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Rose Oswald Poels (left) awards Dena Hineline (center) and Sue Krause (right) with prestigious awards.

On Wednesday morning, fourteen Wisconsin bankers and ten banks were honored by the Wisconsin Bankers Foundation (WBF) for their efforts in promoting financial literacy to Wisconsin’s consumers. WBF is the nonprofit arm of the Wisconsin Bankers Association (WBA) whose mission is to assist bankers in promoting financial literacy and financial responsibility to the public and to broaden consumer empowerment in the financial services industry through research, education, grants, and scholarships.

Sue Krause, Fox Valley Savings Bank, was awarded the prestigious Financial Literacy Banker of the Year Award and Dena Hineline, Bank of Sun Prairie, was honored with the Financial Literacy Banker Award. Both Krause and Hineline also were honored with the Certificate of Excellence for exceeding twenty financial education presentations in their local communities during the Foundation’s 2020–2021 fiscal year.

Twelve individuals received a Certificate of Recognition completing at least five financial education presentations. This year’s recipients are 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.

Rose Oswald Poels (left) recognizes several award recipients at WBA’s LEAD360 on November 17.

The WBF Excellence in Financial Education Award was presented to 10 WBA-member banks for their bank-wide dedication to financial education during the 2020–2021 fiscal year which encouraged over 270 bankers to get involved for the wellbeing of their communities. The banks awarded 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.

The outstanding efforts of all honorees were celebrated at the recent WBA LEAD360 Conference held in Wisconsin Dells. During the 2020–2021 fiscal year, these fourteen individuals and 10 banks helped WBF expand its financial education reach to nearly 6,000 people throughout the state. As a result of the pandemic, many bankers have come up with creative ways to advocate for the importance of financial literacy to consumers of all ages.

“These individuals have truly gone above and beyond in the last year to ensure that Wisconsin communities continue to have access to invaluable financial education,” said Chair of the Wisconsin Bankers Foundation Rose Oswald Poels. “We thank everyone that participated for their commitment to their communities and their overall dedication in leading the strive towards a more financially responsible state!”

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!

Corn seedling

Rose Oswald PoelsBy Rose Oswald Poels

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

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

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

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

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

Rose M. Oswald Poels President/CEO Headshot

The Wisconsin Coalition on Student Debt held the first-ever Money Smart Essay Contest for high school seniors in Southwest Wisconsin during Money Smart Week, March 30 – April 6, 2019. Students from Dane, Grant, Green, Iowa, Jefferson, Lafayette, and Rock County had the opportunity to write an essay about how they plan to finance their college education for a chance to win one of three $1,000 Edvest gift cards.

Gift card sponsors included:

Oregon Community Bank

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Park Bank, Madison

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Settlers bank, Windsor

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And other financial supporters. Thank you!


Members of the Coalition reviewed and scored 43 essay submissions based on criteria including research, identifying funding sources for college, and explaining how school choice will further the student’s career.

Throughout the month of May, Coalition members traveled the southwest corner of the state awarding the scholarships and presenting the Edvest gift cards. Congratulations to the following winners:

  • Kianna Jenswold – Jefferson High School
  • Alyssa Kuhn – Waunankee High School
  • Hannah Wilson – Beloit Memorial High School

“We are proud to support these deserving students as they continue their education,” said Wisconsin Bankers Foundation Executive Director Mike Semmann. “Wisconsin's banks have always been strong supporters of their communities, and this is just one more example of that long-standing tradition.”

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Pictured above (left to right): Scholarship Winner Kianna Jenswold; Cheryl Rapp, DFI College Affordability Specialist; Amber Seitz, Wisconsin Bankers Foundation Financial Literacy Manager; Casey Koenig, Oregon Community Bank Vice President – Business Banking; and Kristel Renn, Summit Credit Union.

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Pictured above (left to right): Brian Kersten, Waunakee Principal; Cheryl Rapp, DFI College Affordability Specialist; Dave Mancl, DFI Director – Office of Financial Literacy; Scholarship Winner Alyssa Kuhn; Kathy Blumenfeld, DFI Secretary; Steven Erickson, Waunakee Community Bank; Amy Crowe, Summit Credit Union.

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Pictured above (left to right): David Mancl, DFI Director Office Financial Literacy; Stephanie Johnson, Oregon Community Bank; Kathy Blumenfeld, DFI Secretary; Scholarship Winner Hanna Wilson; Erin Wolf, Guidance Counselor; Mr. Anthony Bosco, Interim Superintendent; Emily Pelz, Interim Principal; Cheryl Rapp, DFI College Affordability Specialist


Organizations participating in the Wisconsin Coalition on Student Debt include: Ascendium Education (f/n/a Great Lakes Higher Education); Boys & Girls Club; Fair Opportunity Project; GreenPath Financial Wellness; Herzing University; Madison Metropolitan School District; Medical College of Wisconsin; Navient; Summit Credit Union; University of Wisconsin; Urban Economic Development Association of Wisconsin; UW Credit Union; WEAC; Western Technical College; Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities; Wisconsin Bankers Foundation; Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions; and Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce.

For more information about Money Smart Week, visit www.moneysmartweek.org. To search a library of financial education resources for consumers and educators, visit MyMazuma.com.

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The Wisconsin Bankers Foundation (IRS Public Charity Employer Identification Number 46-3791061) is a Wisconsin non-stock corporation organized for charitable and education purposes dedicated to promoting financial literacy and financial responsibility to the public and to broaden consumer empowerment in the financial services industry primarily through research and education.

By, Amber Seitz

Some call it the Fourth Industrial Revolution, others call it Industry 4.0. Independent of the label, digital disruption and artificial intelligence (AI) have the potential to be a transformative component of the local and global economy in the next decade. The Wisconsin Bankers Association (WBA), the Wisconsin Bankers Foundation (WBF), and a small group of bankers are in the middle of this technological shift, performing research and analysis to create a groundswell of awareness for the potential applications of this new technology.

WBA and WBF are collaborating with two organizations—Curate Solutions and Advancing AI Wisconsin—to determine just how AI will fit within your bank, help your customers, provide value to your shareholders, and give your bank a competitive advantage. WBF, with the help of these partners, hopes to provide valuable insight through research based on real examples of AI and other disruptive technologies. 

Curate Solutions

In September, WBF began working with Curate Solutions and its AI software to provide business intelligence in the areas of commercial/residential development, consumer sentiment, municipal activity, and banking market opportunities. What does Curate do? In the words of co-founder Taralinda Willis, Curate's AI program "finds actionable market intelligence from publicly available data."

Curate's software provides this intelligence by scanning agendas and public minutes from cities, counties, villages, and school board websites to reveal upcoming business opportunities. Using web-scraping and cutting-edge artificial intelligence software Curate and the Foundation identify projects, people, and business issues being discussed across our entire state (or by region). WBF and Curate selected over 50 different keywords for the AI to focus on, including "RFP," "Bond," and "Blight." Using these keywords, the AI program uncovers projects before they go to bid, information important to an association's members, and hot-button issues as they take place. For example, using the term "blight," in the first week the software uncovered a municipality in southeastern Wisconsin discussing a potential new ordinance and fee related to vacant property registration programs.

Does this sound like a far-fetched magical solution? It's not. "AI is not magic, it's math," explained Dale Willis, a computer scientist and co-founder of Curate Solutions. "Curate's software scans through hundreds of thousands of URLs in Wisconsin." Prior to AI, it would have taken a team of people to create rules to accomplish the same task, which would have been very difficult because each municipal website is structured so differently. AI takes common patterns with a volume of data, so it can start making decisions. The keyword "addition" is a good example, according to Willis. "We know that from a construction perspective 'addition' is a key word, but in plain English there are a few uses. Based on real examples, AI 'learns' certain uses of the word are valuable and others are not," he explained.

Curate's AI uses what it learns to pinpoint important information amidst a massive sea of data, Taralinda explained. "What we're doing is more of a numbers game," she said. "Any individual can track one particular municipality or data set, but AI allows a business to focus on a large data set distributed over a region. In that way, we're ahead of the game." The incredible part is, Curate's AI—and AI programs, in general—will only grow faster and more accurate with time as they digest more and more data. "It [AI] is continuing to improve and get faster," said Taralinda. "It's valuable in its current state and it is only getting better."

Advancing AI Wisconsin

Earlier this year, Oliver Buechse and Kurt Hahlbeck created Advancing AI Wisconsin, a coalition of business and industry leaders, to increase awareness of the set of technologies often referred to as "Digital Disruption Technologies" and their impact on Wisconsin businesses, workforce needs, educational programming, and the state overall. While several large companies have already launched their own efforts to adopt or develop AI-based solutions, midsized and smaller players have more limited opportunities to get into the game. That's why the WBF is working with industry solutions providers (like Curate and other technology providers) to initiate dialogue with the smaller players and jointly explore how to create access to the benefits of these new technologies. 

To that end, the Foundation presents the following "AI Primer for Bankers" based on initial market research and analysis performed by Advancing AI Wisconsin. We hope you'll find it helpful as you begin exploring AI's potential in the financial services arena. 

AI Primer for Banks

 

With these changes come not only threats, but also opportunities for increased competitiveness of those who embrace AI and adapt to the new environment faster than others. The goal of AI is not to entirely replace the human aspect, but to empower human decisions with data and insights. Curate's AI program (described earlier in this article) is just one example of how the advent of AI can positively impact Wisconsin's banking industry. 

Buechse is the founder of My Strategy Source and an active member of the Advancing AI Wisconsin coalition.
Semmann is WBA executive vice president – chief operations officer and executive director of the Wisconsin Bankers Foundation.

By, Amber Seitz