The Advantage of Expertise and Experience

The Advantage of  Expertise and Experience

A variety of financial institutions in the Madison area are available to meet customers’ basic banking needs, but some people require more specific banking expertise—for business loans, educational funds, global investing, philanthropic planning, rural home financing, or small business management. The following organizations offer special services and extensive experience in serving clients with more particular requests.

UW Credit Union has long valued its relationship with the University of Wisconsin System, and remains committed to supporting campus communities throughout the state. The company provides services that meet the financial needs of university faculty, staff, alumni and current students, including operating full-service branches on campus, hosting surcharge-free ATMs, and conducting free financial education seminars for students on budgeting and the financial aid process. Since 2010, UW Credit Union has also offered competitively priced, variable and fixed-rate private student loans without fees or pre-payment penalties.

As any recent student can attest, the cost of higher education rises each year disproportionately to the amount of federal financial aid available.  According to Mike Long, EVP/Chief Credit Officer at UW Credit Union, the cost for a Wisconsin resident to attend UW-Madison and live on campus this school year is just over $24,000. The typical federal loan is only $5,500, which means many students and/or their families need to look for additional funding options.

UW Credit Union has an educational lending department that helps students and parents navigate the college funding process.  “Helping students achieve their dream of attending college is one of the most rewarding aspects of the work we do,” says Long. “We make a real difference in the lives of our student members, giving them access to financial resources so they can pursue a career that motivates and inspires them. In fact, we’ve helped almost eight thousand students with college funding, providing almost $90 million in loans since 2006. We’re very proud of the work we do—and how it positively impacts the community.”

River Valley Bank offers a full line of consumer, commercial and residential home lending products to its customers, but the company specializes in financing small businesses and helping rural customers buy their own homes.

With branches in a variety of small communities, River Valley Bank works with the USDA Rural Housing Loan Program to help meet home ownership needs in historically under-served areas.  “Being a community bank, it is our mission to be an active player in the growth and development of our communities,” says Roger  G. Erickson, Senior Vice President and Director of the bank’s mortgage division. “We are active in residential and commercial construction programs throughout Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula.”

 River Valley Bank specializes in small business lending as well, offering support for start-ups, lending to grow, establishing trusts to protect assets, and aiding in successful business planning. The company works with a variety of loan programs with the USDA and is a preferred lender with the Small Business Administration.

“Our bank is a major lender in the Edgewater construction project in Madison,” Erickson says, “and RVB is expanding our banking footprint this year to include a full-service branch to serve the greater Madison market. We are committed to the communities we serve.”

The State Bank of Cross Plains provides specialized services to business owners, executives, professionals, and their families, through its Wealth Management Division, which offers sophisticated investment management, trustee and financial planning services.  

“We have hundreds of customers who enjoy greater financial security, today and tomorrow, by working with us,” says Dan Savage, Senior Trust Officer/Senior Vice President, State Bank of Cross Plains. “Although we work with a broad cross-section of the population, our clients frequently have income and/or net worth that is higher than average, so they need our planning and implementation capabilities.”

In addition to exceptional expertise and credentialing, Savage says that turnover is very low within the bank’s wealth management services, so clients have the opportunity to build long-term relationships with their financial planning professionals, and develop a trusting, personal rapport. “It gives our customers a certain peace of mind,” he explains.

“People may be surprised that a community bank offers these types of services, particularly at the level we deliver them,” says Savage. “They also may not realize that by working with a community bank like ours, their dollars are directly reinvested in Dane County and the greater Madison area.” 

The professionals, analysts and strategists at UBS/Burish Group have provided wealth management services for high net-worth and ultra-high net-worth clients since 1991, and each year they collect more accolades for excelling in their highly specialized field.

Operating from his company’s main office in Madison, Andrew Burish has been ranked by Barron’s as one of the Top 100 Financial Advisors in the U.S. (2007 – 2013) and the No. 1 financial advisor in the state of Wisconsin (2009 – 2013). He was also named on the inaugural Financial Times Top 400 Advisors list, which recognized the most elite financial advisors in the country.

“Our clients have complex needs,” Burish explains. “They typically have up to $20 million to invest and they need to minimize their risk. That’s where our firm’s experience with global investing is key.”

In addition to putting funds in place for philanthropic giving and multi-generational planning—typically financing children’s college educations—Burish and his team devise investment strategies that facilitate conservative and steady growth. “We help our clients build globally diversified portfolios,” he says. “Our company has financial advisors with international investment experience across fifty different countries, in an array of currencies. We’re interested in world market capitalization, not just investing in American companies, which comprise only a quarter of the total market. We also want to provide jurisdictional diversification, so if there are any judgments against our clients, any legal problems, we can shield them from that risk.”

Burish notes that the company’s thirty-five team members are salaried employees and don’t work on commission. “There’s no incentive for them to advise clients to use one financial product over another,” he says. “They sincerely have the best interests of their clients at heart.”

Despite his growing national reputation, Burish has made the conscious decision to stay in Madison—he characterizes himself and much of his staff as “small town guys.”

“I’m from Wausau, one of my colleagues is from Watertown, and many of the others are from small communities across Wisconsin,” Burish notes. “We’re comfortable here. But it means we have to work harder, and be smarter than our competitors in order to succeed.” Burish likens his business to the Green Bay Packers—a professional sports team located in a relatively small city that is nonetheless able to compete with, and sometimes roundly defeat, teams that are supported by much larger markets.

Commitment to the state extends to investing in its people. As a first-generation college graduate, Burish has advised both of his alma maters—UW-Whitewater and UW-Eau Claire—on their financial plans. In addition, Burish and his wife, Anna, who is Associate Director of the Burish Group, serve on many local non-profit boards, lending their own financial support as well as time and considerable talent to seeing their projects succeed. Past community partnerships have included the St. Mary’s Foundation, Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (DAIS), United Way of Dane County, and UW-Health/American Family Children’s Hospital.

Starion Financial takes an active role in helping its small business clients succeed. “As an organization, we’re really experts in assisting small- and medium-sized company owners manage their businesses,” says Bill McDonough, Starion’s Madison Market President. “Of course we help them apply for and obtain the financing they need. But the big difference is we spend time with these clients, really helping them understand money management, and setting up the operational processes and internal controls that will make their companies thrive.”

One of the services Starion Financial recommends is Positive Pay, a computer program that simplifies banking for business owners, who typically write hundreds of checks each month. By synching the date, number and amount of each check issued with the same information on checks that have cleared, the bank can help ensure that records are more accurate. This tracking system also makes the businesses less vulnerable to fraud, by only authorizing payments on checks that have been uploaded into the bank’s records.

“When our bankers help clients understand the applications of technology and can recommend services like Positive Pay, that will really make a difference to the financial health of a small business,” says McDonough. As an example, he cites a client who was issuing a very large number of checks to workers who were paid for their labor by the day. Many of the checks were being cashed at gas stations, bars and check-cashing services, which made it harder to reconcile accounts. After the company started using Positive Pay, they were able to have current financial information at their fingertips, and Starion was able to block a substantial and fraudulent check immediately.

“The difference can be so profound,” McDonough says. “Technology is here to stay from a business perspective and, although there are security risks, business owners need to be aware of what’s available and how they can protect themselves.”

According to Mike Weber, Senior Vice President of Commercial Banking at Wisconsin Bank & Trust, his full-service financial institution offers customers a “small, community bank experience, with the resources of a large regional bank behind us.”  In fact, the company’s thirteen Wisconsin locations are part of Heartland Financial, a $5.9 billion holding company based in Dubuque, Iowa. Weber explains: “It gives us the opportunity to provide a full suite of commercial business banking products and services along with mortgage, consumer and investment services.”

Wisconsin Bank & Trust has particular expertise in government guaranteed financing, including Department of the Interior, Small Business Administration, and USDA loans. “We’ve been really successful in using these resources to be creative in providing options for our clients,” Weber says. “Wisconsin Bank & Trust is particularly good at finding ways to utilize the long-term, committed financing that government guaranteed programs offer.”

Another area of expertise for the company is tax credit financing. In the past the bank has helped implement projects using the “Section 42” or Low-Income Housing Tax Credit for affordable housing construction. Wisconsin Bank & Trust also has experience leveraging New Markets Tax Credits, another federally sponsored program that offers tax credits for projects in certain low-income districts.

Finally, the bank is accomplished in using both federal and state Historic Preservation Tax Incentive programs to encourage private-sector investment in the rehabilitation and re-use of historic buildings. As an example, Weber cites the historic “Main Street” buildings that still populate many small towns in Wisconsin. Typically these structures made up the community’s first business district in the late nineteenth century. With help from the bank to apply these tax credits, owners or developers can secure financing to significantly renovate, upgrade or rehabilitate the buildings, while maximizing their use and preserving their historic character.

“Most importantly,” Weber says, “Wisconsin Bank & Trust takes a team approach to relationship management, assembling a group of associates with expertise across several areas, really customizing the team to the client’s specific needs.”