Jon Willems started his
banking career in the major markets of Kansas City
and Chicago. He’s happy to be back in Wisconsin as
the market president for Commerce State Bank in
Photo by Mark
CEDARBURG - It wasn’t that many years ago
when Jon Willems looked out his office windows to view a
big-city skyline, whether it was Chicago or Kansas City.
Now, when he looks out the windows in his corner
office at Commerce State Bank in Cedarburg, his view is just a
bit different: A corner plaza full of people eating custard
during the summer.
“I love the change of scenery,” he said.
“Cedarburg reminds me of growing up in Whitefish Bay.”
That change of pace is something that Willems,
now market president for Commerce State Bank, enjoys. It also
symbolizes the change he’s made professionally from big-city
banking to community banking.
After following in the footsteps of his older
brother and sister in attending the University of
Wisconsin-Madison (and double majoring in finance and real
estate), Willems spent the first 12 years of his career in
commercial lending, the majority of it in the two large
“The plan all along with my wife was to return
home to Wisconsin when we were ready to start a family, but I
always wanted to work in Chicago,” he said. “It’s a great place
when you have no kids. But when getting to Target to buy diapers
is a four-hour ordeal, you start to realize that maybe it’s time
to move on.”
Enter Joe Fazio, chairman and CEO, and one of the
three founders of Commerce State Bank. After meeting with Fazio
in a Chicago coffee shop and learning more about Commerce State
Bank, Willems realized he’d found his next opportunity.
“There were a number of things that really
appealed to me,” he said. “First of all, I liked that the bank
was only 10 years old. It was also started by entrepreneurs, who
still thought like entrepreneurs, and who actually worked with
entrepreneurs and small businesses. I thought that those
elements really made the bank somewhat unique.”
He was also intrigued that the bank was founded
just before a down economy, and managed to not just survive, but
thrive. It also fulfilled the goal that he and his wife had to
eventually move back to Wisconsin.
“The other banks that I knew of that were
established during that time either aren’t around anymore or
they don’t have the same management team in place,” he said. “I
really thought it showed that the bank was nimble enough to deal
with the recession.”
Willems started out as vice president of
Commercial Lending for the bank, which is based in West Bend,
and is now the “chief decision maker” at the Cedarburg office in
addition to being market president.
“I really think we have the right mix of people
at the bank, and we have a very well-defined client that we
usually work with - we’re not everything to everybody,” he said.
“That’s a huge selling point to businesses and they want to work
with us because of it. These are businesses who want a
relationship with their bank.”
He characterizes the typical Commerce State Bank
customer as a small-to-medium sized business, with annual
revenues of somewhere between $1 million and $30 million. While
much of Commerce State Bank’s business is located in the area,
Willems said he works with companies all over southeast
His new role, and the relationship he has with
his customers, is a bit different than he had working for the
“They have my cell phone number and they can just
call me 24 hours a day,” he said. “But we also have the same
services that the larger banks have, like online banking and
remote deposit capture. Those barriers that used to separate big
banks from community banks have been broken down.”
When he’s not on the road serving clients, both
Willems and his wife try to be as active as possible in the
community. They now live in Cedarburg with their two daughters,
and Willems is involved with the Cedarburg Chamber of Commerce.
He also volunteers with Cedarburg Festivals.
In his free time, Willems enjoys competing in
“I’m a goal guy,” he said of his triathlon
activities. “I need something to work toward. I’m looking
forward to my first half Ironman this year.”
He remains pleased with the decision he made to
leave big cities and big banks behind, and Cedarburg has been a
good fit for him and his family.
“It’s really neat to be able to live and work in
the same place, which is something I’ve always wanted to do,” he
said. “This really feels like home to me now.”