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Bank on Wipfli to be your go-to source for need-to-know-now information that affects the financial institution industry. Have fun participating in conversations with our team while receiving ideas and tips to help you navigate your way through compliance, profit improvement, customer relationship management, technology security, capital, and strategic planning concerns, to name a few.

 

The Luck of the Irish

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Because my mother’s family has researched our family tree and traced our lineage back to Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day has always held special meaning to me. This year it was even more meaningful for my family. My husband recently took a DNA test to find out more about his ancestry and lineage, and the results of the test indicated that his heritage is mainly Irish as well. Growing up he had always been led to believe that he was of Scandinavian decent. I realize that I sound like a popular commercial when I say this, but knowing more about his heritage has changed my husband’s outlook on the present and the future. 
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Sunshine and Bunny Rabbits

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In 1973 Knox College’s newly hired math professor Dr. Dennis Schneider taught, among other classes, a first-year calculus class. Dr. Schneider stood at the front of the room, a piece of chalk in one hand to write on the blackboard and a filter-less Pall Mall cigarette in the other. I was always surprised that he never confused those two white tubular shapes and never put the chalk in his mouth. 

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Annual Checkup?

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Have you ever gotten the feeling you forgot something? Well, I have had that feeling for a few weeks now, and it finally hit me…I never scheduled my son’s annual checkup. I know the importance of my son’s annual checkup and the value it brings to his health now and in the future, not to mention the role annual checkups play in early detection of any health problems. 

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Dropping the Ball

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Was it really only two short months ago that the ball dropped at Times Square as we rang in the New Year? As we moved from the holiday season into January, many people went through that annual exercise of making New Year’s resolutions. Whether dealing with weight management and fitness or living a more balanced lifestyle, the common theme here is striving to be as good as we can be.
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The Real Cadbury Bunny

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When we were kids in Ipswich, England, my brother and I looked forward to the decadent Cadbury chocolates we enjoyed in the days leading up to Easter. We had Mum and Dad to thank for this, since the Easter Bunny is less commercialized in Britain than in the United States. Although not considered gourmet by any means, those Cadbury eggs and bunnies have always been special to me, perhaps a comforting reminder of home.
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I Need to Listen to My Own Words

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I recently went to lunch with a coworker, and she paid for her meal using her debit card. When we sat down at our table, she pulled out her cell phone, and when I asked what she was doing, she explained she was recording the purchase using an app on her cell phone. Hmmm…I am still using a checkbook register to record my debit card purchases. I’m the one who tells our clients how much the phrase, “I’ve always done it that way,” bothers me. And here I am still recording my checks and deposits and reconciling my monthly statements to my checkbook register because I’ve always done it that way!
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Quality Loan Review Personnel

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Last week I had a small reunion with two former coworkers from my very first banking job after graduating from college. It was great to catch up after 30 years! It was easy to laugh as we looked back at ourselves and how much we all had to learn. While the bank we all worked for had been acquired in the 1990s, one of my former colleagues is once again working in our original building, for a different institution, of course. What a wonderful coincidence! But of the original eight of us who started together in the formal credit training program, he was the only one who remained in commercial lending. 
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Frequent Flyer Status . . . and the Long Lost “L” Word!

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In addition to flying frequently as part of our extended Wipfli consulting footprint, my husband and I do as much traveling as we can, while we can. As frequent fliers on a major airline with a Minneapolis hub, the benefits we receive as a “preferred customer” with this airline have created loyalty on our behalf that would make it challenging for us to book with any other airline. I am sure the day will come when our travel is more limited and that status is diminished, but for now, the relationship is secure.  
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Freezing Rain in the Forecast

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I am sitting here this wintry evening as I write this blog, debating whether I should go home or stay at work for a while. You see, there is a storm coming, with snow or freezing rain forecasted. Would it be better if I stayed here until the salt trucks come out or try my luck now?
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Serving . . . Christmas Ham and Trump Taxes

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I generally fall into the “nonpolitical” category of people. I care about our state’s/country’s leadership, and I pay enough attention to vote, but I don’t want to discuss it—even with my husband! Given that, it is amazing to me how many Trump-related conversations I have had over the last month, both at work and at family holiday gatherings.  More

Is There a FastPass to HMDA?

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About a year ago, my husband and I decided to plan a trip to Disney World in Orlando, taking our four-year-old daughter. If you have ever been to a Disney Theme Park, you know that the cast, crew, and Imagineers offer wonderful opportunities for families to create lifetime memories. We don’t travel a lot, but we knew that to make the most of the Disney Experience, planning would involve much more than simply going online to make flight and hotel reservations.  More

Those Darn Millennials

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Because I am a financial statement auditor, my blogs tend to be accounting related, but for this blog, I have decided to step out of my comfort zone to talk about how people relate to each other. More

Financial Services and the Cloud

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When it comes to hosting applications and sensitive customer data on public clouds, a highly regulated industry such as financial services has every reason to think before it blinks. Data security is predictably the main reason financial services organizations seek to understand more.  

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Simple Pleasures, Goodie Bags, and Hidden Treasures

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One of the fondest memories I have of my father around the holidays is of him sitting in his favorite chair near the Christmas tree on Christmas morning. My father was a special person who saw joy in the simplest things. One of those simple pleasures was watching his six kids frantically opening presents. While we did not have much some years, many of the presents were lovingly handmade, which made each one a treasure to cherish. 

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Comfortable Routines

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My wife has a comfortable routine for balancing her checkbook that involves a cozy chair, a cup of coffee, and checking her ledger against the information provided by her bank’s telephone banking system. Despite the advantages of technology, I realize that some prefer a printed book to digital or the morning paper in their hands instead of on a tablet, so far be it from me to disrupt that.

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Too Bad GAAP Doesn’t Have a Two-Day Shipping Policy!

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Time is a funny thing. It often feels like you have a lot of time to prepare for the holidays, a vacation, or another special event, and then suddenly it’s here. That’s how I feel right now with less than 30 days to go before Christmas. I have managed to procrastinate the last 11 months and have yet to think of a single gift I’m going to buy.  More

Four Ways to Play Offense in 2017

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There’s an old saying that “defense wins championships.” As I reflect on some of the demographical changes within the banking industry, however, it occurs to me that reactive, slow, or defensive strategies will likely lead to the demise of many financial institutions. The business environment and customer expectations are changing at a pace never seen before. In fact, I believe that tomorrow’s winners in the financial services industry will excel at playing offense.

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Optimist, Pessimist, or Somewhere in the Middle?

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People are often classified as either an optimist or pessimist. I have found that when it comes to Accounting Standards Update No. 2016-13, Measurement of Credit Losses on Financial Instruments, better known as CECL (the Current Expected Credit Loss model), management of community institutions often falls into these two categories. The optimists believe there will be a carve-out of some sort that will exempt small institutions and allow them to use the “old model.” The pessimists believe their reserves will double and that an additional software package must be purchased just to comply with the standard. However, there is a third option:  somewhere in the middle. At this point, all institutions will be required to comply with CECL, but implementation is scalable. Implementation is set for 2020 for SEC institutions and 2021 for non-SEC institutions. So the big question is, “What, if anything, should I be doing now?”
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I Think I Am Officially OLD!

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During the World Series my husband and I stayed up late watching the games. Several things about the World Series made me feel old. First, it is oh-so-true that I am unable to stay up late and then get up six hours later. Next, almost all the players on the Cubs are younger than me, and the few over 35 are “close to retirement.” When did most professional athletes being younger than me happen? 
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Looking for a Few Good (Wo)men

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What an honor to be posting a blog on Veterans Day. Thank you to the men and women who serve and who have served in our military. Without your commitment and sacrifice, our freedom and our way of life in the United States wouldn’t be possible. 
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Team Up!

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I believe some of the greatest successes in life are achieved through passion, perseverance, and teamwork. Passion and perseverance are attributed to individualized characteristics that contribute to success, and the good ‘ole saying that became a common phrase in English, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” is what creates synergy through the power of teamwork.

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Trick . . . or Treat?

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A recent visit brought two-year-old Nola and her parents for the weekend. Our single-family home is somewhat larger than the condominium she is used to, and we don’t have any noise restrictions. That means freedom to a toddler. Nola quickly discovered that a favorite activity was to convince any willing family member to hide and then to pop out and yell “BOO!” when she approached. Every startling encounter produced squeals and laughter, and she simply couldn’t get enough of this game. If only all surprises were this delightful.  More

Aaron Rodgers and the FFIEC Cybersecurity Assessment

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Last year, the Packers started out with a 1-2 record after beginning the season as the odds-on favorite to win the NFC North. Panic spread throughout Packer Nation, with some suggesting that a call be made to Sumrall, Mississippi, to coax #4 out of retirement to once again lead the team. More

You’ve Got Mail . . . OH NO, IT’S FROM THE IRS!

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If you are anything like me, getting mail is a little like receiving a wrapped present: “What is it? What’s new today?!” As you flip through the stack of envelopes, you see one that looks official, and it’s from the IRS or a state taxing authority. Your initial excitement goes from anticipation to anxiousness. You open the envelope, and there it is . . . a dreaded tax notice. What are you going to do now? More

What Works?

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In 1670 when approximately 120 English settlers arrived at Charles Towne landing and established what would become the Carolina colony, the first order of business was to build a palisade to defend the settlers from possible hostility from Spanish forces or Native Americans in the region. This was before any crops were planted; this was before any housing was built. After the palisade was completed, the next step was experimentation to determine which crops would actually grow in the environment. And these were meant to be cash crops, crops that could be shipped back to England and sold for a profit. Rice was ultimately the choice. More

Are Your Internal Controls Working?

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Recently I was visiting an amusement park with my kids. The newest roller coaster had a line that was nearly two hours long. We were each given a numbered ticket upon entering the line. The amusement park had implemented a control to ensure there were no line jumpers. I loved it—even an amusement park was using internal controls!  More

Which Hat Are You Wearing?

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Whether literal or metaphorical, we all wear many hats. During the fall, these may include baseball or golf caps, gardening/yard work hats, and bike or football helmets. In our financial institutions, we wear many hats as well. Sometimes the hats change by the week, the day, or the situation in which we find ourselves at any given moment. More

The Circle of Life

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I recently experienced the loss of my father, a loss many of you have felt, so you know the hollowness it leaves in your stomach.  He was a great dad, grandfather, and mentor—and a pretty darn good Irishman to boot!  As much as that was a tremendous loss to all of us, it was a great day for him because he was truly just a semblance of his former self, a man who had been emaciated from illness.  Within a very short time, however, I learned that one of my children and his wife would usher yet another grandchild into our lives, and the feeling of loss was almost immediately overwhelmed by joy.  I knew my father would be smiling from his resting place, albeit with a bit of a smirk knowing that we would soon have 10 little ones running around and bringing us madness and joy at the same time.  
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Teaching New Tricks to Old Dogs

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We have all heard the timeless phrase, “You can’t teach an old dog a new trick!” Popular wisdom has it that the older we get, the harder it is for us to change our habits or acquire new skills. A lot of us are probably guilty of being hesitant or even somewhat resistant toward changing how we do things in our daily work and personal lives, especially when we have been doing it the same way for a long time. More

Doing CIP on Jason Bourne

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Movie goers have been entertained this summer with the next chapter in the saga of Jason Bourne. This popular spy thriller takes us to exotic places around the world, keeping us enthralled as good guys and villains alike scale walls and dodge traffic in their relentless pursuits. Escapades, illusions, and deceptions are not the exception, but the norm. More

Whose Language Are You Speaking?

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If you have ever taken a course in public speaking, you likely heard the instructor emphasize tailoring your speech to the audience you are addressing. This guidance is also fundamental in our day-to-day communications with one another. Let me share my story as an example.  More

Did I Really Learn All I Need to Know in Kindergarten?

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While the wildly popular quick read about what we learn in kindergarten offers sage advice for nearly everyone, there is a lesser-known book that offers insights on a methodology that may serve you equally well! Another short book (103 pages), it is titled Everything I Know About Lean I Learned in First Grade, and the author is Robert O. Martichenko.

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Individuality

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I grew up in a large family in a small town in Iowa.  With eight kids coming from the same gene pool and the same parenting, it really is amazing how different we all turned out in many ways—career choices, educational achievements, political views, and family dynamics, to name a few.  To say we turned out to be a diverse group would be an understatement!
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A Tradition Unlike Any Other

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If you are like most Americans, I am sure you and your family have some traditions that have stood the test of time, doing the same thing year after year, with little change.  Holiday meals, family vacations at the same resort, Mother’s Day brunch, Father’s Day golf, or watching the Fourth of July fireworks from the same location are examples.  Traditions are easy, comfortable.
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What’s the Risk?

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As a kid at heart, I enjoy trying new experiences, often pushing my comfort zone. Whether zip lining in the trees, jumping a snowmobile over frozen snowdrifts, or exploring on ATVs through mountains, I believed there was minimal risk, except perhaps a minor cut or bruise to me and a ding or two to the equipment. And yes, I’ve survived these events with no injuries or damage. I felt in control of my risks, but in retrospect, this was pure luck, since I didn’t truly even understand all my risks.

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There Is No Time Like the Present

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About a month ago we experienced a tragedy at Wipfli.  One of our associates saw two girls who were struggling in the waters of Lake Superior and jumped in to save them.  Luckily, one of the girls survived, but our associate and the other girl did not.  This not only impacted many people here at Wipfli, but had a very personal impact on me, as well, because Justin (our associate) was engaged to my niece Suzy.  To make the story sadder, he was at the lake taking a break from finalizing wedding plans with Suzy.
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Winning the Lottery—Unclaimed Property

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We all dream of winning the lottery. My hopes of winning “big” are often crushed by a friend or family member screeching in delight as they realize they have a winning ticket. A friend recently introduced me to a free website that she claimed can produce the emotional exhilaration of winning the jackpot. This website turned out to be a free search for unclaimed property. It works by combining the databases of many states so people can search for unclaimed property from those states.

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Taking Time to Understand

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I’m privileged to work with a number of financial institutions that are regularly voted as top places to work. Usually, these institutions have developed a culture in which employees aren’t simply trying to be friendly with one another, but are actually taking the time to understand their coworkers and their objectives. Not surprisingly, these institutions often are the most efficient, because the entire team is mindful of how their actions impact the jobs of those they work with.

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Once a Year

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I am from a very small town in North Dakota, and it is still my favorite place to be on the 4th of July. The population triples, and there is more going on during that week than during the rest of the year altogether. There are street dances, a demolition derby, and school/family reunions. Everyone walks to the main street to watch the parade that morning, and then they drive 10 miles to watch the exact same parade again in our neighboring town. Family barbeques are an expectation, and no one misses the fireworks in the park that night.

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Back to Basics

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Like many people today, I wear a Fitbit to remind me to keep moving.  As Fitbit technology has advanced, not only does it suggest that you take 10,000 steps in one day, it now suggests that 250 steps per hour should be taken between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m.  At 10 minutes before the hour, my Fitbit will vibrate and remind me if I have not yet reached 250 steps for the hour.  This periodic reminder will often cause me to stand up and take a stroll.  But the concept is still the same, right?  You can’t remain idle.  
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When Things Aren’t Second Nature

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Are there things you do naturally, simply because you have done them so many times before? I am an avid outdoorsman, and for the past 25 years, with friends and family in tow, I have taken a June fishing trip to Lake of the Woods. Since our group has taken this trip so many times, we know exactly how to prepare to ensure our adventure is successful, fun-filled, and most important, without incident. The trip and planning are now second nature to us. When things aren’t second nature, though, the end result can be drastically different!

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Why take the risk?

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I do (or try to do) a lot of bow hunting for deer. As many of you know, most bow hunters hunt from a tree stand. Over the course of the 40 years or so I have been hunting, I have been fortunate in that I have not had a fall out of the tree. I read a statistic somewhere recently that about 40% of hunters who hunt from tree stands will have a fall at some time, with some of these resulting in serious injury or even death!

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Commencement Advice

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It is graduation season and time for commencement speeches. If you’re like me, you smile at the choices of celebrities various institutions invite to share advice and wisdom with new graduates. Having three children and many nieces and nephews, I’ve listened to my share of speeches. I’ll also admit that I’ve watched a few on YouTube. Graduates of recent years represent the new generation of workers entering the workforce looking to make their mark in the world and start new careers.

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Learning the ABCs

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I enjoy spending quiet time with my granddaughter, who is three and very energetic.  Since she does not take naps, she has an hour of quiet time after lunch, which is spent on activities such as reading, coloring, or playing learning games on her iPad.  Recently, we read some books that are helping her learn her ABCs.
 
Learning the ABCs of banking regulations is also a process, not only for those who are new to the industry, but also for those of us who have been in this business for a long time.  
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Over 200 Channels, but There Is Nothing I Want to Watch . . .

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Now that tax season is done, I have more time to watch TV, but there seems to be nothing I want to watch. I’m pretty sure I have watched all the “Law & Order” episodes and classy reality shows. With access to over 200 channels, you would think there would be something new I would want to watch. Nope!

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Batter Up!

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I am a lifelong, loyal fan of the Chicago Cubs. This is said with all due respect to Chicago’s South Siders and other baseball fans from coast to coast who support many great teams. For most Cubs fans, hearing about the curse of the goat and “wait ‘til next year” are so normal, it’s easy to just shrug off such banter. Discussions about rebuilding have been taking place for years, but we still haven’t made it to the World Series. Completely Useless By September (CUBS). Yeah, we know. And so it goes.

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Why Do Chickens Sit on Their Eggs? (And Other Basic Questions)

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My six-year-old grandson loves to tell us jokes when we Skype with him. A recent question was, “Why do chickens sit on their eggs?” I’ll let you ponder that for a moment, but this type of question from him reminds me that we can easily overlook the most basic questions because they become so routine that we never stop to really think about them.

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Tax Day Is Behind Us … What’s Next?

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April 15 (or this year, April 18) is a big day for many people, including a number of public accountants. It seems, though, that some people believe we don’t have much to do for the rest of the year, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes, we put in a lot of time and effort to get all of the tax returns filed, but some of our best and most exciting work comes after Tax Day is over.

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Who Can We Trust?

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The financial services industry requires that we rely on many different people, businesses, agencies, and other various entities.  Think of the trust you place in your employees and how strong your organization is as a result.  You rely on your vendors to deliver the results they promise.  You rely on your customers and members to use your products and services appropriately.  What would happen if there were trust issues with any of these groups?
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Thank You for Your Service

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Sunday Morning is a CBS staple on the viewing schedule for many households. Recently this American newsmagazine television program featured a story about Myles Eckert, who was eight years old when he made headlines in 2014 by gifting a stranger, fellow patron Lt. Col. Frank Dailey, at a restaurant in Ohio with the $20 bill he had just found in the parking lot. As a Gold Star kid, seeing a man in uniform reminded him of his dad, and he wanted to pay it forward. So he wrapped the $20 inside a note saying his dad had been a soldier and thanking Lt. Col. Dailey for his service. But the story doesn’t end there.

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Who Will Govern?

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Whether we observe actively or passively at this point, the 2016 presidential election has already surpassed a virtual reality show for a portion of the U.S. population and perhaps for the world. We are pummeled daily with analysis and coverage that becomes increasingly dramatic and at times overly stimulating and that just may be unprecedented. Masses of our population demonstrate a need or desire for change from “status quo.” The younger generation is finding and using their voice to unsettle what some would call tradition and traditional norms. And so we are left with the as yet unanswered question, “Who ultimately will govern?”

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Get the Team on Board!

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I flew home from Chicago and was lucky enough to sit in a row with a side exit door. With that seat came LOTS of leg room and a great window view, but it also presented more than just a comfortable ride home; I had responsibilities and a decision to make! Was I willing to spend a few extra moments reading the airplane map and instruction card located conveniently in the seat pocket to my front left? Was I capable of being a leader and taking action if my fellow fliers needed me?

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Blockchain – Friend or Foe?

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I recently attended a summit dedicated to the topic of blockchain technology. Prior to attending, I had heard of blockchain but didn’t really know what it was all about. While some of the summit was a bit Pollyanna-ish, it broadened my perspective to blockchain’s potential applications. Let me share some of my takeaways and try to open your mind to the potential applications of this technology.
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Parking Spaces and Risk Management

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Looking back, 2015 was an eventful year for me and my family, with the most important and exciting thing being my daughter’s wedding. I remember the planning started nearly a year in advance. Anyone who has been through this knows how complex the issues, processes, and procedures can become. Check, double check, and plan for every possible scenario to ensure everything is perfect. You would think with that much time to plan and attention to detail, nothing could go wrong, but when the big day comes, of course, it does.

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Heads or Tails?

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My best friends and I are planning to celebrate one of those milestone birthdays this year with a weekend in Las Vegas. It sure would be fun to win a little cash at the casinos, so it’s a good thing I recently heard about the Gambler’s Fallacy. I’m hoping it will reduce my risk of losing everything in the first five minutes.

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What’s in a Word?

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I have been writing and speaking a lot recently about organizational “culture.” It seems to be a topic that has reemerged as a business priority, and for very good reason. The forces shaping our internal and external workplaces today are having a profound impact on the definition of financial institution. The changes we are experiencing in our political, social, and economic environments, as well as changes in workforce demographics and technology, are astounding. But sometimes a word can be overused, to the point that it loses its meaning and impact. I’m afraid that culture is becoming one of those words.

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Patience and a Plan

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Living in a house with a family of six, soon to be seven, things can easily become chaotic, especially if you know the kids (ages 8, 4, and 2-year-old twins). Certain tasks such as laundry and picking stuff up need to be done . . . EVERY . . . SINGLE . . . DAY. The kids are not yet at that age when we can count on them to help with these and other chores, but we try to reign them in to this responsibility. I remember the simpler days (before kids) when it was just my wife and me and it was easy to maintain the household.

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Strategic Sledding

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Recently after one of our Minnesota winter snowstorms, we built a snow slide in our backyard for our grandchildren to go sledding on. It took some effort to smooth out the slide and create an unobstructed path that avoided potential collisions with poles for our bird feeders. However, after a few trial runs and corrections to the banked sides, the ride from top to bottom became smooth sledding!

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Dog With A (Fiduciary Audit) Blog

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I am the proud “grandma” of an adorable, high-energy Siberian husky named Shasta. Huskies are clever, and you have to maintain a high level of consistent training. They also think they are the “alpha.” My daughter Dana, Shasta’s dog “mom,” is an awesome trainer and is clearly the alpha in the relationship. Shasta likes to test that, but Dana rules with a firm and loving hand. Grandma . . . not so much. It is really easy to let things slide here and there. So maybe Shasta gets to lick my hands after I eat a hamburger, or maybe I don’t make her sit before she goes out. No big deal, right? But it actually is.

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Super Bowl Sunday: The Ultimate in Strategic Planning

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Super Bowl Sunday has become an American ritual of football, innovative advertising, halftime entertainment, and a wide array of chips/dip and other decadent offerings. Each year, we invite friends and family to our home to enjoy this annual last hurrah for the football season while we cheer our favorite team and give a thumbs up or thumbs down to each new commercial that cost its sponsor big bucks.

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The HMDA Treadmill

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The New Year for 2016 has come and gone. We’re far enough into January that those well-intended resolutions about getting more exercise and avoiding junk food might have been pushed to the back burner. We all want to do things right, but given our schedules and juggling of multiple priorities it’s easier said than done. Plus, for many who consider the treadmill as their go-to equipment for working out, let’s face it: A basic treadmill workout might be downright boring.

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Time to Pay Your Property Taxes

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At the end of December, I made my annual trip to the treasurer’s office to pay my property taxes. Over the past few weeks, I have had contacts from a handful of clients about their property taxes increasing over last year. Unfortunately, by the time you receive the tax bill, there generally are limited or no opportunities to contest the assessed values and corresponding tax amount due.

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Groceries, Leftovers, and Ziploc Freezer Bags

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Each of your team may have a different view on managing resources and taking risks.

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Which season are we in?

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Anyone who lives in the Midwest knows there really are only two seasons: winter and road construction season. What does that have to do with banking? In short, the banking industry now has been asked to help foot the new transportation bill.

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Mrs. Gump Had It Wrong

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Imagine it’s the 1950s and you are a kid living in Greenbow, Alabama. Your name is Forrest Gump, and your best friend is a beautiful girl named Jenny. In the years ahead, you will be exposed to Elvis Presley’s dance moves, the Hippie Movement, war in Vietnam, Watergate, ping pong, smiley faces, and much more! Life is going to bring you a lot of twists and turns, but it’s okay because your mama always told you, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”
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Lifetime Relationships: Going Beyond the Ordinary

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I was recently in one of our Minnesota offices to visit a prospect. It was a beautiful, sunny, and unseasonably warm day, picture perfect. Regular visits to the many Wipfli offices afford me opportunities to get to know associates and clients around the firm. While each office has its unique charms and traits, one characteristic rings true and consistent among them and that is the Wipfli Way. 

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Do Bankers Still have Short-term Memories?

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Whether young, old, or somewhere in the middle, there are times when our minds, specifically our memories, can play tricks on us. I think a lot of us naturally try to remove “bad” memories from our minds. We want to remember the good experiences and relationships we have in our lives and tend to “blot out” the not so good.
 
As a former community banker, I would like to forget about the collapse of the real estate market beginning in 2006 and extending to 2010 and beyond in some areas of the country. No one could have imagined or predicted the decline in real estate value and the ripple effects on property owners, banks, and communities as a whole.
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Anticipation

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We have all been waiting in anticipation for FASB to issue the final accounting standard on measuring impairment of financial instruments, which includes the Current Expected Credit Loss (CECL) model as well as the new lease project.

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Let’s Be Clear: I Don’t Do Upholstery!

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My mom and I enjoyed spending time together in search of unwanted, forgotten, or abandoned furniture. We loved going to auctions and estate sales and, on occasion, pulling over alongside a rural road to claim unwanted treasures covered by dust, marred by dings and scratches, and some even broken to the point of being a challenging puzzle to reconstruct. Together, we revitalized these gems with a careful hand, stain and varnish remover, a bit of glue, sandpaper, and stain and varnish. The results: unique, one-of-a-kind pieces of hardwood furniture beauty that grace my home and warm my heart. But let’s be clear: I don’t do upholstery! For that, I rely on upholstery experts.
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I Spy!

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Little do my children realize at their tender ages that the skills they are learning now will ultimately transfer to their success as adults, in both personal and professional endeavors. Little did I know when I was younger that similar learning processes in various classes I took would teach me valuable skills I now use on a regular basis as a compliance professional.

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Gratitude

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Some friends and I were on our way to lunch and noticed that barely a week after Halloween, the Christmas decorations were up. One friend commented that if she were a holiday, she wouldn’t want to be Thanksgiving because it gets crowded out and decorations go straight from Halloween to Christmas.

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Four ways to be a great team member

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As I reflect on some recent employee engagement projects with clients in various areas of the country, it occurs to me that a few themes have arisen related to being a great team member. As we anticipate the beginning of a new year, it’s always a good idea to reexamine our personal and collective goals. Here are four ways to be a great team member within any organization.

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Government Reporting: Why can’t we pick and choose?

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I have become a bit of a political junkie in the last few years. I find it interesting to follow politics and engage in conversation about some of the things going on in the United States as well as the world. It is particularly interesting how things get reported by the government, which in my opinion is most often portrayed to make things look as positive as possible. One particular example is the unemployment statistics. In the last few years, the statistic has been changed to reflect a better outlook.

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Planning for Change

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I have been on a heavy travel rotation lately. While that involves many hours on the road, this time has been peaceful as well as an opportunity to reflect on various aspects of my line of work. One inevitable constant in compliance is change, and my work involves helping those in the financial services industry be proactive in their reactions to change.

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Trying to Do It All

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I don’t know about you, but it seems like the world is moving much faster than it used to…both personally and professionally. There is always so much to get done and so little time to do it. I can remember changing the oil in my own car, mowing my own lawn, and shoveling my own driveway. But as my time becomes more and more precious, I have learned I just cannot do it all myself anymore. I now have the professionals change the oil in my car. I hired someone to mow my lawn and to keep the snow off my drive (that nasty stuff will be here before we know it). So on evenings or weekends, I can do something I really want or need to do. I have also learned these service providers can detect major issues that I never would have caught with my limited experience. Do I miss mowing my lawn on a nice summer evening?

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Changing Times With the Change of Seasons

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This year is going fast, summer has come and gone, and fall is now here. Fall is my favorite time of year because I enjoy the cooler temperatures, the leaves changing colors, the start of football, and watching baseball playoffs. It’s also a stressful time of year with so many house projects to have completed before winter, which is now right around the corner. I am concerned that I haven’t properly planned these house projects, and I worry I may need to delay them until next year.

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Tax Law Used for Economic Stimulus?

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Many, many moons ago, when I took my first advanced income tax training, I was told to think of tax law changes as economic stimulus (or de-stimulus) packages, just hidden in the tax law. I remember during President Ronald Reagan’s term (yes, I was practicing during the term of our greatest president), as the country faced a significant economic downturn, that the depreciable life of buildings and their components was lowered to 15 years. For those of us used to having to depreciate buildings over 45-60 years, this was an incredible change. Combined with other economic incentives at that time, this change had its desired effect as new construction boomed and helped lift us out of those economically dire times. Later, as cities became overbuilt and a glut of real estate was on the market, the lives were raised in an attempt to slow new construction.

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Be an Offensive Defenseman

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I am a huge hockey fan. My son played hockey for about 13 years, and I was his biggest fan. I would cheer for him loudly, much to his chagrin. In high school, the coaches asked him to play in the defenseman position versus the center position he had played most of his hockey career. It was a huge transition, and my cheer for some time was “Behind you!” because he would be closer to the opponent’s net trying to score than back at the blue line protecting the zone. As time wore on, I no longer yelled that command to my son, which made him less chagrined. 
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That Annual Fitness Assessment

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Every year at our firm we have a terrific benefit of a robust health/fitness assessment. It is actually quite comprehensive, and the report includes color-coded benchmarking to prior years, along with a “dashboard” of areas that have improved and areas that need attention, if any. When I secure the appointed date on my calendar several months in advance of the actual assessment, it forces me to get “really serious” (or more serious?) …or just “ kind of serious”…about making sure I am paying attention to key goals, including what for me is evasive exercise!
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Refresh Your Tax Strategy

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Real estate is still an investment that is worth fixing rather than discarding or trading off.

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While Waiting for CECL…

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Well, it is officially the fourth quarter now, and there is still no word from the FASB on the final CECL standard or implementation time frame. While I am sure we are all eagerly awaiting the standard’s arrival and preparing internally for its significant impact on our industry, it is important to not overlook our existing ALLL calculations or methodology.

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Bafflegab

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Should it come as a surprise to anyone that the word “bafflegab” strikes me as a very befitting description of our compliance world?

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Summer Road Trip

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Before we went on our summer road trip, I found myself being stressed out by how it was all going to go. For me, an engineer-turned-banker, the number of variables seemed almost overwhelming. So we created a vision.

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Barns

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Looking at the barns’ conditions today, was the investment of time and money to paint the barns worthwhile? Did the traditions mean that one group thought more of preserving the usefulness of their investment by painting the wood?

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Having the Right People in Your Corner

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Like having the right people by my side during my pregnancy, it is essential to have the support of your tax professionals by knowing they are just a phone call away. There are numerous situations when it is important to have someone you can trust help you work through tax uncertainties.

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Identifying and Investing in Younger Talent

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Just as the Cubs organization has identified emerging younger talent that it hopes to develop and groom into the next generation of perennial All-Stars in the years to come, many financial institutions are also seeking to develop, mentor, and transition the key individuals they have identified as the next generation of successful banking leaders.

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The NEW FFIEC Cybersecurity Assessment Tool: Like an Almost-Right Christmas Present

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On June 30, the FFIEC unveiled their Cybersecurity Assessment Tool. There are many things to like about what they have put together. There were a few things that were a bit of a disappointment, however.

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Good Tax Planning

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Just as planning is essential to make my daughter’s wedding day the celebration of her dreams, effective planning for major events at your institution can also be crucial.

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My Top 10 List

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Just as late night TV has seen its share of change, community banking is undergoing significant changes in talent and leadership. Successfully moving forward through change requires that we adapt and draw insights from others around us with as much knowledge and experience as we can gather.

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Mitigating Professional Fees

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Although increasing costs are a common theme in my family and in financial institutions, the good news is that a financial institution has ways to control its expenses. I honestly believe most financial institutions can better control their professional fees and expenses and still mitigate their risks to low levels while satisfying regulator expectations.

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Making Sure You Are Getting It Right

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I think our family situation is a lot like what I am seeing in the banking industry these days.

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Mitigating Risk Through Proper Planning

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Similar to preparing for summer outings with a toddler, putting in some time to realize the importance of the small things and properly plan for risks is important.

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To Sell or Not to Sell

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Pondering future retirement the other day made me think of how it relates to the banking industry and the clients I’ve discussed that with over the years. As bank owners, executives, and other stockholders are aging, many are thinking about the liquidity of their stock and how and when, or even if, to convert that valuable investment to cash or other forms of income-producing assets.

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Customer Expectations

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The examiners and constantly changing regulatory requirements have made sure a banker’s world isn’t boring. However, a banker’s audience is customers, who value service and benefits, as well as shareholders, who want to see growth.

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What if the NCAA adopted CECL?

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Many financial institutions are contemplating the impact of the FASB’s project for financial instrument impairment. This project is anticipated to create a new Current Expected Credit Losses (CECL) model, which would require a significant shift in how institutions evaluate the allowance for loan losses. Under current accounting standards, the required allowance is estimated using an incurred loss model, whereby losses aren’t recognized until they are probable. The CECL model will require losses to be recorded immediately for all contractual cash flows not expected to be collected.

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The “Main Thing”

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The other day, I was asked my opinion on what separates winners from losers in today’s banking environment. Without hesitation, I responded that the winners are focused on the “main thing.”

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Doveryai, no Proveryai

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Before President Ronald Reagan entered into arms control negotiations with Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev in the 1980s, he was advised that Russians like to talk in proverbs. As a former actor with a knack for subtle showmanship, he decided to adopt “Doveryai, no Proveryai” as his signature phrase, and in practiced but stilted Russian he used it repeatedly. Doveryai, no Proveryai. Little did President Reagan anticipate that 30 years later, people in other walks of life would be familiar with this phrase, not to mention how helpful its message would be. Trust but verify.

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What do you do after tax season is over?

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A common question I get is, “What do you do after tax season is over?” My first response is, “I get my Harley out of storage.” I have already put over 300 miles on it in the last three weeks. The second response is, “Tax season is never really over.” You should be considering your tax situation throughout the year because taxes impact your everyday operations.

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Skills When You Need Them

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Being from Wisconsin, I have been a Packers fan my entire life. I think I have finally recovered from the Packers’ epic playoff loss to the Seahawks last season, though maybe I have not fully forgiven Brandon Bostick for muffing the onside kick at the end of the game! Given the Packers’ record in recent years, few people could say the Packers’ process of drafting young talent and developing it internally rather than relying on the free agent market hasn’t worked. When selecting players for the team, management needs to consider not only the players’ raw talent, but also their personality and how they will fit in with the team. Some players such as Chad Johnson (a/k/a Ochocinco) and Terrell Owens may have a lot of talent and be fun to watch, but do you really want to work with them?

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Priorities

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As the years pass by (yes, that means I am getting older), I find myself frequently thinking about priorities, especially the important personal priorities. I enjoy, more than ever, quality family time, memories with friends, church activities, traveling with my husband, and time with our children and grandchildren. People often talk about how children can change your priorities. These days I would argue that grandchildren really change your priorities!

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Friendship and Trust

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Throughout my life’s journey, I have been fortunate to develop friendships with people of differing social, religious, racial, and economic backgrounds. Often these friendships originate from commonalities such as children, sports teams, volunteer activities, or places of employment. While the perceived strength of these relationships may ebb and flow as children grow, our interests change, or a multitude of other events occur, each has played a part in shaping me into the person I am today. Even some relationships that are acquaintance-like in nature and perhaps based on one of life’s brief encounters, with the person never to be seen or heard from again, have played a part in creating memories that surface on occasion.

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Cannon

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Not many people can honestly say they own a cannon, but those of us who do own a cannon found it convenient to learn how to safely operate one. And we learned how to transport one, which meant we learned how to pull a trailer behind our vehicle.

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Deepen your personal relationships

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Originally I was reluctant to burden others with the tragedy occurring in our family, but as I have opened up over the past few weeks, I have been amazed by the support and the sharing of similar experiences of others. The conversations have deepened my relationship with them.

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Checking the Pulse

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The snow is melting, temperatures are getting warmer, and other signs of spring are upon us. This time of year is when the nature lover in me looks forward to putting on those garden gloves, digging in the dirt, planting, nurturing, and ultimately enjoying the fruits of my labor.

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Lending on Pink Houses

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When John Mellencamp wrote “Pink Houses” in 1983, it might have been about the uniformity and mediocrity of middle-class American suburban life. His lyrics include mention of winners and losers, Interstates running through the front yard, people working in high rises, and vacationing down at the Gulf of Mexico. Chances are fair lending wasn’t on his mind when this classic rock song was written.

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Technology Efficiency

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I’ve been doing quite a bit of traveling lately, for client work and to see our son and his wife in San Francisco. It gave me a renewed sense of appreciation for the convenience of technology. GPS to help me get where I am going, checking in for flights, alarms to wake up by, and all the while being able to check e-mail, text, and voice mail. While sometimes it’s great to unplug and disconnect from all the devices, when you need it, the convenience of technology is irreplaceable. This got me thinking about the importance of technology to our community banking clients in terms of efficiency, delivery of products and services, tracking results for sales goals, profitability, and feedback from clients.

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Risk Is Everywhere—Even in Woodworking

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For those who live in the Chicago metro area, winter offers an opportunity to focus on indoor hobbies. A favorite of mine is spending time in my woodworking shop. My father, my brother, my two grandfathers, and their fathers all worked with wood. From building barns and homes to custom cabinetry and specialty wooden pieces, it’s in our family blood. Admittedly, working in the bank regulatory consulting arena offers little discretionary time to build outside structures. That was part of my earlier life, and now my woodworking remains within the confines of my basement.

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Beware the Ides of March

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As the Ides of March approaches, the seers of Wall Street are prognosticating that the Federal Reserve may soon begin to increase short-term interest rates. While I wish that I could accurately predict what future interest rates will be, unfortunately I can’t, nor can most of us. What I hope is that the absolute level of interest rates will rise and the yield curve will steepen, since that usually means financial institutions’ net interest income and net interest margins rise. Hope, unfortunately, is not a winning strategy. In reality, my hope will be buffeted by changes in timing, volatility in interest rates, and other factors.

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Customer 3.0

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I fall into the tail end of the “baby boomer” generation. The first 18 years of my life, I somehow survived without ever using a computer. Even now with all the electronic banking technologies, I still enjoy going to my hometown bank. It’s located in a rural community, and I get to visit with the staff and other customers. Many of them I have known my entire life. (My ancestors arrived at the area in the 1860s.) We discuss our families, local sports teams, and other current events. And they serve free popcorn on Fridays!

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Accountability

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A word so easily said. A concept so easily agreed to in theory. A culture readily desired. Yet in reality, accountability—the obligation of an individual or organization to account for its behaviors and actions, accept responsibility for them, and disclose the results in a transparent manner—is one of the most difficult and challenging responsibilities of leadership.

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The Death of Branch Banking?

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I recently caught the Metra train home from Chicago after a client meeting. For those not familiar with the Chicago commuting way of life, many trains are now equipped with “quiet cars” during rush hour, which means no cell phone, no kids and only hushed conversation. Even though I’m quiet by nature, I try to avoid such cars since I am usually the one called out by fellow commuters for rustling my newspaper too loud or unwrapping my Brach’s caramel at decibel levels too high for this low-noise crowd. All the cars were full, and I was haplessly stuck in the quiet car for two hours.

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The Buck Stops Here

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The phrase “The Buck Stops Here” came to mind recently with the controversy surrounding the New England Patriots and the “Deflate-Gate” issue concerning violations of rules and regulations of the National Football League before and during a playoff game against the Indianapolis Colts. The New England Patriots’ corporate and team leadership did not demonstrate the level of competency that we typically expect from our leaders. Several franchise leaders including the owner, head coach, and starting quarterback stood in front of the nation’s press and denied any responsibility for or even basic understanding of the process associated with preparing and certifying footballs on the day of the game. Their explanations became the source for comedy routines on late night television. This was not their first violation, since they were also fined in 2007 for violating league rules. The whole episode diminished the stature of a great franchise during what was perhaps our most significant professional sports athletic event this year.

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’15 Terrorist Risk

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In ’15, a terrorist cell is made up of people from another country that is not in a declared war with the United States. The foreign government explicitly supports the terrorists with funding that is smuggled into the United States. Most of it is cash carried in luggage and then entered into the financial system once the carrier arrives. Some of the funds are used to organize a new labor union, which after organizing goes on strike and shuts down a vital transportation mode.  
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Change: The New Impairment Model

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“The only thing that is permanent is change.” —Heraclitus
 
Recently, I was reflecting on some of the “big” changes that have happened in my life. I don’t remember much of my first day of kindergarten, but I do remember I was PETRIFIED! Some kids embraced the new experience with great excitement, but I cried for much of that first day. I don’t really know why, but this particular change in my routine was extremely uncomfortable and I didn’t know what to do. There have been other significant changes in my life, each resulting in personal anxiety to some extent – the first day of college, our first house (do you remember all the papers you have to sign?!), a move for work to another city, etc.  (I am happy to say I didn’t cry after any of these changes!)
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Putting Things in Perspective

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As a Minnesota resident, I have to admit . . . winter is my least favorite season! The below-zero temperatures, harsh windchill, and massive snowfalls conjure up images of the early Inuit people, despite a latitude only halfway to the North Pole.

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Strategic Planning for the Future

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The new year is often an excuse to change habits or plot a new course. In our personal lives, this can often mean making edicts such as “exercise more” or “spend more time with family.” Alas, these things are easier said than done. Gyms often offer great deals for new clients to sign up in January because they know that people have made the decision to change, but sadly, in a few weeks only a fraction of them will have actually changed.

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What’s Your New Year’s Resolution?

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While not officially a “New Year’s Resolution,” the IRS has a resolution that is new! In October they issued a directive to IRS agents that is extremely favorable to banks! The implications of the directive should mean IRS auditors will spend a lot less time auditing bad debt charge-offs, which should make bank IRS exams less time consuming and eliminate adjustments in this area.

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Hitting the Nail on the Head When It Comes to Compliance Management Systems

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The house I live in is 41 years old. It has been my home since I married my husband 27 years ago. My family has been well-served by this home; it has put a roof over our heads, kept us warm, and provided a solid base to come back to and regroup every day. As a carpenter, my husband has been able to add/update/remodel whatever we wanted along the way. He also does a wonderful job of ensuring all the foundational components of our home receive the TLC they need to continue to serve our needs. It boils down to planning, monitoring, using quality materials, and maintaining a high standard of workmanship. It’s not rocket science. It’s more about finding the right nail and then hitting that nail on the head.

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Holiday Season

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The holidays are always a special time in our home and one of the few times throughout the year that all three of our children, as well as extended family, are home at the same time. With one in college over three hours away and one in medical school in Washington D.C., we don’t often enjoy that luxury. We are fortunate that our oldest, now graduated and working, lives near. Even with children scattered, we still enjoy many of the traditions we established when they were little, like decorating the tree together, albeit at Thanksgiving since they are all home, as well as baking cookies and Friday shopping, although that has now gone to mostly online from our living room!

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Christmas Checks

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As Christmas is fast approaching, my 88-year-old father called me to see what my sons, his first two grandsons, would want for Christmas. In the past, he and his buddies would drive up to Chicago from my hometown downstate about 100 miles and shop on Michigan Avenue. Sadly, some of his long-time buddies are no longer with us, but now the sons of his best friends will gladly drive my dad to Brooks Brothers or Macy’s just to continue the tradition. Inevitably, he comes back with nice leather gloves or a scarf for the grandsons, not enough he says, but he will supplement that on Christmas morning.

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The Gift

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I was recently talking with a colleague about why so many financial institutions don’t do succession planning. After all, the process has been around a long time, and many tools exist to support it. I like talking with this person because she has great insights and experiences that always influence my perspective. Her first thought was “time.” The everyday demands seem to impact many choices of “must do” versus “should do.” And unfortunately, succession planning has often been viewed as a “should do,” at least until it becomes a “must do.”

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Giving Thanks

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Yesterday was Thanksgiving, and for a few hours before the frenzy of Black Friday kicked in, most of us paused from our hectic schedules to gather with family and friends. Perhaps we enjoyed feasting on traditional American fare such as turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, and pumpkin pie. Holiday parades and NFL games provided plenty of entertainment for the couch potato set. Weather permitting, an outdoor walk or a friendly family game of football was enjoyed by others.

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Shine a light on fraud

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Happy Fraud Week! Fraud is a significant threat to organizations, and the losses from fraudulent activity are staggering—projected to be nearly $3.7 trillion globally. In the financial world, you don’t have to go far to find examples of recent fraudulent activity; news of the latest data breach seems to be hitting the headlines every week! Your employee and customer data are both at risk, not to mention your organization’s brand and reputation.

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Trust but Verify

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As a parent of three children, I very much want to believe what my children tell me, whether it is about their day, something they became aware of, a current event, or a situation in their life. I do believe my kids are generally honest; however, sometimes the filter or context through which they see and understand things may be biased by their view of the world, what they think they know, simply what they want to believe, or what they want me to believe. So as a good parent, trust but verify is often a useful cliché to live by.
 
A recently identified fraud involving loans that were sold as USDA guaranteed loans reminded me of that principle:  trust but verify. It appears this alleged fraud involved an individual who owned a firm that was an approved USDA originator and who was familiar with the USDA policies and procedures. He was able to take advantage of a crack in the system to draft fraudulent guarantee documentation and sell it as authentic.
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Continuous Improvement

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A continuous improvement Discovery Event is an investment of two days that allows a team of your employees to do a deep dive into an internal process. This can result in a decrease in your aches and pains or challenges by improving the efficiency of an existing process, consistently performing that task throughout your organization, and developing a culture that encourages change, oftentimes resulting in improved morale.

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Are regulators scarier than the IRS these days?

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Happy Halloween! Which means tomorrow is November and that makes this good timing for getting year-end tax planning discussions started.

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Basal Cell or Basel III

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Depending on the pronunciation you use, Basel can sound very much like basal, and it is clearly something that every bank wants to continuously be checking on. As Basel III is being implemented, it is important for banks to consider the one-time election related to accumulated other comprehensive income (AOCI), the impact of the revised capital ratios, the impact of the conservation buffer, the limitations related to deferred tax assets and intangibles, and the changes in risk weights assigned to various assets.
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“Munch” on these questions?

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I got a call late one Friday afternoon - the BSA officer from my client asked me what I thought about opening up a medical marijuana deposit account for someone who had just walked into their lobby. I said that I wanted to muddle on the question and consult my BSA team rather than “Bogarting” the question myself. 
 
For many, this is a light-hearted, “you gotta be kidding” question. For others, it is a serious opportunity to be carefully considered.  
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Do You?

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I have come to be a believer in the old axiom of “you get what you pay for” and truly believe that using the right people with the right certifications will reap benefits in the long term. Do you?

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Bank on Wipfli

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On behalf of Wipfli’s Financial Institutions Practice team, I am proud to announce our new and exciting communication tool, our blog Bank on Wipfli!
 
We look forward to connecting with you and responding to your comments. We want to be your go-to source for need-to-know industry information, ultimately helping you.
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