Rising Stars 2023: Tom Mews

Tom Mews

First National Community Bank President Tom Mews sees his professional responsibilities as spanning far beyond the walls of his northwest Wisconsin bank.

A seasoned banking advocate at both the state and federal levels, Mews was appointed to a three-year term on the Wisconsin Bankers Association board last year. During his first year, he left an immediate impression on WBA President and CEO Rose Oswald Poels as a dedicated board member with an uncommon knack for asking pertinent questions.

Mews previously chaired the WBA’s Government Relations Committee for two years. During his tenure, he advocated for unpassed legislation that would have allowed banks to pause transactions to investigate suspected financial elder fraud. In recent years, Mews was a leading figure in the WBA’s opposition to a state bill allowing state-chartered credit unions to issue subordinated debt; allow non-members to be a party to a credit transaction; and give CUs the chance to transfer and lease property. 

“He is without a doubt the epitome of a good community banker,” Oswald Poels said.  

Mews views his involvement with the WBA board as a way to benefit the broader banking industry while improving his own bank by learning from other leaders. His position provides him with the platform to educate state and federal policymakers on how their decisions impact the banking industry. 

“I believe an important part of being a community banker is to be an advocate for the industry and help push forward goals that keep the industry strong,” Mews added. For his work in doing just that and leading his bank through steady growth, Mews is being recognized by BankBeat magazine as a 2023 “Rising Star in Banking.”

After spending his early career at other financial institutions, Mews was attracted to FNC Bank’s family ownership status and engagement with the local community. Hired in 2001 as its first credit administration officer, Mews created guardrails and finalized key credit metrics as the bank added several credit lenders over the next decade. 

The program’s expansion allowed loan officers to concentrate on finding new customers and selling instead of underwriting credit. At the same time, the bank invested in Mews as he attended the Graduate School of Banking at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

When former president Dennis Nybakken retired in 2011, Mews threw his hat into the ring. Current CEO Scott Soderberg said Mews has an outstanding mind for banking and was adept at crunching numbers. Mews was named president at the age of 36. 

Mews has overseen the bank’s growth to a $320 million institution, from roughly $160 million in 2011. Mews said the bank’s growth signifies the desire of the bank’s owners, the Soderberg family, for controlled growth. Decisions are made based on the expected overall economic benefit to the community, not solely internal profit considerations. For example, FNC Bank has sacrificed short-term revenue opportunities by offering attractive financing packages for new businesses seeking to create hundreds of jobs for the local economy. Doing so allows the community to grow while opening up long-term opportunities for the bank to add customers from the expansion. During Mews’ time as president, FNC Bank has instituted a matching 401k program, beefed up its benefit packages, and has improved its PTO plan, earning honors from Wisconsin-based family support nonprofit Family Friendly Workplaces.  

As president, Mews regularly discusses the bank’s day-to-day operations and potential growth prospects with the Soderberg family. He has used his detailed understanding of banking and refusal to micromanage employees to effectively lead the bank, Soderberg said. He sees Mews as a gifted leader who can connect with all employees on a personal level, quickly identifying their strengths and weaknesses to find the right fit. “He really is an amazing mentor for a lot of our current department heads,” Soderberg said.  

Mews has proven himself essential in multiple roles, also serving as the bank’s de facto CFO. As part of an organizational restructuring, FNC Bank has hired a new head of accounting, named its first COO, and is taking some CFO duties from Mews’ plate to allow him to focus on his role as president. 

 “Tom is quite indispensable for the growth of the bank,” Soderberg said.