Wisconsin Story Archive

Wisconsin Credit Union Issues Warning After ATM Thefts

Dec. 15, 2023 — Nearly $100,000 taken in a matter of hours. Wisconsin-based Marine Credit Union is the latest in a string of financial institutions in the Midwest targeted by a sophisticated ring of scammers, using fake debit cards and ATM machines. WISN 12 News this week obtained a copy of a search warrant detailing a Secret Service investigation into the theft of close to $100,000 in late October in a matter of hours using so-called skimming devices. Read more

$22.5 Million Multistate Securities Settlement Against Crypto Platform Nexo Capital

Feb. 3, 2023 — The Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) today announced it has entered into a consent order with Nexo Inc. and Nexo Capital Inc. (Nexo) to resolve the DFI’s November 3, 2022, securities enforcement action in connection with Nexo’s Earn Interest Product program.

Nexo, formed in 2018 in the Cayman Islands, provides crypto-asset-related financial services, including investing, trading, borrowing, and lending, to retail and institutional customers in the United States. The Earn Interest Product program offered investors interest-bearing crypto asset accounts commonly referred to as “crypto interest accounts.”

A North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) working group—composed of the DFI and state regulators from California, Washington, Kentucky, New York, Oklahoma, Indiana, Maryland, South Carolina, and Vermont—led a comprehensive investigation into Nexo’s Earn Interest Product program. From September through November 2022, these regulators brought actions against Nexo, concluding that Earn Interest Product accounts are securities and require investor protections, such as registration and risk disclosures, before they can be offered and sold to investors. Read more

Thomas E. Theune Appointed WI DFI Office of Credit Unions Director

Jan. 13, 2023 — The Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) Secretary-designee Cheryll Olson-Collins today announced she appointed Thomas E. Theune, a 39-year veteran of the credit union industry, to lead the Office of Credit Unions as its director. Theune began his appointment on January 3, 2023, filling the vacancy left by the former director Kim Santos, who retired in October 2022. As the director, Theune will lead a staff of 20 employees and oversee all activities for the Office of Credit Unions, which regulates state-chartered credit unions and is dedicated to ensuring the safety and soundness of those institutions while fostering their development through a progressive regulatory environment. Read more

Wisconsin’s State-Chartered Credit Unions Report Sound Third-Quarter Financial Performance

Dec. 9, 2022 — Wisconsin’s 110 state-chartered credit unions continue to exhibit sound financial performance as of September 30, 2022, according to data released today by the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions (DFI).

At the end of the third-quarter, total assets for Wisconsin’s state-chartered credit unions rose to $59.6 billion. This is an increase of $3.7 billion since year-end 2021. Over the same time period, loans outstanding grew by $6.0 billion, and shares and deposits rose $3.2 billion. This resulted in an increase to the loan-to-share ratio from 79.21% at year-end 2021 to 85.90%. Click here to read more.

Minnesota CU Spreading its Wings to Wisconsin with Bank Acquisition

Nov. 4, 2022  — The $8-billion Wings Financial CU is entering the Wisconsin market with the acquisition of the $390-million Settlers Bank in Appleton, Wis. Wings will acquire all three locations of Settlers—in Appleton, Madison, and Windsor, Wis. The bank is located approximately 300 miles east of the credit union’s headquarters.

The deal, still pending approvals from state and federal regulators, is expected to close in mid-2023, Wings reported. When the transaction is complete, Settlers Bank locations will be re-branded as Settlers Best Credit Union, a division of the $8.048-billion Wings Financial Credit Union.


Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions, Office of Credit Unions Receives 2022 NASCUS Reaccreditation

October 24, 2022 – The National Association of State Credit Union Supervisors (NASCUS) is proud to announce that the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions, Office of Credit Unions has earned Reaccreditation following a series of in-depth reviews and assessments by a panel of veteran state supervisors.

“We are pleased the Wisconsin Office of Credit Unions received reaccreditation from the National Association of State Credit Union Supervisors,” said Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions Secretary-designee Cheryll Olson-Collins. “This professional recognition affirms our agency is meeting superior regulatory standards and demonstrates we serve the people of Wisconsin through operating an effective, skilled, and professional program with credit union safety and soundness at the forefront of supervision. We look forward to continuing to meet these standards for years to come.”

NASCUS Accreditation is a robust process that includes disciplined self-evaluation and ongoing monitoring administered by the NASCUS Performance Standards Committee (PSC), a group of senior regulators from accredited state agencies.

“This peer-reviewed program recognizes achievements of state credit union regulators to effectively carry out regulatory and supervisory programs in their operations and utilization of resources,” commented NASCUS President and CEO Brian Knight. “Achieving NASCUS Accreditation reflects the exceptional capabilities of state regulatory agencies and their ability to meet the highest level of regulatory proficiency and industry standards. Furthermore, the Accreditation review process can identify opportunities for statutory, regulatory, or supervisory changes to further enhance the agency and the state’s charter.”

Read the entire article here. 

Summit Credit Union Focuses on Women

Courtesy of James Major, CreditUnions.com

Kim Sponem, President and CEO, Summit Credit Union

The Wisconsin-based institution sets itself apart by focusing on the needs of women, helping them gain financial independence, and, most recently, helping people take steps to close the gender pay gap.

Aug. 22, 2022 — A special piece of art hangs in the home of Patricia D., a member of Summit Credit Union ($4.9B, Madison, WI). The work, professionally framed and matted, measures 12 inches by 13 inches, and shows dozens of pieces of flat plastic, all of them cut into different shapes. The collage was an unexpected gift from the credit union and celebrates a turning point in her life.

Patricia spent 18 months working with Summit to become free of oppressive credit card debt, and after finishing that process, representatives at the credit union assembled the cut-up pieces of her credit cards into a collage and had it framed as a gift to remind her of what she had accomplished over a year-and-a-half period.

Although most credit unions help members escape debt and improve their financial lives, Patricia’s story is emblematic because it reflects Summit’s commitment to serving women.

According to CEO Kim Sponem, Summit began its specific focus on women in 2007 following a strategic planning meeting with her senior management team.

“We were discussing the area where we could make the most meaningful impact, so we turned our attention to the unique challenges women face from a socioeconomic perspective,” Sponem says. “We found women often felt ignored by the financial services industry, especially the investment-advisory area. The ads at that time depicted white men, but virtually no women. In ads that did show a woman, she was in the background with no seat at the table.”

The irony behind that is that while most FIs don’t directly focus on serving that consumer segment, women frequently make the greater percentage of purchasing decisions within a household, and make many of the day-to-day economic decisions in families, buying everything from birthday gifts to groceries, and more.

Approximately 20% of U.S. small businesses are owned by women, but that figure is growing, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Read the entire article here. 

Community Support Critical To The Fight in Wisconsin

Courtesy of Ray Birch, CUTODAY.info

Screen Shot 2022-06-29 at 8.35.41 PMJuly 11, 2022 — Saying it realizes it takes much more than internal defenses to fight fraud, one CU has created a “Fraud Squad” to pull in help from local police departments and, more important, assistance from the communities it serves.

“When it comes to fraud and scams and preventing them, it’s community education that is so critical,” explained Anna Allen, VP-marketing at Verve, A Credit Union. “You have to teach people to spot the red flags, to stop fraud right when it is happening. It’s about all of us taking care of each other. For example, when you’re talking to a neighbor or a friend and something doesn’t sound right, just ask a couple more questions maybe to prevent your friend from suffering a loss.

“That’s what this really is about, is educating people on fraud and pulling everyone together to be aware of the frauds and scams,” Allen continued. “This is how we’re really going to stop these crimes.”

Toolkit Provided

To reach its more than 63,000 embers and the communities it serves, the $1.5-billion Verve is aligning with a number of police departments to spread the message. The departments, using toolkits from the Fraud Squad website, go out into the community to talk to young adults at local high schools and on college campuses. They visit the elderly—a prime target for scams—going to senior centers and spreading the word, and also show up at community centers and local events.

“The toolkit and information on our Fraud Squad website (fraudsquad.com)provide local police departments with educational materials to deliver a consistent message about what is happening with fraud in our communities,” noted Allen. “A consistent message, that also stays on top of the scams that are happening, is so important if we are to really drive down the fraud rate here.”

Local police departments had been talking to communities about fraud and scams, which have been markedly rising in this market, said Allen, but the efforts were inconsistent and the message was not uniform.

“That is why the police departments reached out to Verve,” said Allen. “They know we are a financial leader in our communities and they know we are committed to consumer education.”

Currently three police departments are part of the Fraud Squad—the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office, the Appleton Police Department, and the Village of Fox Crossing Police Department.

‘Fun & Engaging’

Allen said the objective is to create a fun and engaging awareness campaign around fraud and scams, and believes the Fraud Squad launch video, available on YouTube, does just that. Allen said the spot takes on a lighthearted “superhero” theme.

“A team of ordinary people, law enforcement officers and a credit union are here to help you protect your financial health,” the spot states. “Stay  informed, stay alert, stay resilient. We’ll help you recognize the lies so you don’t take the fake, and remind you that if something looks phishy, it probably is phishy. Heroes will rise and scammers will fall…”

Winnebago Community Credit Union’s President Mr. Anthony “Tony” Tiede has announced his retirement effective June 1, 2022.

Tony has been with the credit union for nearly 25 years. In December of 1997, Tony became president, succeeding interim President Jean Kolodzik.

During Tony’s tenure, Winnebago went from $12 million in assets with 3,417 members to $155 million in assets and 8,291 members. Under his leadership, he oversaw the credit union serving the counties of Winnebago, Outagamie and Fond du Lac, merger of another credit union and added an additional branch to the Oshkosh community.

The Board of Directors announced that Mr. Tiede will be succeeded by Mr. Derek Groth, currently the President/CEO of another credit union, on March 23, 2022.

WDFI and Three Credit Unions Are Celebrated with 2021 Governor’s Financial Literacy Organizational Awards

February 23, 2022 — Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers honored three credit unions and the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions as winners of the 2021 Governor’s Financial Literacy Organizational Award.

“Financial education should build on and respond to people’s individual strengths, circumstances, and needs in order to help them work toward their own unique goals,” said Gov. Evers. “The dedication of these individuals and organizations to help Wisconsinites become more financially secure and achieve their dreams is commendable and helps ensure not only the future success of individuals and families but our entire state.”

The recipients of the 2021 Governor’s Financial Literacy Awards Organizational Category include:

Fort Community Credit Union, Fort Atkinson: This credit union is passionate about sharing sound financial advice with students, parents, educators, and community organizations and offers these services and financial literacy resources at no cost to members and community members. With the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the Fort Community Credit Union team didn’t skip a beat in pivoting these efforts to virtual resources. Ultimately, increasing the number of resources available and the reach to both credit union members and the community at large.

Royal Credit Union, Correctional Institution Financial Education Program, Eau Claire: This credit union developed a correctional facility financial education program designed to help individuals achieve financial well-being. They have been offering lessons in budgeting and financial management at Chippewa Valley Correctional Treatment Facility in Chippewa Falls for two years. Since the program launched in 2019, Royal Credit Union and the Wisconsin Department of Corrections have helped 400 people learn better spending habits and improve their understanding of how to build credit before they returned to their communities.

UW Credit Union, Madison: In this past year, UW Credit Union in Madison has taken a multi-faceted approach to better serve those traditionally underserved or excluded from financial services. The three key developments in 2021 include: Bank On Greater Milwaukee certified accounts, financial inclusion, and education outreach staffing, and the reduction of overdraft fees – saving credit union members a total of $2 million dollars per year, putting money back into credit union members’ pockets for things they need. This change allows for more financial security

Wisconsin Department of Employee Trust Funds and Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions, Wisconsin Strong: Your Financial Security™ Program, Madison: The Wisconsin Department of Employee Trust Funds and the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions in Madison were awarded a $100,000 grant to create and implement the Wisconsin Strong: Your Financial Security™ program. Wisconsin Strong is an innovative and holistic financial wellness program for Wisconsin’s 260,000 public service employees, 215,000 retirees, and their families. The program had a very successful engagement with over 10,500 online financial health self-assessments completed, more than 4,200 individuals completed 14,000 financial wellness courses, and over 5,100 individuals attended financial wellness webinars.

Criteria that will be used to judge the nominations include: innovative implementation of an effective financial literacy and capability program or program element within the last two years; emphasizes financial inclusion, demonstrated measurable results; collaboration with partners; and scalability of the program design.

Read more here

Wisconsin-based $2.7-billion CoVantage Credit Union has agreed to purchase the $277-million LincolnWay Community Bank

Courtesy of CUToday.info

The $2.7-billion CoVantage Credit Union has agreed to purchase the $277-million LincolnWay Community Bank, nearly 300 miles south in New Lennox, Ill. The buy marks the seventh CU purchase of a bank in 2022.


LincolnWay Community Bank is a wholly-owned subsidiary of LWCBancorp, Inc.

The transaction has been unanimously approved by the boards of directors of both organizations but is awaiting bank shareholder and regulatory approvals. Plans are being made to combine the staff, CoVantage stated.

“We are pleased to have found a partner whose culture and values are well aligned with CoVantage,” said CoVantage CEO Charlie Zanayed. “LincolnWay Community has focused on making exceptional service a priority for their personal and business banking customers like we do for those we serve at CoVantage.”

As have many credit unions that have purchased banks in the past, a focus of the deal with LincolnWay is commercial lending expertise.

‘Size and Scale’ Cited

“They are extraordinarily successful commercial lenders, particularly in commercial development and commercial real estate lending,” said Zanayed. “CoVantage is also a highly successful commercial lender and is one of only a few credit unions nationally that has been serving commercial members the entire time we’ve been in business, which for CoVantage Credit Union is going on 70 years. By partnering with LincolnWay Community businesses, we can deliver the size and scale that is needed to survive and thrive today.

Read More Here

DATCP and DFI Host Student Loan Debt Relief Workshop: How to Avoid Scams, Use Free Repayment Tools and Save Money

January 5, 2022 – Today, the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) and the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) announced they are hosting free online student loan debt relief workshops on Jan. 20 and Jan. 21. These workshops will help student loan borrowers prepare for the end of the federal student loan payment pause on May 1.

“With student loan payments resuming in May, it is more important than ever for borrowers to explore their student loan repayment options and make a plan for repayment today,” said DFI Secretary Kathy Blumenfeld. “Borrowers should take time now while payments are still paused to look into repayment options such as income-driven repayment plans, which may lower monthly payments, and check their eligibility for student loan forgiveness. Not waiting until the last minute to make a plan is important and will help ensure a smooth return to repayment.”

“As student loan payments resume, borrowers should watch for dishonest offers of loan forgiveness or savings from consolidation from debt relief scammers,” said DATCP Secretary Randy Romanski. “Borrowers with questions should attend these informational workshops to learn more about the many resources consumers can access without paying any fees.”



More Than 70 Employers Are Actively Promoting Saving Automatically for Emergencies

August 31, 2021 — Seventy-one small to mid-size employers in Wisconsin, representing approximately 7,500 employees, are now actively promoting and encouraging saving automatically through split deposits to their employees. Recognizing many individuals were not fully prepared for the lasting economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, these employers have joined a new statewide effort to help more Wisconsin workers save automatically and successfully through their paycheck.

Wisconsin Saves focuses on the role of small to mid-size employers in promoting the ease and benefits of saving automatically for emergencies to their employees.
This effort is led by Wisconsin State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski; Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) Secretary Kathy Blumenfeld; President and CEO of the Wisconsin Bankers Association Rose Oswald Poels; Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation (WWBIC) President Wendy Baumann; and America Saves, the leading national campaign in promoting savings.


Capitol Eyes
Apr 08, 2021 — By Tom Harrington

Grassroots Alert- Protect Members Against Financial Elder Abuse
Next week, the Senate Committee on Financial Institutions and Revenue will hold a public hearing on Senate Bill 19, relating to financial exploitation of vulnerable adults. The League testified in support of the bill during the Assembly hearing and will testify in support on Monday. Activists also shared support for the bill during the 2020 State GAC.

Activists can visit the Grassroots Action Center on The League’s website to send a pre-written, editable letter to your legislators and voice support for the legislation.

Budget-Writing Joint Finance Committee Hearings
The Joint Finance Committee is set to hold public hearings on the state budget throughout the state this month, with the final hearing taking place virtually.

Joint Finance Committee latest statement on budget hearings

If you’re interested in attending a public hearing and making a statement in support of the Credit Union Movement, please contact Sarah Wainscott. Consider using the following as an example:

Credit unions helped members and communities to the tune of over $2.3 billion through the COVID-19 pandemic and related economic crisis. This is exactly what you’d expect from not-for-profit cooperatives with a people-focus mission and a track record of providing valued services to their members and Wisconsin communities.

We don’t have a specific budget bill request, but hope you will continue to support budget decisions and proposals that allow credit unions to continue to thrive in our state.

Wisconsin Credit Union Response to COVID-19

Recommended Reading
How Racial Justice Push Sparked New CRA Law in Illinois
A new Illinois law that is designed to push state-regulated financial institutions to invest more in underserved communities grew out of the racial justice movement that swept the nation last year.

“What Are We Going to Do?” Towns Reel as Banks Close Branches at Record Pace
George Holland, the mayor of Moorhead, Miss., remembers the feeling when he heard that Regions Bank was closing its branch in his small, rural town a few years ago. “That was actually the only bank in our community and the next-closest bank was probably 8, 9 miles to Indianola,” Holland said. “I was thinking, ‘What are we going to do?’…As banks close, many communities have been looking to nonprofit credit unions and other alternatives to fill the void.


NASCUS’ Wisconsin Executive Forum – March 16, 2021

February 16, 2021 – NASCUS, the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions and The Wisconsin Credit Union League invite you to participate in this acclaimed annual session. This learning opportunity will address national issues and COVID-19, duties, liabilities and protection of credit union directors and strategic and succession planning. Engage your credit union’s directors, committee members and management staff in this webinar.


What’s new in your state?
Click here to submit your state-chartered credit union news stories to NASCUS today!