The following is a brief interview between WBA President and CEO Rose Oswald Poels and Oostburg State Bank President and CEO Eric Glewen. This article was republished with permission from the Wisconsin Bankers Association.

Rose: How did you first get into the banking industry?

Eric: After graduating from Marquette University in 1990 with a Finance degree, I started my banking career with United Savings & Loan in Sheboygan. My first job in banking was to design and implement a Retail Indirect Lending Program for the institution. It didn’t take off overnight but a year and a half later we had it rolling pretty good. When Valley Bank purchased United Savings & Loan, I had the opportunity to move over to the commercial side of banking and worked as a credit analyst for two years, also gaining some exposure to treasury management during this time. This was a great learning opportunity for me and helped position me to be a business lender when M&I purchased Valley Bank. I spent the next eight years working as a business banker for M&I in Sheboygan and Manitowoc. At that point in my career, I was offered an opportunity out of the blue to join Oostburg State Bank as their vice president of business banking. I took over as president in 2019 and have been with Oostburg State Bank now for over 21 years.

What is your favorite aspect of your role at the bank?

All of it, I love the community banking model! Helping people and serving the community is at the core of community banking. I am privileged to work with a group of talented, committed, and passionate community bankers here who care about doing great work that makes a difference for our clients and the greater community we serve. If our communities thrive, we thrive. Serving others and strengthening our communities, that’s what I enjoy and that’s what I work for.

What do you wish the general public understood about the banking industry?

When it comes to mission and values, financial institutions are not all created equal. Many financial institutions will ultimately measure their effectiveness in terms of their asset size or perhaps their quarterly performance. We at Oostburg State Bank – and other true community banks — tend to have a little longer perspective, preferring to judge our success by the strength of our communities and quantity of banking relationships that last for decades and span generations. Customers most often pursue long-term banking relationships with someone they can trust and depend upon. We make it our mission to preserve the local community banking experience. Our team – as well as teams from other community banks across this great state — work diligently to meet the needs of our customers and our communities. In so doing, they exemplify what it truly means to be community bankers.

Where do you believe the industry’s greatest challenges are in the next three to five years? There’s certainly no shortage of great challenges that community banks face and the one thing they have in common is that they all possess the potential to threaten our continuation of business. Second only to employees, deposits are a community bank’s lifeblood. The ongoing assault on deposits perhaps causes me to lose sleep the most often. The combined effect of credit unions, FinTechs, cryptocurrency, regulatory, and other competitive forces, not to mention the big one — the prospect of a central bank digital currency – will not only continue to erode community bank’s deposits, but in the worst case, threaten the viability of our business model. I’s no time to relax in our advocacy efforts through the Wisconsin Bankers Association and Independent Community Bankers of America to preserve the precious community bank model.

Please describe your current role at your bank and share with us one of your more rewarding experiences.

Oostburg State Bank is a pillar of community support and investment. It was this way long before I became president and I’m confident it will be that way far into the future. Just recently, we were presented the opportunity to partner with the Cedar Grove-Belgium School District. Their indoor pool had served Cedar Grove, Belgium, Oostburg, and the surrounding communities for over 50 years and the pool needed some serious work. I grew up in Cedar Grove and as a kid I spent just about every summer afternoon at that pool. When I was in high school, one of my first jobs was lifeguarding at the pool. After a substantial renovation, today, the Oostburg State Bank Community Aquatics Center in Cedar Grove once again stands ready to serve the greater community for the next 50 plus years.