March 11, 2022

The First American Capital Corporation (FACC) is forming a working relationship with a brand new branch of Horicon Bank, located at 15600 W Cleveland Ave., New Berlin and attended an open house to see the new space. Horicon Bank is a new and generous member of the American Indian Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin (AICCW) and has identified AICCW as an Impact Partner. FACC staff member Corrie sat down to interview Fred C. Schwertfeger, the Chief Strategy Officer & Senior VP, before attending the opening.

The First American Capital Corporation (FACC) has a new relationship with a brand-new branch of Horicon Bank, located in New Berlin, and some AICCW-FACC staff members attended an open house to see the new space. Horicon Bank is a new and generous donor to AICCW and has identified AICCW as an Impact Partner. Corrie Beula Kovacs, FACC’s  Business Technical Assistance Associate, sat down to interview Fred C. Schwertfeger, the chief strategy officer and senior VP, before the opening. She also spoke with AICCW and FACC Board Member Dave Willeford, who assisted in the formation of the relationship

Willeford has been doing business with Horicon Bank since 1993. When asked why he keeps going back to them, and what he hoped would come from this new relationship, he answered:

“They are a very honest bank. They have a touch of the old banking by relationships. They are extremely responsive and have a good sense of community. Any community they are in, they support, they are concerned about it.

I think it’s a win-win for both of us to give some exposure to a community of potential borrowers that they as a conventional bank might not have an opportunity to see. It’s good for us to develop a relationship with a bank that I trust. The transition that Horicon Bank will make with Fred Jr. in place as the new CEO after his father retire) gives me confidence, because that family is very solid. That’s important to me, the continuity of character of the bank — how they conduct themselves. And I think it should be for anyone who is looking to the future and having a sense of security, that they are not going to change in their core philosophy and mission statement.

Hopefully, this connection will produce an opportunity to some of our clients to move to the next level, of conventional banking. I think if we have one company that we help start up and get them to conventional banking and second level growth, it’s a success. It’s time well spent. It’s really being a doorway to opportunities for companies to move forward when they outgrow us. And if we can be the initial mentor or gap financer and introduce them to conventional banking, I think we have done a good job.

If you are unfamiliar with Horicon Bank, they are a unique Wisconsin success story. If you have never heard of them and would like to learn more, they provide a neat timeline on their website.

The following is an excerpt of the FACC interview with Schwertfeger:

Horicon Bank, which opened in 1896 with $15,000, was one of the first banks to open after the Great Depression, and your family has been part of the ownership team since 1965. The New Berlin bank is Horicon’s 21st location.

Question: How do you see this new location meeting the bank’s founding principles of innovation and community support?

Answer: It is a unique design and we have gone to the next gen of banking services so we have an ITM there; the ATM just has text, but an ITM (Interactive Teller Machine) will provide a person at the station for you, digitally (and the ITM can provide services an ATM cannot). In our lower level, we have a flex community room space so we can open after hours and provide a meeting space for nonprofit groups. Finding places for nonprofits for collaboration is part of the mission.

Q: In what ways has Horicon Bank previously promoted economic development activities in its communities?

A: We’re a big advocate for getting out people out and volunteering on boards, ED boards, and all over. We want to be a mission-oriented bank and we care for communities, associates, customers, and relationships. We go with them wherever their needs are.

Q: Horicon Bank is leading the field of innovation for its banking family, I am speaking especially to the acquisition of Monotto and your ownership of a technology firm in order to better serve clients, including targeting millennials. How do you see Horicon Bank innovating in economic development activities moving forward? Where do you see the biggest need(s) you can meet?

A: That acquisition and our ITM efforts have been a huge part of us reaching out to the millennials. There is a neglected segment in Milwaukee in terms of small business lending help, and business coaching. So that would be the first thing. We have some crypto experts, and we plan to be the first Wisconsin community bank to give best practice advice on crypto and maybe develop own products – stay tuned!

Q: What are your aspirational goals for your relationship with the FACC, certified Native CDFI and SBA Microlender? What do you hope this relationship will provide the bank? Are there any Community Reinvestment Act (CRA)* related incentives for this relationship?

A: To go back to the impact investment strategy. That is kind of taking CRA to new levels and leaning into it. As far as being a Chamber member, we are members of all our community chambers, and it just is an important essential community in Wisconsin. It’s what we should do.