Just a Minute with Kurt Andrae, President & CEO, First Wisconsin Bank & Trust

Company address: 175 N. Patrick Drive, Brookfield, WI

Company Web site: www.firstwisconsinbank.com

Industry: Banking

Number of employees: 15

Education: BBA in finance, theUniversity of Wisconsin-Whitewater; MBA in real estate, marketing & organizational behavior, J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management, Northwestern University.

Family: Wife, Cynthia; son, Owen; and Olivia, 5.

What was the smartest thing your company did in the past year?

“The board of directors understood the need for a strategic plan that differentiated us from other companies in the marketplace. The senior management team and I formulated such a plan which is rooted in the principles of marketing, not banking. After many months of discussion and tweaking, this plan was formally adopted by the board and is currently being implemented with many successes already being seen. An integral part of the plan was a branding campaign and reintroduction of a well-known name back into the market. It’s a rush to see our billboards and ads around town and the compliments we get on them.”

What’s new at your company?

“Our charter, a new location and many new people! On Feb. 20, we received our state charter becoming the fourth de novo bank under the QCR Holdings family. For the previous nine months we operated as a branch of our Rockford bank. In May, we moved to our new location in Brookfield, tripling the amount of space the bank occupied. We’re not your traditional retail branch; we’re located in a wonderful office building in the Corporate Lakes Park. Both the customers and employees love the location.”

Do you plan to hire any additional staff or make any significant capital investments in your company in the next year?

“Banking is a people business and we are constantly searching for the best and brightest who may not currently be in the banking industry. We are the experts in certain market segments, such as medical banking and commercial real estate, so we look to add people with experience in those segments to bolster our expertise. First Wisconsin believes that a strategy based in ‘bricks & mortar’ is not the way to succeed in today’s environment. Therefore, a large portion of our capital investments will be based in technology and offering unique products to the market place that are delivered online.”

What will be your company’s main challenges in the next year?

“Trying to figure our how to navigate in the turbulent financial environment we are currently in. I am confident that our strategic plan will allow us to win customers, but the internal business of asset/liability management is a daily struggle with rates shifting daily, sometimes 25 to 50 basis points. Along with that, the shortage of qualified people to help facilitate the growth we are looking for.”

What’s the hottest trend in your industry?

“I think we are poised for another round of consolidations in the marketplace. It has already started with a number of mergers announced in 2007, and I think this is only the beginning of a number of mergers, not only in the Wisconsin market but across the country as well. Another trend seems to be ‘buying business.’  In the 70’s, you received a toaster with each new account. Today, its $50 to $75. One cannot build a long-term sustainable business based on buying customers. We need to obtain and retain long-term customer relationships in order to remain a viable business. The way to do that is to add value to the customer, not buy them.”

From a business standpoint, who do you look up to?

“A large part of me has been influenced by my grandfather, an entrepreneur who owned a number of lumber yards for many years and was very successful, even through the depression. As I have been involved in the real estate industry for the bulk of my professional career, both in banking and development, I have had the honor of crossing paths many great business people, three of whom have left an indelible impression on me; Jim Siepmann of Siepmann Realty, Mike Arnesen of TOLD Development and the late Mark Redmond. The common thread of these gentlemen is that they have been very successful and they didn’t have to sacrifice their personal reputations along the way.”

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