Bravo!: Joe Fazio, Chairman and chief executive officer, Commerce State Bank, Commerce Financial Holdings

Three and a half years ago, Joe Fazio and two other veteran bankers didn’t like the frustration they saw among banking clients in Ozaukee County. Their goal was to create a more client-based option for their customers, and so Commerce State Bank was born.

“We wanted to be responsive to people, to give them a fast answer to what they need to know and to really build relationships with people,” Fazio said.

The strategy worked. Last January, Commerce State Bank built a new headquarters in West Bend and a new branch will open in May in Cedarburg.

Fazio applied a similar design principle to both branches. Customers, most of whom are business owners or customers making large dollar transactions, are greeted by personal bankers, rather than tellers.

It’s a personalized feature that the bank receives positive feedback about quite frequently, Fazio said.

“We want people to come in, sit down and relax. We’ll help you get your stuff transacted, and to get in and out of here as soon as possible,” Fazio said.

The branches are opening in an economic climate where many other banks are scrambling for assistance, but Fazio steered clear of the financial meltdown by having good discipline in his industry, he said.

“You need to underwrite loans properly, and you need to make good loans and avoid major losses, stick to tried and true investment methodologies, stray from exotic investments and avoid high-risk investments in lending and loans. It’s about going back to basics,” Fazio said.

Address: 1700 Silverbrook Drive, West Bend

Web Site:

Industry: Banking

Revenues: $15 million

Employees: 28


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