Building renovation symbol of WBA progress

Rose Oswald Poels

The Wisconsin Bankers Association will undertake a major remodeling of its building in Madison, WBA President and CEO Rose Oswald Poels told bankers at the association’s Executives Conference earlier this month.

“We moved into the building 20 years ago June, and we need an update. Everything in the building is original,” Poels said, referring to worn carpeting, cubicles and office fixtures. WBA purchased the building in 1998.

The 20,000-square-foot, two-story brick office building has an assessed value of $3.1 million, according to Dane County tax records. Poels said WBA will spend up to $1.5 million on building improvements throughout 2019. WBA, which has more than $4 million in cash reserves, owns the building free and clear, Poels told bankers.

Poels said the association’s space needs have changed over the years. Space devoted to a print shop, for example, is no longer needed. Part of the renovation will involve building an on-site training center. The renovation will create more collaborative space for work teams to meet.

The building is perhaps the most visible of recent WBA developments. The association launched a health insurance product last year, which attracted 17 banks covering more than 1,100 people. Poels said it is a strong showing, given the product was launched in October after many banks already had made health insurance commitments for 2019. Poels said every bank that signed up is saving money; one larger bank said it was able to save $300,000 in annual premiums.

WBA also is developing its online training offerings. A learning management system will give WBA members a more interactive online educational experience, Poels said.

Education outside the bank also is important, Poels said, touting two WBA efforts. First, the association is increasing its focus on the promotion of careers in banking. “We are increasing the number of colleges we visit around the state. Having our banker panel and pizza parties where college students come in and hear about various careers at all different size institutions,” has been an effective approach, she said.

Second, WBA is also ramping up its efforts to promote financial literacy; Poels said the association is researching an automated approach to financial education designed for high school students and others.

Poels invited bankers to visit the office. “At the end of the day, this is your association. This is your investment in the future,” she said.