Rare staff changes take place at bank
By Stephen Groessel
Great Midwest Bank staff members are (from left) Heather Trowbridge, Michael Duenkel, Tina Karls, Greg Garton and Carla Belflower. Not pictured is Donna Bancroft.

It was roughly a decade ago that a change in staff took place at Great Midwest Bank, Chilton.

Staff retention there has been admirable, said Greg Garton who serves as assistant vice president.

Two long-term employees retired Jan. 1 of this year. Nancy Reinl who started in 1973 and Sandy Eickert who was with the bank the past 10 years said goodbye to their customers and staff.

Two new individuals have come on board in December 2011. Michael Duenkel and Heather Trowbridge are serving as customer service representatives handling transactions, account openings and the like. Duenkel is a Manitowoc native and continues to reside there. He is currently a second year student at the University of Wisconsin-Manitowoc and plans to attend UW-Green Bay in fall majoring in communications. His future career aspiration is to enter the field of banking. Trowbridge is a Cleveland native. She resides with her husband and children in St. Nazianz. She is a North High School graduate. The Trowbridges have a daughter in fifth grade, a son in third grade and the youngest is 4 years old. Trowbridge returned to the workforce after a four-year absence, she, with her husband, raising their youngest child who will enter kindergarten next year.

Garton said he is pleased with the new part-time staff members who are quick learners. Both have received hands-on training from seasoned employees Donna Bancroft, Tina Karls and Carla Belflower.

Volume of services increases

With the closure of the Appleton offi ce, Great Midwest Bank, Chilton, has expanded its volume of service taking responsibility for the Tyme machine there, customer services, mortgage loans and the like. “We are handling the entire market north of Milwaukee,” Garton said.

Loan activity at Great Midwest Bank is lively and is being dictated by 60-year low fixed mortgage loan rates. What makes such loans even more attractive is the bank retains the servicing of these loans. There is also a lot of refinancing activity taking place.

But the interest rate on savings accounts remains low and is expected to stay that way through 2014, Garton said. With the increased cost of food and gas, investors and seniors are not being helped. Despite this hiccup, GMB has remained profitable and carries large reserves.

A drastic change in local banking practices is the fast-paced change in technology and GMB is staying on top of that, Garton said. Now and in the near future the cellphone will enable bank patrons to do regular banking from home or work or any other location. They will be able to balance their checking account, make payments and perform other transactions. Many companies now have direct deposit and automatic bill paying capability. Such online convenience is amazing, said Garton. In another 10 years it will be interesting to see even more changes online. In many ways there

Stephen Groessel photo

is no reason now for patrons to come to the brick and mortar bank building. Patrons continue to find it convenient to withdraw cash via the automatic teller machine (ATM) for which there is no fee charged by GMB. But not all favor online transactions. For some, security issues play a role in declining to make online transactions. Others, especially the older generation visit the bank personally for face to face service. They like that personal contact.

Banking of the future

Garton recalls the days when banks stayed open late on Friday nights to accommodate patrons standing in long lines wanting to cash or deposit their social security checks. While the number of bank buildings will decline, Garton predicts the day when banks will be open 24 hours, seven days a week to transact business.

One of the reasons why folks will continue to come into the bank building is to consult with the bank’s financial advisor about alternative investments such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds, annuities, and retirement plans. Financial advisor Dan Murphy, based in the GMB home office, will visit with patrons at the Chilton office by appointment or on the phone.

Garton who is marking his 39th year with GMB noted that the financial world is being influenced by a worldwide economy. What happens elsewhere has an effect on us; we can no longer just take care of ourselves, he said.

A mess which was self-inflicted by the banking industry within our own country began six years or so ago tolerating easy credit. It was a time when the prevalent mind-set was that everyone ought to be a home-owner and be eligible for a home loan. Loans were approved for folks with little credit, no down-payment, and even no job. A limited number of payments were made and then it ended. Immediate satisfaction derived from easy financing led to owning a large house, a three car garage, a boat, but the good life did not last. Real estate that was going up 25 percent each year did not stay. Reality hit, and the bubble burst and real estate values dropped down 50-60 percent, Garton said.

Today, banks are ultraconservative about lending., taking the position that not everybody deserves something; they have to earn it. They have to have good credit, work up a down payment and be responsible, Garton said.