Wisconsin banks empower employees, drive service

By Hannah Flanders

Accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, changes in work-life balance, employee expectations, and workplace culture have all dramatically shifted among every industry. However, as new cultures of service emerge internally, an increasing number of businesses are considering how this company culture shift may widely benefit both current and prospective employees as well as the perspective of customers.

The Culture of Serving Others

Company culture, or the shared values and beliefs held within an organization, continues to prove itself as a significant factor not only in talent attraction and recruitment, but in how Wisconsin’s community banks are able to stand out from large competitors.

Time and time again, poor management or lack of service are often to blame for individuals leaving businesses or finding new providers. However, as Wisconsin’s community banks focus their efforts into doing what they do best — providing high quality service to every member of their communities — it will come as no surprise that talent and customers will follow.

Establishing an Effective Company Culture

According to Amanda Emery-Morris, training and marketing coordinator at Farmers & Mer- chants Union Bank in Columbus, company culture is largely connected to the mission, vision, and beliefs held by the bank. In this, most Wisconsin banks have already completed the most challenging aspect.

In order to encourage employees to adopt these values, managers should ensure a sense of trust among their staff.

Robb Rempel of Nebraska-based Haberfeld highlights that in order to empower the employee, it is critical that they are provided with, and have an understanding of, products they believe in and have processes that encourage follow through.

These processes should not only include training and equipping every team member to identify customer needs but ensuring every team member understands where they can turn with questions or direct others. These skills are vital in fostering a confident team.

Sustaining Culture Among Employees

Of course, setting employees and prospective talent up for success is one aspect to consider — but how can banks ensure they are continually boosting employee morale and that company culture is evident to new or prospective employees? Rempel suggests that community bankers should lean into the changes caused by COVID.

“Regularly check in with your team — really get to know them as people,” he notes.

This follow through not only drives engagement and performance but develops a personal connection between team members. As our industry demands this intimate connection with others in order to better serve, it is critical that at every level, managers show this care for their employees who then feel inclined to pass it on to the customer.

“Part of our retention strategy is to provide the tools [our team members] need to do their jobs efficiently,” says Emery-Morris. “Whether it be more training or mentoring, [our goal is to] help that individual be the best banker he or she can be.”

Additionally, banks should recognize team members based on their contributions to the overall culture of the organization — not just top job performance. By building a brand surrounding the service provided by employees of the organization and celebrating the successes, others are encouraged to take part.

The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) considers reward and recognition programs as key mechanisms to motivate employees to act in accordance with the culture and values.

While strategy remains an important factor not only in keeping Wisconsin’s community banks relevant and competitive against the growth in competition for customers and talent, Rempel encourages banks to “build a brand around service, not so much procedure.”

How to Leverage Culture Externally

While commonly considered as a way to form rooted connections among employees and the business, culture can also be used to make community banks stand out. In focusing specifically on expanding the culture of service bankers bring to their communities, new ways to market closely follow.

In particular, word-of-mouth marketing is one of the most valuable tools a business can utilize. According to Semrush, an online visibility management and marketing platform, around 90% of people are likely to trust a recommended brand.

This tactic has the potential to not only drive sales in new customers, but it is also a simple and highly effective way for community banks to increase the awareness of their organization.

During the recruiting process, community banks may also emphasize company culture by ensuring prospective employees align with the bank’s mission, rather than solely by skill.

“By knowing who we [Farmers & Merchant Union Bank] are and what we want to achieve, employees and prospective employees know what we stand for and what’s expected of them,” states Emery-Morris.

In this, community banks that intertwine culture into the standard hiring process may find that employees are more likely to have higher performance and the business will suffer less from the costly impact of departures.

Staying Informed and Ahead

As company culture continually shifts and services valued by employees and customers evolve, it is critical that Wisconsin’s community banks are prepared to deliver.

During the Wisconsin Bankers Association’s (WBA) upcoming LEAD360 Conference, bankers will be equipped with the tools, skills, and understanding to cultivate an environment of productivity and foster connections.

Retail, sales, marketing, and financial literacy bankers convening in Wisconsin Dells November 16 and 17 will have the opportunity to learn more on topics related to service culture and talent retention from Rempel and Emery-Morris as well as several other speakers.

To learn more about the conference or register, please visit

The conference is designed to help ensure Wisconsin’s community banks are prepared to promote the value of staff and assist team members in efficiently and effectively serving their communities. The ability to stay abreast of the ever-evolving workplace culture shifts and trends in our industry will prove essential in remaining competitive and ready to serve.

Rose Oswald PoelsBy Rose Oswald Poels

Each year, bankers throughout Wisconsin go above and beyond in their mission to provide for their communities. As we near the end of Wisconsin Bankers Association’s (WBA) fiscal year on May 31, we want to be sure to recognize the efforts our member banks accomplish in pursuit of bettering the financial education and responsibility of their communities.

Alongside the Wisconsin Bankers Foundation (WBF) in its mission to empower financial decisions through education and research, I highly encourage all WBA-member bankers to track and submit their data to help WBA and WBF better understand the financial education-related activities Wisconsin banks and their bankers are involved with each year.

New this year, bankers are able to submit their presentation summaries online at

The two summary forms aim at highlighting the achievements of both individuals as well as the bank for their financial education presentations and activities from June 1, 2021 through May 31, 2022. These activities often include volunteer hours with Junior Achievement, Teach Children to Save presentations, and bank tours — events that many bankers take part in during the month of April as part of Power of Community Week.

The individual summary is intended to capture one event or presentation. Therefore, bankers who have or expect to engage in multiple financial education-related activities from June 1, 2021 to May 31, 2022 should expect to also submit multiple summaries. Because each summary reflects a single event, all co-presenters should be listed on the same form.

Exceptional individual efforts are recognized by WBF with either a Certificate of Recognition or Certificate of Excellence based on the number of presentations given. These awards, along with the top two banker awards, are presented each year at WBA’s LEAD360 Conference in the fall.

The bank summary form is intended to capture information related to the bank’s entire financial education initiatives. Based on the level of a bank’s total activity, member banks may earn the Excellence in Financial Education Award. This award is also presented each year to the winning banks at WBA’s LEAD360 Conference.

In addition to the Excellence in Financial Education Award, banks are strongly encouraged to apply for the prestigious Financial Education Innovation Award. This award is given to one bank each year that has financial education initiatives or programs that are very creative, reaching a wide audience. The 2021 Financial Education Innovation Award was presented to Bank Five Nine at WBA’s Bank Executives Conference in February for their efforts in creating an innovative approach to financial education. Banks may apply for this award by completing the final portion of the bank-wide presentation summary form application online.

You all do great work in the financial education space in your communities so take the time to get recognized for your outstanding work! Completing the forms this year is even easier now that they are online. You may submit forms at any time but the final deadline is July 31, 2022. I look forward to learning more about your efforts this past year and recognizing the incredible work Wisconsin bankers do each day. Please reach out to Hannah Flanders at or me if you have questions regarding the completion of the two summary forms.

Individual Financial Education Summary FY 21–22

Bank-wide Financial Education Summary FY 21–22

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!


Join Us for the WBA LEAD360 Conference on November 16-17 in Wisconsin Dells!

By Hannah Flanders

When Josh Mabus founded Mabus Agency in 2008, customer relationships with banks had already begun evolving. What started as general services creative agency soon morphed into a bank-focused marketing agency with a mission to both help people and raise the creative bar. Mabus and his team have reimagined marketing with banks and their customers in mind.

This year at the Wisconsin Bankers Association’s LEAD360 Conference, Mabus will be hosting a session that will assist banks in creating strong customer relationships through branding.

“Attendees will gain new perspectives in how an overarching brand can affect all areas of a customer’s life. I’ll share Mabus Agency’s unique perspective of the five key components of bank marketing, and how they work together to build effective and efficient strategies,” said Mabus.

LEAD360 is an annual conference that gathers retail bankers, sales/marketing bankers, and financial literacy bankers from across Wisconsin for two days of comprehensive breakout sessions and networking among peers.

“I love the focused learning that comes from smaller groups like these,” said Mabus. “Not only is it easier to communicate to smaller groups, but everyone in the room has similar experiences marketing to shared customers.”

If you are interested in learning more, make sure you’re registered for LEAD360 in Wisconsin Dells November 16–17. For more details on Josh’s LEAD360 session and the full agenda, visit the event page.


Join WBA and your fellow Retail, Sales, and Marketing peers from across Wisconsin for the gathering of the WBA LEAD360 Conference! The Conference will kickoff on November 16 at 9:30 a.m. and adjourn at Noon on November 17. 

Bank Member Registration: The registration fee is $350 for first attendee. Each additional attendee from your bank is $300 each additional attendee in-person*.

  • Registration includes networking meals and breaks, general sessions, breakout sessions, and access to the conference mobile app. Day Two Only Registration is $100/per attendee.

*To receive the published discount, you must register everyone at the same time.

Associate Member Registration:

  • Associate Members are encouraged to send their staff as well! The same registration fee is available to WBA Associate Members.
  • Interested in upgrading your presence? Register to be a conference sponsor to receive additional benefits and conference recognition!
  • Click on the Speakers and Agenda tabs for more information.  This Conference is for your Retail Bankers, Sales/Marketing Bankers, and Financial Literacy Bankers.

Associate Member & Exhibitor Registration Information:

WBA Associate Members can register to exhibit at the conference ($600/booth including 2 attendees; $250/additional booth attendee) or register as a non-exhibiting conference attendee ($350/attendee).

Please contact WBA’s Nick Loppnow at 608-441-1259 for more information.

  • Non-members are welcome to register to exhibit at the conference at the non-member rates ($1,000/booth including 2 attendees; $250/additional booth attendee)
  • Interested in upgrading your presence? Register to be a conference sponsor to receive additional benefits and conference recognition!