President and CEO, Johnson Financial Group Inc.
After almost three decades working at JPMorgan Chase & Co., most recently as market president for Chase Bank in Wisconsin and Minnesota and managing director for Chase Middle Market Banking in Wisconsin, Jim Popp made the move to Racine-based Johnson Financial Group. Popp has served as president and chief executive officer of family-owned JFG, which includes Johnson Bank (assets of about $4.7 billion), Johnson Insurance and a wealth business ($10.5 billion in assets under management), since May 2017. BizTimes managing editor Molly Dill recently asked him about his vision for the company.
What changes have you made in your first year as CEO?
“It’s performing really well and it’s a strong business. That being said, the industry’s changing dramatically. Our change and our evolution is something that’s going to be a consistent theme for us now and in the years to come.”
How is being part of a family-owned bank different from being part of a corporate bank?
“We are truly a local business. We don’t have to go to another city or another state or another country to make decisions about what we want to do. That’s pretty unique, certainly in the banking business, and in the financial industry.”
With the 2016 acquisition of Cleary Gull Advisors, JFG increased its emphasis on wealth management. Why?
“The demographics of the population in this country are there’s a lot of opportunity in the investment advisory business. Cleary Gull was a top-tier shop in Milwaukee where the partnership was a really great fit with Johnson Financial Group. We’re excited about where they sit today and we’re excited about the future in the wealth business.”
Do you have any new branches planned?
“We don’t necessarily have new branches planned. What we spend a lot of time doing is evaluating the branches we have today and continuing to make them more relevant in terms of what our customer base is looking for. It’s upgrading the technology. It’s adding what our customers are looking for.”
The most recent Federal Reserve numbers indicate commercial and industrial lending standards are a little looser than in years past. Are you seeing a lot of C&I loan demand and competition?
“I think we’re seeing both. The market continues to plow forward, the economy is doing really well, we’re seeing our customers across our footprints expanding their businesses and growing their businesses, which generally involves a need for capital. It’s also very competitive. If you’re a bank that’s not doing well today, then I think you’re doing something wrong. They all have capital and are looking very actively to deploy that capital in the form of commercial loans.”
A few area banks are increasing their profiles downtown with new buildings and prominent signage. Does Johnson Bank have plans to increase its downtown Milwaukee presence?
“We’ve been in Milwaukee and we’ve had a presence in the city for years and years. Milwaukee is a very hot market right now certainly in the state. There’s a lot of great things going on in Milwaukee. We will continue to look at ways to expand our presence and be more active in Milwaukee.”
Is there opportunity for Johnson Bank with the nearby Foxconn Technology Group development?
“If Foxconn continues to happen as it’s happening right now and continues to grow and gain momentum, it will be a catalyst for an enormous lift in the southeast corner of the state. I think that will give us all opportunities to do business in terms of retail business, private banking business, mortgage business … certainly as people come to town and there are more jobs in southeast Wisconsin.”