Nearly every banker I’ve spoken with in the past few months has posed the same basic question: What’s next? With the promise that the pandemic will eventually be behind us, everyone is trying to predict the “next normal” and imagine if they have what it will take to succeed — or even survive — in a post-pandemic economy.  

Obviously, there are many factors that will determine the answer to those questions. But if you pay attention to some of our industry’s favorite buzzwords, there are many characteristics that bankers will have to master in order to succeed. Agility. Adaptability. Empathy. I’d say yes to each one. But the core competency that will be critical for every bank’s long-term survival is a familiar term: innovation

I know what you’re thinking. Innovation has always been key to sustained success. Yes, that’s true. But if you don’t count big banks and fintechs, you’d rarely find banks on the list of the most innovative companies. Admittedly, this past year saw banks of every size innovate quickly in order to meet the crisis brought about by the pandemic. And while there are many banks that can point to instances where operational efficiencies were achieved or new ideas were implemented, it is important to remember that these innovations were not routine — and they were not always enterprise wide. Too often, innovation is seen as a short-term assignment rather than a long-term mindset.  

Moreover, banks usually equate the term innovation with technology and digital transformation. You may consider yourself innovative if, as an example, you brought in ITMs before your closest competitor or armed your personal bankers with iPads. But innovation must reach way beyond technology. Future success in financial services will require innovation in all areas: customer experience, staffing, remote work, marketing, even business models will need to evolve. In fact, our industry could learn from former Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz, who said “innovation must be disruptive. And by disruptive, I mean disruptive. You gotta fracture and break the rules.” Let’s face it, banking has a lot of rules. 

But why is innovation so critical now? The answer is found at the intersection of at least three trend lines: humanity, diversity and technology. Let me explain. 

Humanity — I use the word humanity to express the idea that innovation becomes critical as shifts in human needs and human behaviors continue to accelerate. The pandemic and the subsequent recession have prompted changes in human needs on physiological, socioeconomic, and psychological levels. Social isolation, unemployment, and economic uncertainty influence most financial decisions — from daily to long-term. Will the 25-year-old customer need a car loan? Will the 65-year-old be able to retire?  

Think for a moment about how the pandemic caused customers to quickly adopt the digital and mobile behaviors that bankers have been promoting for years. Early indications are that customers have assimilated these new behaviors well and they’ve done it long enough now that new long-term habits are being formed. According to a 2009 study published in Psychology Today, the average length of time required for a new behavior to become a habit is 66 days. The pandemic has gone on for nearly a year and your customers have been making deposits with their mobile app, paying bills online, applying for loans without entering a branch. They have been using your drive through and other self-service options on their terms, often 24/7. What makes you think they will return to pre-pandemic ways of banking?  

Depending on your community, it may take some time before the profile of your average customer returns to pre-pandemic levels. And regardless of demographic profile or degree of affluence, the pandemic has influenced perceptions about convenience, health, safety, and simplicity and consumer needs and behaviors will be in flux for months, if not years, to come. Will your institution be able to adjust products and customer experience to align with those new needs and behaviors? When was the last time you connected with your customers and sought their input in the product development lifecycle? A bank’s ability to provide contextual, personalized, and relevant products and services will require more than collecting Net Promoter Scores and attempting infrequent improvement. 

Diversity — both inherent (ethnicity, gender, etc.) and acquired (life/professional experience) — unlocks innovation by creating an environment where different opinions can be expressed, and new ideas pursued. Diversity enhances creativity. It provides different perspectives and promotes better problem-solving. Diversity helps banks become much more dynamic and able to understand their customer base. Research from Harvard Business School found that a team with a member who shares a customer’s ethnicity is 152% likelier than another team member to understand that customer.  

Technology — Rapidly maturing digital technology will keep pushing the industry forward. The rapid improvements in artificial intelligence for fraud detection, credit risk modelling, etc. will reinvent how banks operate and how bankers spend their time. Enhancements to mobile technologies and expansion of 5G networks will compel banks to find newer, faster ways to bring mobile updates to market. Open banking and blockchain integration will restructure the banking landscape. These are just a few examples of how technology will shape future innovation.  

Netflix is a perfect example of a company that discovered customer-focused innovation at the intersection of humanity, diversity, and technology. As the pandemic hit and shelter-in-place orders were issued, people were looking for entertainment and escapism to get through the early days of the pandemic. They were already in a strong position to meet that need, but they quickly adjusted marketing, repurposed content and added more original programming for streaming. Early in the crisis they launched a $100 million coronavirus relief fund for out-of-work creatives to help ensure their content pipeline. As subscription numbers grew, they adjusted their technological capacity to meet demand and made news when they announced plans (at the height of civil unrest in the US) to put up to $100 million toward financial institutions and other groups that directly support Black communities in the U.S. It is no surprise they were among BCG’s list of the Most Innovative Companies of 2020. 

In the past 23 years, Netflix has gained nearly 200 million subscribers in 190 countries. That growth is directly attributed to their innovation-oriented culture of reinvention. So how can your bank become more like Netflix? Start by creating an innovation culture. When you elevate innovation to the status of a core value — an organizing principle for your bank — you begin to change the outlook and culture of your organization; and you transform the conversation in your board room, and your break room. 

As you begin to consider your institution’s capacity for innovation, take an honest look at how your current culture reflects these four characteristics: 

  • Innovative cultures encourage autonomy. From day one, Netflix focused the culture on employee empowerment and independence. The typical banking leadership style of command-and-control is difficult enough with five generations in the workforce and a talent crisis on the way; and is certainly less viable in the work-from-home era. Let go of the reins and create an environment where individuals and cross-departmental teams have freedom to express ideas, experiment and make decisions. Try identifying one customer-facing problem and give 3-5 people a budget and a deadline and then get out of their way.  
  • Innovative cultures also foster alternative solutions. You have likely heard the old saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result. That thinking is the antithesis of innovation, and unfortunately it is alive and well in banking — but it doesn’t have to be. Tried and tested practices may feel safer, and trusted partners feel comfortable. But new solutions are often found by exploring new approaches and engaging new partners. When was the last time you asked a front-line employee, rather than a senior manager, how they would solve a particular problem?  
  • Innovative cultures give people permission to fail. Your team members will try new things when they know that they will not be fired or reprimanded for giving something a try. Once again, Netflix offers an interesting example. When an employee makes a mistake, they are encouraged to let it be known so fellow employees can learn from the errors and new ideas can be stimulated. Permission to fail allows employees to step outside of their comfort zones, to take more risks and to bring forth an innovative idea.  
  • Innovative cultures promote action. Decisions need to be made quickly and the right actions (based on data, customer feedback, analytics, etc.) must be taken, acknowledged and celebrated. Fast and effective decision-making structures exist, and fast and efficient communication supports implementation.  

A recent report from Accenture noted “Yesterday’s expectations for innovation are out the window. Even though the stakes for innovation in banking were rising even before the coronavirus arrived, now a true culture of innovation is a matter of survival through, and beyond, the pandemic.” 

I’ve used Netflix as an example of an innovative company, but there are leaders in our industry who have focused their banks on finding innovative solutions for their customers. And it isn’t just the large national and regional banks. Take the time to learn about institutions like Cross River Bank in New Jersey and discover how they reinvented themselves and deployed APIs to originate loans for Affirm or Rocket Mortgage. Or discover the innovative leadership at Citizens Bank in Oklahoma, who partnered with Shark Tank’s Mark Cuban to create the nation’s first bank exclusively to originate and fund PPP loans for businesses across the country.  

As you take the time to consider your own institution’s capacity for innovation, ask yourself “Do I have it in me?” Innovation requires fearless leadership that doesn’t use legacy technology as an excuse for maintaining the status quo. The pandemic has created an opportunity to break the inertia that has kept innovation from flourishing. Now is the time to commit to innovation and begin the work of reinventing your institution. I’ll admit, some consumers will return to pre-pandemic behaviors, and so will some banks. But given the changes we’ve already seen, I’m confident that banking will continue to evolve as consumers demand more innovation. 

Sullivan will be a keynote speaker at the WBA Management Conference, September 13–14 in Green Bay.

About the Author 

Joe Sullivan is CEO and founder of Seattle-based Market Insights, a consultancy with expertise in strategic planning, delivery optimization, culture transformation and leadership coaching. He can be reached at, or on Twitter — @mi_sullivan.

By, Ally Bates

In a world of financial options for consumers and commercial businesses, the community bank showed up stronger than ever before to serve our communities over the past year. Making a difference in the places we call home looked different for all of us, but we all had one common goal — to provide the very best guidance and support while navigating through the new unknown.

The letter “P” was prominent in the ever-powerful Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Our teams logged countless hours reinforcing a time-honored understanding with local businesses that we work with them as community partners, unquestionably giving them our very best regardless of the circumstances.

In the midst of the pandemic, rates fell to an all-time low and propelled our mortgage business faster than a jet boat on the Potomac. Customers were eager to refinance and people we’d never met previously were pounding down the door to capture what may have been the perfect opportunity to maximize purchasing potential. The “P” was beyond powerful in the past year.

Most of us realized early on the need to pivot to drive-thru and online banking only. Closing our lobbies to “flatten the curve” only inflated our desire to serve our people proudly and with a greater purpose. Many of us worked from home doing our part in the practice of social distancing. The words “unprecedented, unknown, and challenging” rang loudly no matter where we were positioned on this planet.

The greatest “P” we all had in common was “Purpose” — the privilege of working with and for people. It was the moment to remind ourselves that passion and purpose play a role in everything we do. It was an eye-opener and a reminder that tomorrow isn’t promised, and it is the rare plan that can actually be etched in stone. In this place in time, we must all “plan with attitude, prepare with aptitude, participate with servitude and receive with gratitude.” (Krish Dhanam)

As we push forward in the post-pandemic world, may all of our experiences remind us of a great quote by Winston Churchill: “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” As my three-year term on the WBA Marketing Committee comes to a close, it has positively been my pleasure to serve each and every one of you in this profession. Proceed and Prosper!

By, Alex Paniagua

With technology taking an increasingly important role in banking, directors of community banks need to be up to speed on the responsibilities this trend brings. 

From mobile banking to online loan applications to digital account opening, technology is crucial to financial institutions, said Patrick Neuman, a partner with the law firm Boardman Clark. He cited this as a reason directors should be tuned into their bank’s technology and cybersecurity. 

“Digital platforms create enormous opportunity, but they also require strategic planning and robust risk management practices, and that really starts at the board level,” said Neuman, who focuses on banking for Boardman Clark. “The board really does need to be informed. There are a number of different risks they need to be thinking about and a number of different kinds of strategies they need to be thinking about as their bank is expanding its digital platform to stay competitive in the marketplace.” 

Neuman and Boardman Clark colleague Cat Wiese plan to cover those issues in their presentation during the WBA Directors Summit, a virtual live event from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. CDT on May 19. Wiese said she plans to talk about compliance concerns that come along with technology. 

In the Summit, directors of community banks will hear from experts on topics such as choosing technology vendors and getting ready for the future instant payment system. They’ll also be urged to take a close look at their assets and prepare for the rebooting economy. 

Patrick Dix, vice president of strategic alliances for the financial services and technology firm SHAZAM Inc., will talk with Summit attendees about the current and coming payments landscape. Part of the focus will be on the Federal Reserve’s desire for safe, ubiquitous, and faster payments capabilities in the U.S. and what’s happening on that front. 

“We’re going to touch on what’s coming next, which is faster payments,” Dix said. “This is a topic that’s been talked about for the last two or three years in real general ways, but I think things are getting real now.” 

It’s time for community banks to start thinking about and discussing how to help create a system in which they’ll participate for many years to come, he said. Dix said it amounts to “a reimagining of the payments system as we know it.” 

“We want to pose some questions so they can start thinking about that,” he said. 

How might that issue affect bank directors? 

“In many community banks, the directors are involved in decisions like, ‘Do we change our core?’  And that’s a big decision, certainly, but it also will have impact on these kinds of future technology,” Dix said. “How will your core play with other fintech companies? Will they be interoperable with other players in the industry?” 

Dix added: “I always say to people, ‘If your biggest tech partner can’t hook up to other systems, how good of a tech partner are they? If they won’t hook up to other tech partners, how good of a partner are they?’ Those are real important questions for community banks.” 

While technology will be in the limelight at the Summit, one presenter, Marc Gall, vice president and asset/liability strategist at BOK Financial, plans to look at some other topics of key concern to bankers:  interest rates, liquidity, and earnings. 

“Right now, most banks are swamped with liquidity and not really sure what to do with it,” Gall said. 

On the other hand, there is concern as the economy improves, inflation is going to take off, and rates are going to rise. 

“Balancing that weight of a very low earning asset on your book — being cash — with the potential risk that’s out there for rising rates leads banks to be a little bit more perplexed right now as to what to do,” Gall said. 

He said banks need to assess what’s on their balance sheet and, as pandemic relief measures like Paycheck Protection Program loans go away, get back to the nuts and bolts of banking. 

Gall added that some think the Fed is going to raise interest rates faster than what it has indicated and inflation will soar. He’s not convinced this is the case and said there may be risk to banks sitting on piles of cash. Some banks feel like if they do that, it’s conservative and they’re not taking a risk, he said. 

“But we would say doing nothing is a risk in and of itself,” Gall said. 

The Directors Summit is recommended for bank management teams, beginning or experienced inside and outside directors, bank CEOs, executive officers, and bank general counsel. 

Paul Gores is a journalist who covered business news for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for 20 years. Have a story idea? Contact him at

By, Alex Paniagua

You may have heard the term Net Promoter Score (NPS), but are you using it at your bank? If not, it’s definitely worth looking into.

NPS is a tool used to gauge a customer’s overall satisfaction with your products and services, as well as loyalty to your brand. NPS surveys are not only used in banking, the tool is a customer service standard for measuring engagement in all industries, around the world.

The foundation of an NPS program revolves around the question: “How likely is it that you would recommend our company to a friend or colleague?” Respondents rate this on a 0-10 point scale (0 = Not at All Likely; 10 = Extremely Likely); with scores categorized as follows:

  • A 9 or 10 score indicates a Promoter. They are loyal customers who will keep buying and referring others.
  • A 7-8 respondent is called a Passive. They may be satisfied customers, but they are unenthusiastic, with a potential to leave. However, they also represent an opportunity, as this group is more likely to become a promoter.
  • A 0-6 score is a Detractor. These individuals are unhappy and can do damage to your bank brand/image. They are also more at risk of leaving.

To determine an NPS score, you need to subtract the total percentage of Detractors from the total percentage of Promoters (passives are considered neutral). An NPS can range from a low of -100 (if every customer is a Detractor) to a high of 100 (if every customer is a Promoter).

Most likely, you’ll fall somewhere in between. In fact, according to CustomerGauge, the average NPS score for banking/financial services is 34. In general, anything above 0 is considered good; 50 and over is considered excellent; and 70+ is world-class.

To get the most value out of an NPS survey, you should also ask a follow-up “why” question specific to the rating given. If someone rates a 9/10, ask something like, “What is the primary reason you would recommend us?” For a passive (7/8) ask “What would it take for you to provide a 9/10?” And for Detractors (0-6), ask “Why did you give this score?”

What can I use NPS for? At our bank, NPS is one of our key performance indicators used to measure our success in serving the customer. We survey customers twice a year, and senior leadership reviews the results and monitors trending. In addition to the score itself, we find great value in reviewing the open-ended comments provided in the “why” follow-up question. Here we look for themes and patterns we can use for improvement as well as celebration. 

Additionally, we’ve taken this to the employee level and use an employee Net Promoter Score survey (eNPS) to measure employee engagement. This score is also one of the KPIs we use to ensure a satisfied and engaged workforce.

Having both an NPS and eNPS program is a smart move. It’s a low-cost, highreturn way to have a pulse on both your customers and employees — two things you need to survive and thrive.

Plain and simple, net promoter is another metric your bank should look at to make sure you are providing an exceptional experience for your customers, both internal and external. Because without one or the other, we wouldn’t be here!

By, Alex Paniagua

As Wisconsin bankers prepare their 2021 budgets amid a pandemic, the biggest question marks – aside from the persistence of the novel coronavirus itself – are how they’ll handle shrinking net interest margins and how much to add to loan-loss reserves.

And if they had their wish, many bankers would gladly welcome a sustained hot mortgage market and another dose of economic stimulus to help them and their customers through the new year.

With the coronavirus and its effects on business and consumers still hampering the state’s economy, bankers are adjusting budgeting and strategic planning this fall.

The weak interest rate environment is a top concern.

“The interest margin has been shrinking because of the low interest rates and the excess liquidity banks are sitting on,” said Paul Kohler, president and chief executive officer of Eau Claire’s Charter Bank.

With overnight funds paying only five basis points, margins are compressed and will hurt earnings, said Kohler, who is chair of the Wisconsin Bankers Association.

The latest quarterly report from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. shows the overall net interest margin for banks headquartered in Wisconsin was 3.31% in the first half of 2020, down from 3.49% at the same time in 2019. Nationally, the first half net interest margin for banks was 2.97%, tumbling from 3.40% during the same span in 2019.

Bankers are being told Interest rates are likely to stay low for a few years, said Paul Northway, president and CEO of American National Bank Fox Cities in Appleton.

“Typically when we start hearing things like that we start worrying about margin compression,“ said Northway, a member of the WBA board. “And so banks are going to certainly budget based on a near-zero interest rate environment and lower margins.”

As the pandemic lingers, more loans are expected to become delinquent, meaning banks will have to add to loan-loss reserves.

Noncurrent loans and leases at Wisconsin-based banks totaled $754.9 million in the first half of 2020, up about 13% from $668.2 million in the first six months of 2019, according to the FDIC.

“The other thing that is a big concern is what will loan losses look like in the future,” said Kohler.

FDIC data shows banks are starting to boost reserves, but some bankers say their portfolios have been holding up reasonably well, thanks in no small measure to economic stimulus like the Paycheck Protection Program and the fact that the mortgage business has been robust in many communities.

While interest income at Wisconsin banks was down about 6% through June compared with the first half of 2019, non-interest income was up 34%.

“I think our biggest unknown relative to the budget next year is going to be will we have fee income to offset lower margins – and a lot of it is going to have to do with the mortgage market – and will the pandemic and the economy have a significant impact on asset quality,” Northway said.

Brennen Clark, senior vice president of bank operations for Peoples State Bank in Prairie du Chien, said nothing is finalized yet for the 2021 budget.

“We’re in concurrence that the biggest factors for ‘20 and ‘21 will be net interest margin and continued rate pressure, and probably the provision for loan loss expense, which is largely still uncertain at this point as to what impact that will have on our bank,” Clark said.

Ken Thompson, WBA chair-elect and the president and CEO of Capitol Bank in Madison, said the uncertainty around the pandemic has delayed the bank’s strategic planning and budgeting process by a month in order to simply give bank executives more time to collect information.

“If they roll out a vaccine in November, that might set our economy on a different path,” Thompson said. “You just don’t know. So everything is being pushed back at least 30 days. We want to gather as much information as possible this year – even more so than most – so we’re making good decisions.”

Another budget consideration in 2021 for some banks could be spending for technology. At a time when people are being told to stay home as much as possible to avoid coming in contact with the coronavirus, it’s important for banks to offer mobile technology. While most have added consumer technology to their offerings by now, those that haven’t – or provide less than customers want – might have to budget for it in 2021.

“Do your clients have the ability to do things mobile? If not, you may have some costs related to that,” said Northway. “All of those things add up.”

Bankers say a variety of wild cards, ranging from the production of a safe vaccine to the outcome of the presidential election, could affect the 2021 economy.

The latest report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia’s survey of 35 economic forecasters, issued in mid-August, shows the group predicted the economy will expand at an annual rate of 19.1% in the current quarter, which was more optimistic than the 10.6% pace predicted for the third quarter in their previous survey. On an annual-average over annual-average basis, the Philly Fed’s forecasters expect real GDP to decrease 5.2% this year but recover and grow at an annual rate of between 2.2% and 3.5% over each of the following three years.

Some bankers said the federal government’s economic stimulus has worked, and they be happy to see another round to boost businesses and consumers.

“We do a lot of agricultural loans and there’s been quite a bit of stimulus pumped into the ag end, whether it’s dairy or cattle or crops,” said Mark Forsythe, president of Peoples State Bank in Prairie du Chien. “That’s probably helped a lot as far as income from the agricultural end. This year there’s a lot of lower prices as far as commodities, grain.”

Christopher Del Moral-Niles, executive vice president and chief financial officer of Associated Banc-Corp, said of the potential for more stimulus: “We’ll take whatever they put on the table. It makes our customers likely better positioned to withstand the current storm, which will make it easier for us to work with them to find the right answers for them.”

Paul Gores is a journalist who covered business news for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for 20 years. Have a story idea? Contact him at 

By, Ally Bates

Consumer adoption of digital payment methods has grown steadily for decades, and social distancing requirements amid the COVID-19 pandemic kicked that transformation into high gear. Community banks can position themselves for success by keeping abreast of developments in faster payments and strategically implementing solutions to continue delivering the exceptional customer experience for which they are known. 

Annual digital payments transactions are projected to top $1.5 trillion from nearly 280 million users by 2024. With the increase in volume and users has come elevated consumer expectations. “Consumers are operating in a faster payments world,” said Tina Giorgio, AAP, president and CEO of ICBA Bancard. Today’s consumers experience instant gratification in so many of their consumer-business interactions, it has become a standard which applies even to industries like finance. Consumers and business clients alike now expect to be able to pay friends or suppliers, settle bills, and transfer money whenever and wherever they choose.  

Giorgio will be presenting at the upcoming WBA Management Conference. Join us Sept. 15 for her session on the why, when, and how of a community bank’s digital payments strategy. Click here to register your entire team for one low price!

Since its inception, the applications for faster/real-time payments have continued to expand. “The use cases around faster payments are changing faster than the technology,” said Giorgio. A 2015 Deloitte study outlined five main categories: business to business, business to consumer, consumer to business, domestic peer to peer (P2P), and cross-border peer to peer. Of these five, the fastest growing (in the U.S.) is domestic P2P, with over 20 different application vendors in the market.  

One of those vendors, PayPal, reported a 29% jump in year-over-year volume in Q2 2020 and added 21.3 million net new active accounts (the strongest quarter for that measure in PayPal’s history). Of course, some of this growth can be attributed to COVID-19. “P2P is growing exponentially, even more so since the pandemic began,” Giorgio explained.  

In addition to P2P, banks should also consider applicable use cases in B2B, including a simplified vendor/supplier payment system, which currently involves purchase orders, invoices, checks, ACH, and other individual payment transactions.  

As faster payments technology develops, community banks have two primary roles to play, according to Giorgio. First, and most important, is staying informed and delivering value from new developments to customers. Second is participating in industry groups—such as the U.S. Faster Payments Council and the Federal Reserve’s Payments Improvement Community—to provide perspective and representation on issues affecting the industry and community banks, specifically.  

Implementing Faster Payments: Why, and How? 

Customer retention and enhanced customer experience are the two primary benefits for banks that implement faster payments solutions, according to Giorgio. “Having that available when it’s needed is a huge advantage,” she said. For example, to a small business that needs to deliver payroll but is experiencing cash-flow issues due to COVID-19, the ability to send funds instantly rather than days in advance is a liquidity live-saver. 

FedNow Service webinar scheduled 
FRB Services has scheduled a one-hour informational webinar on its FedNow instant payment service for Wednesday, Sept. 9, at 1:00 p.m. CT. Interested parties must register and submit any questions in advance. 

Despite growing competition from non-traditional lenders, consumers still look to their trusted financial services provider for payments services.  “If the bank offers a digital wallet or P2P solution, their customers will use the bank’s product rather than a fintech’s. “That’s the power of a pre-existing relationship,” Giorgio said. Those comments are supported by research from Ernst & Young which noted roughly 60% of consumers would turn to their existing bank first when considering a new financial services product.  

When it comes to implementing faster payments products and services, community banks must clear three hurdles:  

1: Define the strategy: Pursuing every faster payments product on the market isn’t feasible, so defining a strategic direction is essential to getting it right. “There’s so much out there, you have to figure out what your customers’ priorities are so you’re spending time and money on the right solutions,” said Giorgio. If your bank is just getting started in faster payments and you’re looking for the most critical first step, Giorgio recommends establishing the ability to accept faster payments. “Even if you’re not ready to start originating faster payments, you should determine what you need to do to be able to receive those transactions. Not having the ability to receive payments puts your customer relationships at risk.” 

2: Integrating tools: Banks rely on a core service provider, along with a collection of platforms and tools to deliver services and information to customers, so it’s critical to ensure any new faster payments technology integrates with essential legacy systems. “Interoperability is a challenge,” said Giorgio.  

3: Affordable Access: Finding a solution that is both functional and affordable for the institution and its customers can also be challenging. Fortunately, more banks have a wider array of technology partners to choose from as more legacy core systems shift toward interoperability as the default. “Many of the cores are now starting to open up their systems and allow integration through application interfaces [APIs], which allows banks to select any provider of a solution and integrate it into the core,” said Giorgio. This gives banks greater ability to find a partner that meets both quality and pricing requirements.  

With the faster payments landscape continuing to evolve, now is the time for community banks to leverage their relationships with technology partners and their own deep understanding of their customers to bring the high-tech, high-touch banking experience that will continue to differentiate them in the years ahead and deliver the services that their customers rely on.  

Seitz is WBA operations manager and senior writer.  

ICBA is a WBA Gold Associate Member.

By, Amber Seitz

P2P payment apps, mobile deposit, digital account opening, APIs… 

Since the advent of the ATM, it seems banks have been caught in a constant battle of technology one-upmanship, with community banks struggling to keep up with larger firms (and nonbanks like Amazon and Google) as they sprint ahead. For community banks, “winning” the tech battle requires building a vision of the future, not inventing something brand new. 

“Community bankers hear ‘innovation’ and think they need to invent something completely new,” said Trent Fleming, principal of Trent Fleming Consulting. “But their core competency is not invention, it’s personalized service.” Truly knowing and understanding their customers and their communities is the foundation community banks have built on for nearly two centuries. With the pace of technological change increasing at an exponential rate, what knowing and understanding the customer looks like has changed as well. Fortunately, community banks don’t need to be on the bleeding edge in order to deliver quality customer service. “The tendency is to look for the next really cool product, but the next really cool product is better delivery of the customer’s financial information,” Fleming explained. “Focus on improving your customers’ access to their own information so their quality of life improves.” 

To hear more from Fleming about creating a vision for your bank’s technology future, including the latest on emerging products and trends, attend the upcoming WBA Secur-I.T. Conference! Now fully virtual (it’s a tech conference, after all!), the conference will span two days and feature seven hours of presentations, networking opportunities, a vendor showroom, and more. Join your peers at the only Wisconsin technology event by and for bankers on Sept. 22-23! Visit to learn more and register. 

If they don't have one already, bank leadership should begin creating their vision today, but with the customer at the center. The best question to start with, according to Fleming, is Are we preparing for our next customer-base? 

Bank leaders should closely examine demographic and commercial trends in their geographic footprint. In five years, what will the neighborhood around the branch look like? Will it still be retail and suburban, or will there be a shift to industrial? What’s happening with the population regarding age, race, and level of education? “It’s not just who your customers are, but what lines of business they’re in, the footprint, and what kinds of products and services they’ll need,” Fleming explained. “That helps you plan for what kind of institution you’ll be and how you’ll serve today’s and tomorrow’s customers.” 

Tactics for Post-Pandemic Banking 

With their strategic vision to guide them, bank leaders should build their bank’s future with the following best practices in mind: 

1: Implement Fast 

The biggest difference between banks with more than $15 billion in assets and those with less, according to Fleming, is the speed at which they can roll out new technology. Fortunately, community banks don’t need to develop and implement with lightning speed. “Most banks have access to what they need, they just haven’t implemented it,” said Fleming. By working with the third-party vendors they already have, many banks will find they can better leverage the tools they have available to them. “You need to aggressively embrace technology, because that’s what your customers are doing,” said Fleming. 

2: Keep Momentum Going 

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused massive disruption in nearly every area of life, but Fleming says the behavior changes it forced upon consumers should be encouraged if they are beneficial. “Going forward, banks should make sure they capture the value of changed customer behavior,” he said. “Slipping back into business-as-usual is the single biggest mistake banks could make.” One area ripe with opportunity for improving customer experience and bank efficiency is scheduling. “Smaller banks will innovate in offering appointment scheduling,” Fleming predicted. “Whether it’s online or in-person, scheduling driven by the customer is a huge opportunity.” 

3: Fill in Gaps 

In the pandemic’s wake, banks should reassess their branch strategy and where they have opportunities to meet new customer needs. “It’s important banks identify where they have gaps between what they offer and what customers want,” Fleming advised. Especially for the next generation of bank customers, face-to-face interaction isn’t the first choice. Fleming suggests cultivating more “invisible loyalty.” “A customer who only uses the bank’s remote channels can be as loyal and more profitable than a customer who you see all the time,” he explained. “The customer you see often isn’t taking advantage of your offerings.” 

4: Prioritize CX 

Banks should fiercely prioritize customer experience (CX). “The core of banking hasn’t changed,” Fleming said. “What will change is the quality of the delivery of information, giving customers what’s relevant for their current situation.” By knowing and delivering exactly what each customer is looking for, banks can grow satisfaction and loyalty. “The less time a customer spends successfully completing their banking business, the more satisfied and loyal they will be,” said Fleming. “Banks need to embrace and prepare for that concept.” 

5: Engage Employees 

To get ROI on investments in technology products, banks need to achieve high adoption and usage rates among customers. Fleming says knowledgeable, enthusiastic employees are the best way to achieve that. “Have employees use and adopt the new technology themselves, because that’s how they become knowledgeable about it,” he said. “It takes some training effort, but you’ll see customer adoption go up by a quarter to a third.” Another method is to empower an employee who shows great aptitude by naming him or her the Virtual Branch Manager—a position Fleming says shows current and potential customers that the bank isn’t looking at digital as an afterthought. 

Seitz is WBA operations manager and senior writer.

By, Amber Seitz

Reconstruct coronavirus-busted budgets to find new insights, opportunities 

Banking, like many other industries, has a “downturn playbook,” a set of common strategies designed to help individual institutions weather economic dips. However, today’s circumstances are different from every previous recession and depression, both in speed and in the sense that the economic dive is (in large part) voluntary. The novelty has resulted in some very interesting and impressive moves by the Federal Reserve (a new version of QE, MMLF, lending to securities firms, repo operations, etc.), but also an “oldie-but-goodie": slashing the federal funds rate. 

Karen MitchellHowever, interest rates seem more all over the map than they really are, according to Karen Mitchell, senior manager – risk advisory at Wipfli LLP (pictured, right). The pivot point was when rates went down in both August and October 2019, and then the two emergency cuts in April 2020 pushed things over the edge. “Balance sheets have been fairly stable, for community banks especially, with steady loan growth over the past few years which were largely offset by a decline in AFS securities,” said Mitchell. “The banks were in a fairly decent position at the beginning of the crisis.” 

Marc GallDuring the last rising rate cycle, bank cost of funds moved up slowly relative to the Federal Funds rate. Many community banks faced risk to margin compression in a very low rate environment, as asset yields could fall more than liability cost savings would offset. With the rapid decline in market rates, many banks have been quick to drop deposit rates, according to Marc Gall, vice president at BOK Financial Corporation (pictured, right). In addition, alternative deposit funds have become less costly, which will help banks reduce interest expense and minimize margin compression. More banks may turn to brokered deposits, FHLB, or the Federal Reserve’s PPP Liquidity Facility for low-cost funding options. 

Perhaps the biggest risk for bank leadership is getting stuck in the moment. Putting out fires often feels productive and has many rewards—praise from coworkers and customers, and even media attention—but comes at the expense of evaluating long-term concerns and focusing on future opportunities. 

Reconstructing a 2020 budget is an essential exercise to help bank management pay attention to the line items that will lead to long-term success, even as they triage immediate concerns (such as credit quality and margin compression). “You have to figure out what you should be focused on for longer-term success instead of constantly putting out fires,” said Gall. “Spending the time to put together a new budget will force you to think about those other elements that may not otherwise be top-of-mind.” 

Rebuilding Your Budget 

The majority of banks craft budgets in alignment with the calendar year, which means most 2020 budgets are now completely defunct. On the loan side of the balance sheet, PPP and other crisis-relief lending will create a spike in loan balances, intensified by consumers and businesses drawing on existing lines of credit in order to maintain cash flow. 

On the deposit side of the balance sheet, Mitchell says cash will move around based on consumer perceptions of strength and stability. “Just like in the great recession, there could be a flight to quality, so banks that are perceived as being strong may see an influx of deposits,” she explained. In addition, fee income (especially NSF and ATM fees) are likely to fall sharply. 

On the investment side, Gall cautioned against becoming too conservative. “Having excess liquidity on the balance sheet in this environment will ultimately become more and more expensive,” he said. “Even though investment yields have come down, the takeaway is that you need to realize where we’re actually at… We’re in a super-low rate environment.” 

All of this means one thing for 2020 budgets: “Redo them,” said Gall. Keep a copy for comparison purposes, but nearly every line item has changed significantly. The key to bank survival, as with every time of disruption, is to act. “Doing nothing is not a great strategy,” said Gall. “What will help banks through this is making decisions.” 

If making decisions feels impossible because of all the uncertainty, it’s not getting better anytime soon (it’s a Presidential election year, on top of everything else). Get unstuck by thinking of this exercise as forecasting, rather than budgeting. After all, if a weather forecast for the week is 70% right, everybody thinks that’s pretty good! Also, forecasts are designed to be revised as new information becomes available. As Mitchell put it, “budgets are static, but forecasts can be a more dynamic tool.” 

What’s Next?
Both Gall and Mitchell said banks should anticipate changes in consumer behavior in their forecasts. “Don’t use old assumptions about how consumers will behave in the new normal,” Mitchell warned. Two months of sheltering in place has disrupted old habits and formed new ones for most people. For example, banks can expect that the transition to online and/or mobile banking will accelerate. “This will change the landscape of banking, so don’t get left behind,” said Gall. 

5 Questions Bank Leaders Must Answer Now to Reconstruct 2020 Budgets: 

1. What’s our appetite for risk in this environment? 

The bank’s risk appetite throughout the COVID-19 crisis and recovery will determine loan pricing and which markets and/or sectors the bank is ready and willing to serve (for both loans and deposits), as well as how much the bank funds its loan loss provision, according to Gall. 

From an enterprise risk management perspective—the service line Mitchell leads at Wipfli—evaluating the full context of the current environment is key. “Look for the appropriate strategy in context of the risks this situation is presenting,” Mitchell advised. “Risk isn’t always a bad thing. It can be a good thing if you find the opportunities to serve your customers.” 

Banks should evaluate their credit risk, in particular, in the wake of the Paycheck Protection Program. “PPP might create some good opportunities, but the profitability of those loans is different from regular loans,” Mitchell said. 

2. Where can we increase income? 

Recalibrated 2020 budgets should incorporate new sales objectives that reflect today’s market. For example, while rates have been pushed down, banks could potentially make up some of that loss in volume. “There’s so much focus on PPP that it’s a bit lost that mortgage rates are extremely low,” Gall explained. “That could potentially be a nice additional revenue source this year if banks continue to focus on it.” 

3. What do we know about our customers? 

“Evaluate the current situation for your bank, your community, and your customers,” Mitchell advised. “Understand your customers’ experience right now and you might find strategies you wouldn’t normally have seen. You don’t need to stay on defense.” The detailed data banks can glean by being proactive with their struggling customers will also help generate models that can be used to craft stress scenarios, perform sensitivity testing, and conduct non-parallel rate shock scenarios. 

4. What ratio should we use for IRR management? 

Typically, net interest margin is measured as a ratio (cash divided by total assets). Gall recommends measuring return on equity instead. “Otherwise you could be making less dollars, that is, shrinking the bank, in order to get a better ratio,” he explained. “Unless they need to for a capital reason, we’re advocating banks not shrink at this time.” 

Whichever tools and tactics (ratios, models, etc.) the bank uses, Mitchell emphasized the need to avoid taking outcomes at face value. “Keep a critical eye on reviewing the results you’re getting [from current actions],” she said. “You’ll be using tools in new ways, so make sure the results make sense.” 

5. What’s fair for our staff? 

“At many banks, compensation is tied to performance and staff have been working around the clock to serve their customers under adverse conditions,” Gall pointed out. "Making your forecast more achievable for the rate and operating environment you’re in is a fairer way of looking at things.” Adjusting sales and other revenue metrics to be achievable in the current market may also lead to discovering new areas to pursue (see question #2). 

Save the date! Margin Management Workshop, Oct. 6-7 at the WBA Office in Madison

Time is running out! Access WI-specific compensation tool: 
To ensure your bank receives the information you need to take the right compensation strategy, you need competitive data. The 2019 Wisconsin Banking Industry Compensation & Benefits Survey is the largest Wisconsin-specific survey for banks, with salary and benefit information for 117 different jobs. The only way to purchase this information is to participate! Deadline: June 12.

BOK Financial Institutional Advisors is a WBA Gold Associate Member. 
Wipfli LLP is a WBA Silver Associate Member. 

Seitz is WBA operation manager and senior writer. 

By, Amber Seitz

The world is changing, as it always has, and so is banking. The best way to navigate a changing landscape is with strong leadership, but leadership is becoming a scarce resource. Extrapolating from that, the laws of supply and demand also tell us that leadership is more valuable than ever before. 

The banking environment is different from what it was even only five years ago, and also different are the skills required for leaders. "We need to make sure that leaders and managers realize it is important to embrace change and stay nimble," says Jim Tubbs, president and CEO, State Bank of Cross Plains. 

Building a culture of leadership development and succession planning is integral to ensuring that your bank has leaders and potential future leaders that will help the bank thrive in not just the current banking environment, but also in whatever environment banking finds itself in the future. 

"[The State Bank of Cross Plains] for a long time had a strong belief in investing in employees, and creating education and leadership opportunities," continued Tubbs. "And a few years ago, we identified a need to focus on internal leadership. So, we created a new Leadership and Development position, the individual we brought in had no banking background – she came from an education background – and she brought in a new perspective on creating leadership opportunities internally." 

As a part of this, the State Bank of Cross Plains incorporated leadership development into their strategic planning. "We started with defining what leadership qualities and characteristics are expected, instead of just asking people for intangible concepts" explained Tubbs. "We then could tell staff 'to help your career path, here are the expectations we have for leaders,' and give them a document to reference." 

Making sure leadership development is continuous is key, according to Vicki Kraai, owner/founder, VK Solutions. "Leadership development is not a one and done thing," she explains. "You can't send someone to a leadership class and then say 'ok, they're developed' – it needs to be ongoing and intentional."

JP Morgan Chase has a similar attitude, as explained by Al Araque, executive director – market director banking: "There is a normal cadence of training that we provide to all our employees. There are monthly training requirements, training on enhancements to sales and service processes. We also have knowledge assessments, keeping employees fresh when it comes to their general banking knowledge."

"Intentional" is really a key term in leadership development. According to the Harvard Business Review, over half of senior corporate leaders believe that their talent development efforts are not adequately building the critical skills and organizational capabilities they want. So, like Tubbs mentioned, getting away from the intangible buzzwords and defining the wants and needs of the bank can create more focused development. 

"There are four things needed for successful leadership development," Kraai discussed. "You need to be intentional about coaching the people who have been identified as leaders or future leaders, they need a mentor." A mentor is, in addition to a supervisor or manager, someone who is going to be a coach and be able to provide honest feedback, perspective, and experiences. 

"The second thing, if you've identified people for leadership, have them put together a personal development plan that says 'here are the two or three initiatives I'm going to work on to develop my leadership skills,'" Kraai continued. "Third, those people who do lead or are identified as future leaders need to be open to 360-degree feedback, including self-assessments—self-assessments are so important." 

"And finally," Kraai concluded, "to be a successful leader, you need to have what I call 'empathy,' but it's really humility. A sincere interest in the success of your team over your own individual accomplishments." 

Another important aspect of leadership is a commitment to individual growth. "One priority of ours is to create a culture of learning across all job families, especially leaders," explained Araque. "The future of banking looks a lot different, so how do we train our employees to stay relevant and meet morphing customer expectations?" 

Identification and training of future leaders also needs to begin sooner, says Kraai. "We need to identify and develop people at a very early level, the younger generation is our up and coming future banking leaders. We need to embrace this and do what we can to set them up for success." 

Tubbs echoed a similar sentiment. "We use the term 'Strength of Bench' a lot when talking about succession planning," he shared. "We want to make sure that if there is a vacancy—be it retirement, personal leave, or something else—we are not only preparing our current leaders but also the future leaders that will step up." 

There was a lot of "stepping up" for the State Bank of Cross Plains recently as everyone got a taste of one of the biggest things changing within banking: consolidation. Throughout the process of combining with Union Bank & Trust Company, staff had a merger partner. All the staff new to State Bank of Cross Plains were paired with a more seasoned staff member who they could turn to as a reliable source of information throughout the merger process, and the more seasoned staff knew they had the responsibility to be a resource and connection for the new staff. 

A lot of leading through a period of change is ensuring everyone is clear on what is changing. "After the merger announcement I started sending out a merger update email to the whole staff," Tubbs discussed. "It was just a 'Hey What's Going On?' sort of email, because it was important to have consistent communication. Even now, after the merger has been completed, I'm maintaining that discipline just to give staff a bigger picture of what's going on at the bank." 

Investing in leadership development for employees is important to ensure that your bank has strong leaders, and is also key to retaining talent that could be future leaders. Actively and regularly investing in employees with leadership potential can make a big difference in whether they stay with your bank, it is a strong message to your employees that they are important and valued. Ensuring your employees feel valued is good leadership, and in turn it builds them into good leaders as well.

By, Amber Seitz

Bank name changes go beyond charter conversions

What's in a (bank) name? It's branding, but so much more. Competition, growth and expanding markets, local history, M&A, relationship with the community… An inexhaustible list of influences can impact an institution's strategy for its name. Changing names is not a decision made lightly for any business, but when approached strategically it can be an effective way for banks to retain or gain target customers or to deepen its connection with a wider community. 

A bank's motivation to change its name could range from compliance (i.e. a charter conversion), to significant changes in corporate strategy, product/service mix, or the bank's target market, to differentiating or refreshing the bank's current brand, according to John Verre, president and CEO, Leap Strategic Marketing. Regardless of the reason behind the name change, more and more banks are choosing creative, non-traditional names. "What we see reflects banks recognizing the value of a brand and trademark," explained Jason Hunt, attorney at Boardman & Clark, LLP. "Traditionally, many banks picked names reflective of their local geographic community or descriptive of their position in the community, but as they expand they want to have more of a unique trade name or brand." 

Fortifi Bank, formerly known as 1st National Bank of Berlin, is a perfect example. The bank is 142 years old and originally chartered in Berlin, Wis. Over the past two decades, however, it expanded its footprint well beyond its name. "We now reach from Waunakee to Green Bay," said President/CEO Eric Cerbins. "We were being confused with a few other First National Banks within that footprint." The bank rebranded a few years ago in order to differentiate, but the market confusion continued. "It used to be there was just one First National Bank in each community, but as we grew our territories started to overlap," explained SVP – Marketing Loni Meiborg. When the bank decided to convert from a national to a state charter, it also used the opportunity to change its name in order to achieve the market differentiation it was looking for. 

Another bank that recently moved beyond geographic names is Bluff View Bank, formerly Bank of Galesville (as well as Seven Bridges Bank, Holmen and Bank of Trempealeau). "The name change is a larger rebranding of the bank and the result of several years of strategic planning and consultation with our marketing agency," said President/CEO Scott Kopp. "When we first went into new communities we wanted to be part of that community, including the name." However, maintaining separate entities for each community the bank served presented problems. "We found it was difficult to market three different entities with different names and logos," Kopp explained. "It was cumbersome, and some of our customers weren't aware that we were affiliated with our different locations."

4 Steps to a New Name

While changing a bank's name is not a small undertaking, there are several steps you can take to make the transition smoother. 

1. Generate a list of possible names. First, make sure you understand the regulatory constraints on your name. "DFI's Division of Banking interprets Wisconsin law to require a state-chartered Wisconsin bank to include the word 'bank' in its name," explained Patrick Neuman, attorney at Boardman & Clark, LLP. It's also important to keep in mind how important differentiation is to your institution when you begin brainstorming. "Most banks want to use words that reflect their values, but oftentimes banks have similar values," Hunt pointed out. "Banks have to start thinking outside the box." Banks should consider formal research into how its new name or brand can differentiate it from competitors. "Some changes require research involving customers, prospects, and employees," said Verre. "Think of it as a gap analysis. Look at banking in your community and ask what's missing."

The name "Fortifi Bank" began at a facilitated session with 16 bank staff members of different demographics and backgrounds who focused on the bank's present and future identity. From there, they generated a list of 200 different words that the bank's marketing department filtered, combined, and narrowed down. "We got really creative and reviewed everything that was generated," said Meiborg. "We could have stuck with a more traditional name, but we took the opportunity to evaluate our target market and deliver a name that is better aligned." Bluff View Bank used a similar approach, seeking employee opinions very early on. "I asked all of our employees to give us suggestions, and they, along with our marketing agency, really came up with some outstanding names," said Kopp. "We then had to get them vetted and trademarked. We narrowed it down to three, and then had a voting process to get input from employees again." 

2. Conduct an initial screening. As Kopp stated, it is critical to vet the list of potential names before investing any time or money in the new brand or name. "Banks get very far down the road and very excited about a new name before doing an initial screening, and then are disappointed if it's not available," Hunt cautioned. "I highly recommend doing that initial screening first. It's inexpensive to do an initial trademark screening through a law firm and it's better to do it at the beginning than to spend a lot of money creating a new name and brand only to discover a problem down the road." If the bank has plans to expand its market area in the future, Hunt strongly recommends registering the new name with the U.S. Trademark Office. "Assuming the name is available, a U.S. trademark registration will give the bank constructive rights to use that name even in areas where the bank has not yet started doing business or using the name," he explained. "The advantage is, as the bank expands, it can continue to use the name and won't be forced to change."

3. File with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions' Division of Banking. This is the step where the bank formally adopts its new name. "The way a bank changes its name in Wisconsin is to file an amendment to its articles of incorporation," Neuman explained. "That requires a majority vote of the bank's shareholders." Since most Wisconsin banks have a holding company, this requirement is simpler to accomplish than some banks assume, since the holding company board can vote on behalf of its shareholders. Banks also have the option of delaying the effective date of the change up to 90 days, if that fits their rollout strategy better. 

4. Communicate, communicate, communicate! Of the dozens of action steps involved in launching a renaming/rebranding campaign, the most essential is clear, effective, and timely communication with regulators and vendors, customer/clients, and the community. "Make sure you work with your core data processor to have your new legal name on all of your contracts," Neuman advised. Other important considerations include correspondent debt held at the holding company level and the bank's insurance policies. "A legal name change should not affect the validity of your contracts, but it's still a good idea to let all of your vendors and providers know ahead of time," he continued. "Name changes are mostly a state-driven issue. However, the state-chartered banks do need to file a FRY-10 with the Fed and should notify the FDIC in writing of the name change."

Bluff View Bank and Fortifi were both pleasantly surprised by how positively their customers and clients reacted to their bank's new name. One thing that likely influenced that reaction: both institutions also had board members and/or staff, including loan officers, reach out to clients in advance to notify them of the upcoming name change. If the name change is not the result of a merger, Verre strongly recommends over-communicating that to your customers. "Take the same steps to communicate to customers and employees as you would if it were a merger, so you ensure they know it's not a change in ownership," he said. "Many consumers will assume when you change your name there might be M&A involved, so you need to communicate that it's the same ownership, locations, employees, and products and services." 

The key, according to Meiborg, is to make sure your customers and community know only the bank's name is changing, not its commitment to them. "We work very hard for our communities to know we're part of them," she explained. "Throughout the process it's important to remind the community that you're not changing what you stand for or interrupting your service. You're changing so you can be around longer and stronger to keep serving the community."

Boardman & Clark, LLP is a WBA Gold Associate Member.
Leap Strategic Marketing is a WBA Associate Member.

By, Amber Seitz


Presented by the Wisconsin Bankers Association, the Illinois Bankers Association, and Godfrey & Kahn, S.C.

This Strategic Retreat is designed to address the unique challenges and opportunities faced by family-owned or closely held banks. Timely educational content will be combined with plenty of networking, so that you can walk away with action items and strategies to bring back to your bank.

Led by an advisory board of bankers with ownership and/or management responsibilities, the retreat will feature up-to-date information in the following areas:

  • Peer-to-peer networking
  • Recent family-driven planning & transactions
  • Estate planning and related regulatory issues
  • Valuation trends
  • Tools for wealth planning

Banker Registration Information:

The registration fee for bank attendees is $245/attendee, including all conference materials, meals, and refreshment breaks. Spouses and non-banker guests can register for $150/guest to join all the meal functions.

Associate Member Registration:

Associate members who are interested in attending this event are invited to register as a sponsor at $1,500. Please contact Nick Loppnow with any questions.

Marketing Planning examines the process to develop a comprehensive strategic marketing plan. The course reviews research that helps a bank marketer assess their customers and trade area opportunities and how to integrate the information into a situation analysis. It covers activities from the discovery phase to setting objectives, creating action plans and developing the related budget.

Learning Outcomes and Objectives:

  • Understand the importance of customer and market research
  • Clarify the need for market segmentation and product focus
  • Define the structure for marketing objectives and goals
  • Understand the sequence for creating vision, mission, values and a competitive advantage
  • Identify the best structure for documenting the marketing plan

Audience: This is a foundation course to develop skills and best practices for preparing a marketing plan. It is designed for employees interested in taking an active role in the management of bank marketing. This is an entry-level course for anyone planning to work in a marketing department at a financial institution.

Price: $300

Your institution is unique so your strategic plan should be unique as well. Too often, executives and directors will construct a strategic plan from old plans, use strategies that no longer work, or just brainstorm based on emotion or intuition. The environment for community financial institutions, however, has become a much faster-paced industry than it was 5 or 10 years ago (or even 1 year ago before the pandemic). In addition, the industry is impacted by many more forces, challenges, new competitors, and also opportunities than ever before. These drivers highlight the need for every financial institution to design a living, breathing strategic plan to thrive and grow.

After this webinar you’ll be able to:

  • Clarify your vision, mission, and core values
  • Learn the importance of a clearly defined strategic plan structure
  • Identify key components common to successful strategies
  • Understand the role of enterprise risk mitigation and management in an institution’s strategic plan
  • Identify and implement four key growth strategies
  • Establish “best practices” with board governance
  • Develop and manage the strategic planning and implementation process in your institution
  • Conduct a strategic risk assessment for new initiatives

Whether your institution lacks a cohesive strategy, or just wants to review existing plan(s), this webinar will address questions including:

  • What is your vision for the future of your institution?
  • Do your employees know your vision, and can they articulate it?
  • Does the culture and brand of your institution (everything from your electronic signature on your emails to the look of your lobby) reflect the vision of where you want to take your institution?
  • Do you know your risks — the risks that are unique to your institution?
  • Do you have the right people, and are they in the right places to fulfill the vision of your institution?


Target Audience: Board of directors, leadership team, supervisors with planning responsibilities, chief risk officers, and everyone involved in strategic planning process.

Marcia Malzahn, Malzahn Strategic

Registration Options
Live presentation $330

Recording available through August 9, 2022

The resources used to support sales and marketing efforts is expanding and changing daily. Traditional promotion solutions, focused on mass media and direct selling, are giving way to target marketing, digital communications and social media. So where is the proper balance to develop effective activities. The secret lies in strategic marketing, a condition that demands effective planning and execution. This session will help clarify the critical decisions that must be made to ensure that every sales and marketing investment is producing an acceptable return on investment (ROI). Attend and learn how to adopt a strategic approach to promotion planning. Learn how to use an easy-to-follow process to prioritize and implement your marketing efforts.

Target Audience: Senior management, branch managers, marketing officers, marketing committee members

Presenters: Tom Hershberger & Kyle Hershberger, Cross Financial Group

Registration Option
Live presentation $330

Recording available through February 16, 2023

The WBA School of Bank Management will start on Monday, May 9, 2022 at 8:30 a.m. and adjourn on Friday, May 13, 2022 by 4:00 p.m.

In today’s ever-changing, turbulent banking environment, it is important for bankers – especially those who have potential to rise within the institution – to have a clear understanding of the bank as a whole. The WBA School of Bank Management will provide bankers with:

  • An enhanced understanding of banking as a business.
  • Increased analytical skills and management techniques.
  • A well-rounded understanding of critical banking functions, their interrelationships and the determinants of profitability.
  • An opportunity to provide better customer service to internal and external bank customers through expanded knowledge and ability.
  • An awareness of the changing banking environment.
  • A self-assessment to learn your leadership style and find opportunities for growth and improvement.

Curriculum Includes:

  • The Business of Banking – identifying components of the bank’s balance sheet and income statement, key ratios and profitability analysis.
  • Economics, Money and Market – introduction to monetary policy, understanding of yield curves and interest rates, and a look at economic trends and the impact of a rising rate environment.
  • Understanding Your Bank’s UBPR – identifying and understanding key components of your bank’s Uniform Bank Performance Report.
  • The Lending Function of a Bank – provide an understanding of portfolio growth and management, importance of documentation, lending’s impact on the bank’s balance sheet and income statement, and processes of analysis and spreading, pricing and funding.
  • Bank Human Resources – outlines the functions and responsibilities of both the human resources department and key managers.
  • Compliance Management & Bank Operations – introduction to the regulatory and examination processes, as well as overall bank operations and risk management.
  • Bank Marketing – focus on the role of the marketing function in the bank’s strategic planning and profitability.
  • Retail Banking – understanding the importance of market research, product development, product pricing, and product delivery, techniques for effective customer relationship management.
  • Asset/Liability Management – develop an awareness of the sources and uses of bank funds, and the factors that must be considered in effective management of bank assets and liabilities.
  • Leader’s Self-Assessment – creating self-awareness of your leadership/management styles and identifying opportunities for growth.

Who Should Attend?

This school has been designed for bank emerging leaders, management trainees, experienced bank managers who are new to the banking industry, and bankers interested in pursuing a career in bank management and leadership.

Many bankers will attend this school as a way of preparing for future enrollment in the Graduate School of Banking program.

Registration Information:

The registration fee of $1,395 includes program registration, instruction and materials, and daily lunch and refreshment breaks.

Don’t miss this unique Midwest and national economic forecast for 2022!

Presented by the Wisconsin Bankers Association, in partnership with the Illinois Bankers Association, Michigan Bankers Association, Minnesota Bankers Association, Montana Bankers Association, and South Dakota Bankers Association

Tuesday, January 4, 2022 – 10:30 a.m. – Noon CT (11:30 a.m.–1:00 p.m. ET or 9:30–11:00 a.m. MT)

Prepare for 2022 by joining an economic outlook with Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari during this virtual event. Then listen to Dr. David Kohl, Economist and Professor Emeritus with Virginia Tech, as he dives into the economic mega trends he expects in 2022 and beyond.

Bankers are encouraged to invite their best clients to virtually share these economic insights. Individual and group registration rates are available.

Virtual Forum Agenda

10:30 – 11:15 a.m. CT

An Economic Outlook with Federal Reserve Bank President Neel Kashkari

Time will be allotted for open Q & A.

11:15 a.m.–Noon CT

Economic Mega Trends 2022 and Beyond with Dr. David Kohl

The pandemic and geopolitical risk has accelerated change in economics and businesses in the U.S. and globally. Bankers, financial services representatives, and regulators must be in the position to interpret both domestic and global economic forces and mega trends that will impact the financial health of their institutions and customers. What are the global economic disruptors and power shifts? How will trade, geopolitics, supply chains, climate changes, and weather in extremes impact competitors? How will the stimulus package and Central Bank’s accommodative policy impact strategic positioning? What are some major mega trends on the horizon? What are the lead and lag indicators that need to be on the dashboards of decision makers? Join Dr. Kohl, an economist and small business person who has traveled over 10 million air miles, delivered 9,000 plus speeches, and presented over 350 webinars connect the dots, and provide wisdom for those walking in the ever-changing economic and business space.

Who Should Attend?

Bank leaders with an interest in the economic and business environment will find value in hearing from our nationally-recognized speakers. Bankers are encouraged to invite their business customers to attend as a part of the bank’s group of attendees. Group pricing is available for your bank. Associate Members of the presenting state bankers associations are also invited to register to attend.

Registration Information

Registration is available individually or as a group. Take advantage of our group pricing to invite additional staff and business customers to join your bank in attending!

  • Individual Registration – $39/connection
  • Group Registration – up to 10 virtual connections – $149/group

Limited sponsorship opportunities are available for this multi-state event. Contact WBA’s Lori Kalscheuer via email for more information.

Media Inquiries: For a Media Registration for the event, please contact WBA’s Cassandra Krause at 608-441-1216 or Advance registration is required.

September 26-30, 2022
Fluno Center for Executive Education
Madison, Wisconsin
Enrollment Deadline: August 26

Bank marketing has undergone radical changes in the past several decades and the financial services sales process has experienced a similar transformation. Both have been influenced by one thing more than any other—the customer’s behavior. Because the customer is more knowledgeable, has more tools at their disposal and is in greater control, marketing and sales must collaborate more effectively than ever before if the bank expects to sustain long term growth and profitability.

There are schools and conferences focused on marketing. Others target sales. GSB’s innovative School of Sales and Marketing integrates these two vital disciplines into one practical, dynamic week. Designed by bankers and those with in depth knowledge of our industry, this program pinpoints key marketing and sales activities from the customer experience and branding to prospecting, sales management and the ROI of marketing and sales action plans.

Students experience a blend of lecture, small group discussions and breakout sessions. The Sales and Marketing School also accomplishes what no others can. Marketing associates leave with a Marketing Planning Template for the coming year. Sales colleagues create an individualized Sales Plan that combines high level strategies and key tactics to generate record results. These plans are created with the help of faculty mentors who work in the evening with small groups of students to integrate what has been learned that day. This learning to life approach burns in knowledge and helps the student retain competencies for the long haul.

The faculty is comprised of best in class bankers and consultants – experts who bring time tested ideas to the table implemented by community banks, regional players and money center organizations. Networking with other bankers from around the world creates a lifetime of new relationships and the information exchanged from both faculty and students is second to none.


Veteran marketing/sales officers as well as those newly promoted or new to banking will benefit from this powerful program. Community bank CEOs, regional sales managers, retail managers and business banking professionals also gain a better understanding of the marketing and sales synergies needed to be competitive in 2020 and beyond. Read a letter from Aleesha Webb of Village Bank in Minnesota about why she believes CEOs should attend with their marketing teams.

Click More Information for the full school details on

2020 brought unexpected change, uncertainty, and fear to the entire world due to the Pandemic which continues to 2021. With continued uncertainty, community financial institutions must quickly adapt as does your Strategic Plan.

Your institution is unique so your Strategic Plan should be unique as well. Too often, executives and directors will construct a strategic plan from old plans, strategies found online, or just brainstorming based on emotion or intuition. Financial Institutions, however, have become much faster-paced organizations than they were 10 years ago—or even a few months ago!

Community Financial Institutions (CFIs) are impacted by many more forces, regulations, competitors, and now the Pandemic. There are more challenges than ever before but there are new opportunities as well. These drivers highlight the need for every institution to have a living, breathing strategic plan to thrive and grow. It’s all about your strategy!

Covered Topics

The importance of a clearly defined strategic plan structure
Key components common to successful strategies
The role of Enterprise Risk mitigation and management in an institution’s strategic plan
Establishing ‘best practices’ with Board Governance
Developing, implementing, and managing the strategic planning process in your institution
Strategic Risk Assessment for new initiatives

Whether your institution lacks a cohesive strategy, or just wants to review existing plan(s), this webinar will address questions including:

What is your vision for the future of your institution?
Do your employees know your vision, and can they articulate it?
Does the culture and brand of your institution (everything from your electronic signature on your emails to the look of your lobby) reflect the vision of where you want to take your institution?
Do you know your risks—the risks that are unique to your institution?
Do you have the right people, and are they in the right places to fulfill the vision of your institution?

You will walk away with tools and ideas to:

Integrate your Enterprise Risk Management Program into your Strategic Plan
Integrate your Talent Management Program into your Strategic Plan, and
Ensure your Strategic Plan doesn’t sit on the shelf and gets implemented.

Target Audience
Any professionals on the leadership team, executives, directors and supervisors with planning responsibilities, chief risk officers and boards of directors involved in the strategic planning process

Marcia Malzahn, Malzahn Strategic

Registration Option

Live presentation $275

Recording available through Feb. 9, 2022


Join WBA and your fellow emerging leader banker peers from across Wisconsin for our annual BOLT Winter Leadership Summit! The summit will kick off on Thursday, November 4 at 9:00 a.m. and adjourn at 3:00 p.m.

Click Register to visit the event website and watch for more information on the agenda coming soon!

Registration Information

Bank Member Registration: The registration fee of $100/attendee includes networking meals and breaks, general sessions, and access the summit mobile app.

Associate Member Registration: Associate Members are encouraged to send their emerging leaders as well! The same registration fee is available to WBA Associate Members. Interested in upgrading your presence? Register to be a summit sponsor to receive additional benefits and summit recognition!

Click Register for additional details and to register online.