financial Education Award which honors a bank-wide dedication to financial literacy. These banks include Bank of Sun Prairie, Citizens Bank in Mukwonago, Farmers State Bank of Waupaca, First Bank of Baldwin, Fox Valley Savings Bank, Horicon Bank, National Exchange Bank and Trust, Peoples State Bank – Prairie du Chien, PremierBank – Fort Atkinson, and The Stephenson National Bank & Trust.

As Wisconsin bankers show time and time again their commitment to providing resources to increase financial literacy in their own communities, WBF is proud to recognize the work of so many individuals and banks each year. I invite you to continue sharing your financial literacy efforts in your communities with the Foundation by applying next spring for these WBF awards. I also highly encourage you to submit your work in raising financial literacy and capability in Wisconsin to the 2021 Governor’s Financial Literacy Awards recognizes both individuals and organizations. The deadline for submissions is December 3, 2021.

Thank you again to all the bankers who continue the long-standing industry commitment to improving financial literacy and working towards a more financially responsible state. Your efforts do not go unnoticed and have lasting impacts throughout our community!

Triangle Background

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!

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.

Rose Oswald PoelsBy Rose Oswald Poels

Each year, I’m humbled by the work of bankers as leaders in our community. It is my honor to celebrate their achievements and commend them in their services not only as industry leaders but through their commitments to the banking industry and Wisconsin communities.

I am pleased to announce that the Wisconsin Bankers Association is now accepting nominations for the 2021 Banker of the Year Award. Annually, this award recognizes someone who has made an outstanding effort in service to their bank, to their community, and to the banking profession.

To qualify, nominees must be an employee of a Wisconsin bank and a member of the WBA. Additionally, the individual should be a bank president/CEO, or have held this role in the recent past. Nominations may be submitted by any person who is able to describe the banker’s civic and professional accomplishments. The award will be presented during the WBA Bank Executives Conference on February 10, 2022 in the Wisconsin Dells. The conference is the largest banking event in Wisconsin and will take place February 9–11, 2022.

If you know anyone who qualifies, I encourage you to download a nomination form to recognize their efforts in their banks and communities. Year after year, we are fortunate to receive nominations for many qualified individuals. If you have nominated someone in the past who was not selected, please do not hesitate to re-submit your nomination. The form must be returned by December 10, 2021.

The stories we hear about the positive work bankers are doing around our state inspire all of us in the industry. I look forward to learning more about the many ways the nominees are making an impact and to recognizing an outstanding individual at the Bank Executives Conference in February.

Finger pressing donate button on keyboard

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

Corn seedling

Rose Oswald PoelsBy Rose Oswald Poels

The Wisconsin Bankers Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the Wisconsin Bankers Association and was granted public charity status in 2015. The mission of the Foundation is to promote financial literacy and financial responsibility to the public and to broaden consumer empowerment in the financial services industry through research, education, grants, and scholarships.

A well-known initiative of the Foundation is the programming for the annual Teach Children to Save Day in April. The Foundation staff coordinates the curriculum and provides the materials bankers use to present in K–12 classrooms around the state to promote good savings habits. The Foundation actively encourages bankers to engage in many financial education opportunities with their communities and recognizes banks and individual bankers with annual awards.

Currently the Foundation is accepting applications for its Agricultural Banking Scholarship, which is offered every year. This scholarship program is open to all students attending an accredited Wisconsin college, university, or technical college who are interested in pursuing a career in agricultural banking.

Two awards of $1,000 each will be given to qualified applicants who submit complete applications. The deadline for applications is Monday, November 15, 2021.

Please share this scholarship information far and wide in your community, including with any current/former agricultural banking interns and contacts you have in agricultural education programs. We look forward to hearing from students who are pursuing careers in this field!

Rose M. Oswald Poels President/CEO Headshot

Wisconsin state capital building view from above

Rose Oswald PoelsBy Rose Oswald Poels

The Assembly Committee on Financial Institutions will be holding a public hearing at 12:00 p.m. on Wednesday, October 6, 2021 at the State Capitol in Madison. I am encouraging bankers to attend the hearing and testify in opposition to Assembly Bill 478, which contains provisions expanding authorized activities and powers of credit unions. If enacted, this legislation would provide credit unions with even more tools to grow, much to the detriment of Wisconsin’s banks.

Credit union activity is a key issue shared by WBA members, and this is your opportunity to convey directly to legislators the harm credit unions pose to your institution and why the Legislature should not grant them additional powers.

WBA leadership will be testifying in opposition on behalf of the association, but we need a greater show of force to ensure this legislation does not move past the public hearing phase the way the bill is currently written. I can assure you there will be numerous individuals appearing on behalf of the credit unions to testify in favor of this bill.

The WBA Government Relations team will provide you with a full compliment of materials to prepare you for the hearing, including logistics information and talking points. Most importantly, we will provide you with a template from which you can develop testimony. For anyone nervous about testifying — it is really quite easy. Legislators sincerely appreciate hearing from members of the public on issues and will be grateful for your input. I am also happy to do run-throughs or “coaching” via Zoom ahead of time.

Here are some of WBA’s main objections to the bill:

A section of the bill would mean credit union growth, lending, and activity in ways that contravene their charter. Such activities — such as allowing nonmember joint applicants — are outside the scope and original purpose of credit unions and should not be allowed.
A section of the bill would allow credit unions to issue or otherwise offer supplemental forms of capital as approved by the Office of Credit Unions (OCU) in the Department of Financial Institutions. WBA believes this provision is in connection with a proposal by NCUA to permit credit unions to issue subordinated debt for purposes of regulatory capital treatment. WBA strongly objected to NCUA’s proposal, and this activity should not be permitted for state-chartered credit unions.
A section of the bill would create a new procedure that any activity or power incidental to credit union business that is not already listed in statute becomes authorized for a federally chartered credit union, then the power/activity is to automatically become authorized activity/power on state level unless OCU issues general order noting such within 30-day window. Generally, WBA is not supportive of this automatic treatment and notes that this would reduce legislative oversight.
If you do not wish to testify but would like to express your opposition, you can attend the hearing and, upon arrival, check the box on your hearing slip indicating that you oppose the bill but do not want to testify. This will be noted in the committee’s report to the Assembly.

Please let me know as soon as possible if you can join us on October 6.

Thank you for your consideration!

Rose Oswald PoelsBy Rose Oswald Poels

WBA’s Secur-I.T. and BSA/AML Conference was held this week in Wisconsin Dells, and the event draws renewed attention to one of the top issues that members relay to me: cybersecurity. While this issue has been a concern for years, the risk of cyber-related breaches and attacks has grown exponentially in the past 18 months, with more consumers transacting business digitally than ever before. The risk is also further heightened with more employees, including bank employees, working remotely.

Many bank presidents share their frustration with me that cybersecurity seems to be a cost and reputational risk that no one has enough resources to guard fully against. Unfortunately, it is true that for a bank to have an effective cybersecurity strategy, it will require sufficient resources both in terms of staff and money. Respondents to a 2020 Deloitte survey of financial institutions reported spending about 10.9% of their IT budget on cybersecurity on average, up from 10.1% in 2019. In terms of spending per employee, respondents spent about $2,700 on average per full-time employee (FTE) on cybersecurity in 2020, up from about $2,300 the prior year.

Sending your employees to WBA training events on the topic, like today’s conference, is one way to ensure your team stays current on the most recent trends in cybersecurity and incident response techniques. FIPCO also offers assistance to banks in the area of cybersecurity through the services offered in the Information Security and Audit team. FIPCO provides a consultative approach to the review of a bank’s administrative, technical, and physical controls over the computing environment including protecting business systems. The FIPCO team provides consultation and advice to help institutions understand the who, what, where, and why of building an information security program to industry accepted practices that will meet today’s as well as future state, local, and federal regulations, and especially to deal with examiner comments. FIPCO can offer both solutions and expertise to help your bank. Finally, Midwest Bankers Insurance Services provides cyber insurance for your bank to help guard against losses. In their 2021 Cost of a Data Breach Report, IBM Security and the Ponemon Institute calculate that the average total cost of a data breach is $4.24 million, a 10% increase from 2020–2021. The per-record cost of personally identifiable information averaged at $180. If (or more like when in today’s environment) your bank experiences a cyber-related incident, MBIS agents will work side by side with your bank staff and the carrier to work through the proper steps to respond to such incidents.

Cybersecurity will never be an issue that disappears as our world only grows in its reliance on technology. Protecting your bank’s reputation and preserving your customers’ trust are critical to the success of your bank, which means that a cybersecurity breach or more serious incident can be detrimental to these goals. WBA remains an active partner with all of its member banks in helping to ensure your bank and staff are in the best position possible to protect against these threats, as well as respond to them as quickly and efficiently as possible.