Banking on the future
Waukesha State Bank maintains local touch, invests in new technology

By Katherine Michalets - Freeman Staff

Aug. 14, 2015

Waukesha State Bank President Ty Taylor and Marketing Director Stephanie Ohlfs next to the iconic Waukesha State Bank vault door. 
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

WAUKESHA - Fewer people may be entering through the doors of banks, but Waukesha State Bank realizes the value of having a local connection to the community so itís remodeling its primary location in downtown Waukesha with a larger public meeting room, more efficient teller spaces and new lighting.

A fresh branch look may be the most visible change happening at Waukesha State Bank, but President Ty Taylor is even more excited about the rollout of new technology applications, such as the EMV chips in the bankís credit cards and debit cards that will make them more secure.


Community connection

In the past five years, Waukesha State Bank opened two new branches, including one on Racine Avenue in Waukesha. It also built a freestanding structure for the Brookfield branch and moved the branch from inside the Pick Ďn Save on Moreland Boulevard a half-mile down the road to East Main Street. Taylor said land has been purchased for an eventual 15th location in Hartland.

Waukesha State Bank President Ty Taylor talks about the future of the bank and community banking during an interview on Wednesday. 
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

Historically, the brick-and-mortar bank buildings were where people did their banking transactions, Taylor said, but that has changed a lot in recent years as more financial functions move online or to smartphone applications.

Still, itís important for banks to have a sales platform and to have a local presence, he said, adding many people are slow to make the change to online banking. Taylor said people also like to speak to a bank employee in person when seeking help and then be able to return and speak to the same person again if they should have follow-up questions. However, Taylor said he knows change is on the horizon.

ďItís only a matter of time before people get comfortable with online banking,Ē he said.


New technology

Waukesha State Bank has a proud local history. The business was started 71 years ago by Taylorís grandfather, who then passed the reins to Tyís father, Don. Ty Taylor took over as president of the company and has been working to keep the company successful during the Great Recession and significant technology changes.

New offices take shape behind a construction wall in the downtown headquarters of Waukesha State Bank. The more private offices will replace cubicles to help ensure the privacy of customer data. 
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

The EMV chips will be rolled out later this year at Waukesha State Bank and will provide additional security for customers. The Waukesha State Bank credit cards will have the EMV chips later this year and the debit cards will have them in early 2016.

ďThey add a strong level of security for in-person transactions,Ē he said.

Waukesha State Bank also offers Apple Pay with its bank card on compatible Apple devices, which it launched in mid-June. Taylor said he anticipates Google Wallet taking off in the next six months.

The tokenization technology used for Apple Pay and Google Wallet means the merchant never has access to a personís credit card number and is instead provided a unique number for that transaction.


Growing areas

Waukesha State Bank is observing growth in several areas, including with its Prairie Financial Group that provides wealth management and trust services. Started in the 1970s, the division underwent a rebranding a few years ago to better reflect its reach beyond the Waukesha area. In the past five years, Taylor said, Prairie Financial Groupís revenue is up 68 percent.

LED light fixtures are replacing the old fluorescent lights in the main office of Waukesha State Bank.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

Prairie Financial Group can help small business owners who are looking to retire and need to transfer their wealth. It also provides trust services for people with special needs and other trustee services.

ď(We) are the only community-based bank with that service in Waukesha County,Ē Taylor said.

Commercial lending has also grown for Waukesha State Bank.

Taylor said more emphasis has been placed on this service even though the demand for loans has been softer because of the importance for banks to offer loans. As a result, bankers like Taylor are keeping an eye on the record low interest rates. The low interest rates make margins more difficult for banks. A modest rise would be most beneficial for banks, Taylor said.


Local focus

At its core, Waukesha State Bank is a local institution. In 2014, the bank donated around $300,000 to about 200 different Waukesha County nonprofits and its employees spent many hours volunteering. The bank is also a regular participant in area events and is represented by its eagle mascot named Friendly.

A gold eagle statue has been moved above the front door of the Bank Street location as the branch undergoes its first major remodel since 1991. Taylor said basically the whole first floor will be remodeled, including the teller line being shortened and moved so itís back-to-back with the drive-thru teller windows to create efficiencies.

The community room will be moved to the corner of the building facing Riverfront Plaza and will be expanded. Access to the community room will also be from the main parking lot. While the downtown branch has historically had an open concept, Taylor said it will be tightened up to create an increased secure area.


Taylor shares early work experiences

Ty Taylor, president of Waukesha State Bank, said that if he hadnít followed his fatherís footsteps into banking, he would like to have been a missionary pilot flying around South America and Africa.

While Taylor does fly as a hobby, he got an early start in the financial industry by working as a teller at age 16. He also spent time working for a bank in Chicago while going to school and then for M&I Bank before returning to the bank his family started.

Also as a teenager, Taylor said, he performed some landscaping work for pay. He said he learned a lot while working during his teen years, especially about customer service that has proven helpful as he advanced in his career.

ďTo me, that is just huge. It makes you understand the world,Ē he said of working as a teenager.

Taylor said he recently read that fewer teens are working, which he thought might be related to their extracurricular activities. While playing sports does involve learning important life lessons, he said, they are not the same as working for a company. Taylor said if a person butchers a play in a game, life goes on, but there can be much more serious ramifications in the business world.

-Katherine Michalets, Freeman Staff