Director, U.S. community affairs, BMO Harris Bank
770 N. Water St., Milwaukee
www.bmoharrisbank.comIndustry: Financial services
Employees: More than 3,000 in southeast Wisconsin
Family: Husband, Steve Filmanowicz. Children: Cassandra Berkel, Nick Berkel and Lily Filmanowicz.
What does a community affairs director do?
“Makes grants to nonprofits. I work to develop integrated community plans, which could include making a grant or placing a senior executive on a nonprofit board. I manage not only Milwaukee, but also some of the company’s other markets.”
What community-wide efforts is BMO currently undertaking?
“BMO was the first corporate partner to invest in the United Way of Greater Milwaukee’s Healthy Birth Outcomes Initiative, an effort to help address the Milwaukee infant mortality rate. Our support invests in evidence-based programming to help United Way move the needle in the right direction to increase healthy birth outcomes.”
What is the hottest trend in corporate philanthropy?
“In my field, you hear people talk about impact reporting and place-based philanthropy. What we at BMO recognize is that every situation is different. What might be a pressing issue here in Milwaukee or Chicago could be very different in Indianapolis or St. Louis. We are careful to listen to the specific needs of each community.”
What are your main challenges?
“Demand outweighs supply and the needs are great. There are so many worthwhile organizations doing important work in our community. We would love to support them all, but unfortunately we need to be targeted in our approach given limited resources.”
What frustrates you the most in your industry?
“The reputational setbacks the financial services industry has suffered in the past decade.”
What drives you to succeed?
“I have the opportunity to witness firsthand all of the wonderful work being done by the nonprofit community to make our city a better place to live and work. When I see a student graduating from college who otherwise might not have the opportunity, I am filled with pride. If our grants can be just a small contributor to the success of that work, I consider it a job well done.”
From a business standpoint, who do you look up to?
“I look up to leaders from all sides of the equation. Whether it’s public or private sector leaders coming together to make things happen, that’s what inspires me. The passion of the people working to make the city of Milwaukee a better place is real.”
As a working mom, what message do you give your children?
“I try to teach them to work hard and to have the determination to overcome any challenge they may encounter. I encourage them to strive to leave the world a better place. I’ve been fortunate to link my passion with work, and to show my children that it is possible to do what you love.”