Community Banking Month: Spotlight on Horicon Bank

Happy Community Banking Month! We are happy to honor all community banks for their steadfast commitment and ongoing support to their customers and communities throughout the year. In the spirit of this special month, Grace Bruins, Marketing Officer at Horicon Bank, shares how Horicon Bank makes an impact and supports its communities. 

What are some of the ways Horicon Bank reaches out and helps its communities?

One thing we like to do is to encourage our different branches to get involved by researching the needs of our community and then finding a way to help. Sometimes that means partnering with other organizations or doing something ourselves. When we partner, we can work with organizations where we are not the experts but still have the opportunity to fill an important need, like supporting a domestic abuse shelter. And, since we have talented bankers who have interests in the community through other roles, such as board members or volunteers, we can support a local organization and our employees at the same time through community-based initiatives. Even taking a day with all our employees to build our culture inspired a board member, and former Green Bay Packer’s player, to put together a Packer’s basket to raffle off among employees. The employee who won the basket got to choose a local organization to receive the total of the raffle proceeds. We couldn’t believe the generosity of our employees—we were able to donate nearly $2000!

Another initiative our Horicon branch is supporting in April is a community baby pantry, which provides many necessary baby products for families in need. Our local Horicon team is working with various local groups to not only collect supplies, but also help gather monetary donations from the community—even matching donations up to $250.

Other bankers visit local classrooms and talk to the kids about what it means to save and spend money. They then have a better understanding of how to budget for a good start in financial fitness, and how important this is to set you up for a good future. 

Then, at one of our branches, there is an annual tour that was created for groups with some learning disabilities who need an understanding of finances as part of a life skills class. This year, our team gave them a tour of the areas of the bank to show, for instance, where you would open a checking account, and then discussed how to save money. It is really rewarding for our team to provide financial literacy for a group that may not have otherwise had access to it.

Did you do anything different last year, considering the high interest rates and inflation?

Since the economy was in such a different space, we wanted to think about how we add value to our customers’ lives, even if it isn’t the highest rate of a deposit account or the lowest rate on a loan. In other words, what else can we do to make sure that we are helping them to be financially stable in a more financially unstable economy? We prioritized educating customers, especially around things like fraud and cyber security, to keep them informed and safe. This helped to allay big concerns for many.

This year, we’re finding ways to collaborate with groups in our community to provide financial help right where those customers are. Right now, we’re working with a young professionals group to offer first-time home buyer tips so that they could ask banking experts any questions in a comfortable way. Reaching out and providing this type of information as a service in our community is important to us.

Can you share any new programs that you started based on a recently uncovered need in your community?

We recently realized the need to provide more education around estate planning and trust accounts. As bankers, well versed in how this works, we didn’t realize the questions that many customers had around when to set it up, how to set it up, what to think about in determining the allocation of funds, etc. We have a trust administration department so it was perfect for us to work with local attorneys to help people understand the elements of estate and trust planning. Some people may think they don’t have enough funds needed to set up a trust or are not sure how to do it without heirs. Just talking through all of those scenarios and helping them understand titling on accounts has helped many in our community.

Did Horicon Bank find any new ways to support business customers this past year, as it was a tough one for many businesses?

Yes. About 18 months ago, we created the “Banking on Business” podcast that is focused on small businesses. We bring in small business owners, entrepreneurs, or even someone who partners with small businesses to provide valuable information. For example, business owners can share their stories and talk about overcoming challenges and the resources that helped. This podcast has opened a lot of doors for Horicon Bank, since it provides education and help for the small business community. It has also helped connect our bankers to guests or friends of guests, which has widened our community. 

Also, we have started moving into bigger markets and have found unmet needs there for other types of businesses, such as nonprofits. We have been able to help them not only with their banking needs, but even things like marketing resources, since their budgets are so tight. In fact, we started to explore creating a special account that is more than just a transactional one. We are asking things like: do we offer them consultation for different treasury management products? Do we offer them the ability to talk to our marketing team if they need help with a brochure? We talked to a few nonprofits about this and they loved the idea. Having this partnership with businesses in our communities to help with those big challenges is really valuable.

We appreciate Grace Bruins for sharing these tremendous stories. Horicon Bank is clearly doing amazing work in its communities not just this month, but every month! And, thank you to all community banks for their ongoing outreach and important work in their communities!