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Southeastern Wisconsin financial service industry news
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
HUD finished investigating Associated Bank lending practices
May 26, 2015 10:55 AM
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has completed its investigation of Associated Bank N.A.’s lending practices between 2008 and 2011.

HUD filed a complaint alleging that in 2008, 2009 and 2010, Associated “discriminated on the basis of race and national origin by disproportionately denying the loan applications of African-American and Hispanic applicants.” Compared to other lenders, Associated’s lending in majority-minority census tracts was lower than in other neighborhoods, HUD found.

Green Bay-based Associated, the largest bank headquartered in Wisconsin, denies the allegations. The bank hired an outside economic consulting firm to analyze its lending practices, which found no evidence of disparate treatment on a prohibited basis.

The bank signed a conciliation agreement with HUD on Friday. Under the conciliation agreement, Associated will continue some of its newer community lending and education efforts, and has agreed to implement other “enhancements” on a three-year schedule arranged with HUD.

Among the enhancements are fair lending training improvements and additional oversight; new branch locations and loan production offices in or near majority-minority census tracts in Racine, Milwaukee and Chicago; additional special financing programs and inexpensive home repair grants. Associated has agreed to market the programs through targeted outreach and prospective homebuyer education.

The terms of the agreement, along with the bank’s current lending initiatives, are expected to generate about $200 million in new loans to targeted areas over the next three years.

"Associated is pleased to have concluded these discussions and will fully comply with the agreement,” said Philip Flynn, president and chief executive officer. “Doing so aligns with our ongoing commitment to our customers and communities where we do business.

"We agree with HUD that we can improve our performance in some of the communities and neighborhoods we serve. We remain committed to the promotion of home ownership and lending in those areas.”

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Milwaukee nonprofit calls for volunteer money coaches
May 26, 2015 11:01 AM
As Make-A-Difference Wisconsin continues to expand its financial literacy programming across southeastern Wisconsin, the nonprofit is seeking volunteer coaches to mentor students in small groups and one on one.

The Milwaukee-based nonprofit organization delivers financial management courses to high school students throughout Wisconsin, preparing them to take control of their finances at an early age.

The organization’s offerings include a core financial education program, which is facilitated by volunteers in classrooms across the state, and a deeper dive program, known as “Money Coach,” that currently caters to small groups of students in southeastern Wisconsin.

Make-A-Difference will launch its third year of “Money Coach” in the fall and is now working to recruit 10 to 15 volunteer coaches.

During the program’s pilot run, throughout the 2013-’14 school year, 41 students at five area sites completed the curriculum with the guidance of 10 coaches. Last year’s programming grew to reach 105 students at 10 sites with the help of 22 coaches.

The nonprofit wants to continue scaling up its Money Coach programming as “thousands” of students in Milwaukee stand to benefit from it, according to executive director Brenda Campbell.

The goal this year centers on impacting 150 students, many of them from low-income households, according to Campbell.

Each “Money Coach” volunteer is assigned to meet monthly with a handful of students and use program curriculum to teach them the principles of budgeting, saving and banking. The curriculum also steers students through the basics of getting a job, paying for their education, living independently, buying a vehicle and handling credit.

Among the program’s priorities is teaching students how to establish a relationship with a bank, track their expenses, and structure and follow a budget.

Program coaches typically meet with their students at a designated school or youth-based organization’s office and juggle a mix of small group activities and one-on-one interactions.

“Really what they’re doing is they’re helping the students take what was learned in the core program and apply it to their own lives,” Campbell said.

In tailoring the curriculum to individual students’ lives, coaches also help their students set specific financial goals and gauge their progress throughout the duration of the school year, both at their meetings and through contact via texts, phone calls and emails.

Examples of students’ financial goals include saving money toward the purchase of a laptop or toward the cost of filing college applications.

Students who show initiative and reach their goals are then eligible for a $500 scholarship backed by Make-A-Difference Wisconsin.

Among the most impressive outcomes from the program’s first two years, Campbell said, is the fact that 99 percent of all program students now have a bank account, 96 percent actively track expenses and 80 percent follow a budget.

Beyond the statistics, “Money Coach” also boosts students’ confidence in their ability to set up sound financial futures, according to Pam Evason, program volunteer and managing director of Windermere Wealth Advisors LLC.

“They just seem much more prepared to make financial decisions, and they take great pride in it,” Evason said.

Individuals interested in volunteering as coaches should contact Desiree Cocroft, program manager for “Money Coach,” before Aug. 1 at desiree@makeadifferencewisconsin.org. After training the next cohort of volunteer coaches, Make-A-Difference Wisconsin will kick off “Money Coach” in September.

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Baird Advisors nabs BMO municipal investment team
May 26, 2015 11:06 AM
Milwaukee-based Baird Advisors, the institutional fixed income investment management division of Robert W. Baird & Co. Inc., has hired away from BMO Global Asset Management a three-person municipal investment team.

The team includes municipal bond portfolio managers Duane McAllister, CFA and Erik Schleicher, and analyst Joseph Czechowicz.

McAllister joined BMO Global Asset Management in 2007,  where he served as co-manager of the BMO Intermediate Tax-Free Mutual Fund, the BMO Ultra Short Tax-Free Mutual Fund and the BMO Short Tax-Free Mutual Fund. McAllister also managed separate accounts in the Ultra Short, Short and Intermediate Tax-Free strategies. He previously worked in investment management at Wells/Strong Capital Management, AAL Capital Management Co. and The Northern Trust Co.

Schleicher co-managed the BMO Short Tax-Free Fund and the BMO Ultra-Short Tax-Free Fund, and also has managed separate accounts with a short-term objective. He previously served as a fixed income analust for the BMO Tax-Free Money Market Fund and the BMO Ultra Short Tax-Free Fund. Previously, Schleicher worked as a compliance officer at US Bancorp Funds Services.

Czechowicz began his career at BMO in 2010. He holds an MBA from the University of Wisconsin’s Applied Securities program.

“Duane, Erik and Joe are great additions to the Baird Advisors team,” said Mary Ellen Stanek, managing director and chief investment officer. “We have co-existed with them on a number of mutual client relationships and have admired their work for many years. We are excited to fully integrate them and their fixed income experience into the broader team efforts at Baird Advisors.
“Our team is well positioned in this environment to continue to grow, and the addition of the McAllister team adds additional bench strength to help us serve existing and new clients.”

Baird Advisors has been grabbing market share by proving its results and using risk controlled tactics. The company plans to add to its municipal product array through new strategies, Stanek said.

“This is an opportunity for us to join a leading institutional fixed income investment manager with a high quality team approach similar to our own,” McAllister said.

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American Bank expands Waukesha team
May 26, 2015 11:09 AM
Fond du Lac-based American Bank has hired three new team members and created a new position, all at its Waukesha location.

The new position, vice president of commercial banking, has been filled by Thomas Gannon. He has 10 years of financial industry experience, most recently as a portfolio manager at Associated Bank.

Linda Hertneky was hired as commercial loan administrator. She has seven years of financial experience, especially in commercial loan documentation and customer service, and most recently worked at Town Bank.

Julie Shaw has been added as a personal banker. She has more than 30 years of financial experience, most recently at The PrivateBank.
Karen Southern has been hired as a personal banker. She has two years of experience in the financial industry, most recently at First Merit.

“These individuals will bring greater experience and, in tandem with our current staff, improve our level of client service, outreach and ability to share new products,” says Richard Hensley, president of American Bank.

American Bank serves five Wisconsin counties from its locations in Waukesha, Brownsville, Mayville, Princeton, Omro and Fond du Lac.

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Briggs & Stratton acquires turf equipment manufacturer
May 26, 2015 11:22 AM
Wauwatosa-based outdoor power equipment manufacturer Briggs & Stratton Corp. has acquired all the outstanding shares of Billy Goat Industries Inc., a manufacturer of specialty turf equipment, for about $26 million in cash.

Lee’s Summit, Mo.-based Billy Goat makes aerators, sod cutters, overseeders, power rakes, brush cutters, walk behind blowers, lawn vacuums and debris loaders. Billy Goat, which was founded in 1967, has annual revenue totaling about $30 million. The acquisition is subject to customary post-closing working capital adjustments.

Billy Goat has about 100 employees, all of whom will be retained by Briggs at their current facility. The Billy Goat brand and company leadership will also be retained. Billy Goat will report to Briggs' Turf and Consumer Products division. Briggs now has a total of 6,000 employees companywide.

"Billy Goat's products complement Briggs & Stratton's already strong commercial turf brands, add specialty lines with market leading innovation, and further increase Briggs' market access to the rental channel," stated Harold Redman, senior vice president and president, Turf and Consumer Products at Briggs & Stratton.

"Billy Goat Industries Inc. helps us to further our strategic initiative of focusing on higher margin commercial products," said Todd Teske, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Briggs & Stratton. "We welcome the management team and the employees of Billy Goat to our team, and look forward to building upon the strong foundation that has made them a strong and successful company.”

"We are delighted to be joining Briggs & Stratton's 107-year legacy of success," said Will Coates, president and CEO of Billy Goat Industries. “It was clear to my brother, Drew, and me that partnering with Briggs & Stratton gives us the best opportunity to continue with the Billy Goat brand that we care for so deeply and to focus on what this company does well.  We truly believe that Billy Goat's colleagues, customers and employees will benefit from wider access to Briggs & Stratton's global resources inclusive of leading engine innovation; research and development; international operations; and adjacent products that serve to accelerate the growth of the brand worldwide."

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New Jersey company acquires Advanced Waste Services
May 26, 2015 11:17 AM
Covanta, the world's largest owner and operator of energy-from-waste facilities, has acquired West Allis-based Milwaukee-based Advanced Waste Services Inc.

Covanta is operated by Morristown, N.J.-based Covanta Holding Corp. The company's 45 energy-from-waste facilities provide communities and businesses around the world with environmentally sound solid waste disposal by using waste to generate clean, renewable energy. The company’s stock is traded on the New York Stock Exchange with the ticker symbol “CVA.”

Advanced Waste Services is an environmental services firm specializing in non-hazardous and hazardous industrial waste disposal and cleaning services. The company’s headquarters are located at 1126 S. 70th St. in West Allis. The company also operates a ChemWorks Treatment Facility in Milwaukee at 3801 W. McKinley Ave. The firm has additional facilities in Rockford, Ill.; Portage, Ind.; New Castle, Pa.; and Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

“I can confirm the acquisition. We’re very excited about the acquisition, and we think it’s a great business,” said Covanta spokesman James Regan.

Regan said Advanced Waste Services’ management team and employees will be retained. Additional details will not be disclosed until Covanta’s next quarterly report is released in July, Regan said. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

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Gustave A. Larson acquires Indiana distributor
May 26, 2015 11:13 AM
Pewaukee-based Gustave A. Larson Co. has acquired Indianapolis-based Superior Distribution Inc. The transaction was completed Feb. 1.

Gustave A. Larson is a wholesale distributor of heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration equipment, parts and supplies. It has 430 employees at 53 branches, and sells products from more than 450 manufacturers in the Midwest, plains and mountain states.

Superior, established in 1992, distributed HVAC equipment, parts and supplies. The transaction included five branches and the majority of Superior’s sales and customer-facing team of 25. The branches have become part of Gustave A. Larson’s East Central Region, which now totals nine locations.

As a result of the transaction, Superior’s Evansville and Indianapolis locations were consolidated into Gustave’s existing branches in those areas. The former owner of Superior, Kevin Kelley, is now the general manager for Gustave’s East Central region.

In addition, Larson has arranged a distribution agreement with Rheem Air Conditioning. Larson will sell Rheem brand equipment and parts in Indiana western Kentucky, and Ruud brand equipment and parts in northern and central Ohio.

“Rheem is pleased to begin its new partnership with the Gustave A. Larson Co.,” said Mike Branson, vice president and general manager, Rheem Air Conditioning Division. “The Gustave A. Larson Co. has long been known for its dedication to serving contractors in the Midwest. They are a professional, full-service distributor, with a passion for helping their customers grow their businesses. I am extremely excited about what this combination of talent will mean for all HVAC contractors in the region. The timing could not be better as it coincides with the launch of our new Rheem and Ruud gas furnace, air conditioning and heat pump platforms that were designed by contractors for contractors. This relationship with Gustave A. Larson also provides the most capable channel to deliver new Rheem innovations, such as integrated air/water/refrigeration solutions, to customers.”

“We are all very excited at Gustave A. Larson Co. about what this business partnership means for the future of serving our customers in Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio,” said Scott Larson, president and chief operating officer of Gustave A. Larson Co. “Our company mission is to Win Together, contributing to our customers’ success, carrying the best products in the industry and providing valued business solutions. This new relationship with Rheem Air Conditioning’s industry leading position and products, along with the addition of Superior Distribution’s customer-focused personnel and branches, will allow our East Central region to fulfill our mission. The combination puts us in a real position of strength going forward. This means better products and service to our existing customers and also wider ranging product and solutions to our new Superior customers. I want to thank our existing customers for their continued business, and to our new customers: Welcome to the Larson family!”

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Facility consolidations ding Brady Corp.
May 26, 2015 11:20 AM
Milwaukee-based Brady Corp. reported fiscal third quarter net income of $17.2 million, or 33 cents per share, down from $24.1 million, or 39 cents per share, in the third quarter of 2014.

Operating income at the identification solution product manufacturer was $24.3 million, down from $26.8 million in the same period a year ago.

Revenue totaled $290.2 million, down from $309.6 million in the third quarter of 2014.

The company attributed the decline to customer service and operational challenges stemming from recent facility consolidations. Workplace Safety segment organic sales also were lower than expected in the quarter. As a result, Brady lowered its guidance for the fourth quarter to 30 to 40 cents per share.

“After just over nine months with Brady, I’m impressed with the dedication of our team as well as the progress we’ve made on our initiatives this fiscal year,” said Brady president and chief executive officer J. Michael Nauman. “I’m confident that we are investing in the right initiatives to deliver shareholder value over the long term. However, we still remain challenged by operational inefficiencies stemming from certain facilities that were recently consolidated, and we are focused on executing business fundamentals to drive organic sales and improve profitability while still achieving efficiency gains over the long term. We are investing in research and development and sales resources in selected industries, as well as building an improved, scalable digital platform that will generate value for Brady and enhance our customer experience.”

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Bon-Ton widens loss
May 26, 2015 11:15 AM
The Bon-Ton Stores Inc., which has dual headquarters in Milwaukee and York, Pa., reported a fiscal first quarter net loss of $34.1 million, or $1.74 per share, compared with a net loss of $31.5 million, or $1.63 per share, in the first quarter of 2014.

The struggling retailer’s loss from operations was $19 million, compared with an operating loss of $15.6 million in the same period a year ago.

Revenue totaled $610.9 million, up from $607.5 million in the first quarter of 2014.

Comparable store sales increased 0.8 percent when compared with the prior year period.

“While we saw top-line pressure in the first quarter, we delivered a comparable store sales increase of 0.8%, with growth in both brick and mortar and eCommerce channels, and effectively managed our expenses, leveraging expense decreases to an 80-basis-point reduction in our selling, general and administrative rate,” said Kathryn Bufano, president and chief executive officer. “In addition, we saw some wins in merchandising, including strength in moderate sportswear, active wear and men’s furnishings, while efforts in our localization strategies continue to generate good results. Gross margin dollars and rate decreased due to increased eCommerce distribution and delivery costs and an unfavorable comparison to prior year permanent markdowns.

“As we move ahead, we remain focused on our initiatives—building a compelling assortment, refocusing our brand, furthering our omnichannel capabilities and maximizing operating efficiency—all designed to drive top-line and EBITDA growth. To that end, we are looking forward to the opening of our new eCommerce fulfillment center this fall as we believe there are opportunities for improved customer service and efficiencies that we expect will benefit our future performance. Overall, we believe that the strategies we have in place will yield improved results as we move through fiscal 2015.”

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Molly Dill This exclusive news bulletin is compiled by BizTimes Milwaukee reporter Molly Dill. This bulletin is published every Tuesday morning. Send financial services industry news and tips to molly.dill@biztimes.com or call her at (414) 336-7144.



Additional Resources
Accounting

» Wisconsin Association of Accountants
» Wisconsin Institute of Certified Public Accountants
» Wisconsin Association for Financial Professionals

Financial Institutions

» Wisconsin Bankers Association
» The Wisconsin Credit Union League
» Community Bankers of Wisconsin
» Wisconsin Mortgage Bankers Association

Financial Planning

» Financial Planning Association of Southern Wisconsin
» National Association of Personal Financial Advisors

Insurance

» Professional Insurance Agents of Wisconsin
» Wisconsin Association of Mutual Insurance Companies

Mergers & Acquisitions

» Midwest Business Brokers and Intermediaries
» Association for Corporate Growth - Wisconsin
» Turnaround Management Association - Chicago/Midwest

Other Resources

» Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions
» Wisconsin Government Finance Officers Association


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