One usual sign of a good place to work is longevity among a workplace’s employees.
Another is promotion to executive positions from within, rather than bringing in outside management.
Donna Hoppenjan represents both of those attributes. Starting from a teller position 36 years ago, Hoppenjan became the president and CEO of Mound City Bank last year. She replaced Bob Just after his retirement last June.
The Mound City board chose Hoppenjan to succeed Just instead of bringing in a president from outside the bank. Mound City also promoted eight employees to officer level in 2013.
“We have a family oriented business, and many people that leave here want to come back,” said Hoppenjan. “So by treating our employees as family, and letting people do what they need to do for their families, a lot of people have been here a long time.”
Hoppenjan’s career parallels her predecessor’s career. Just started as a teller in 1971 and was president for 26½ years.
Hoppenjan said Just “led by example, and he will be remembered for his passion for independent community banking that was demonstrated through his leadership of Mound City Bank and his involvement with the Wisconsin Bankers Association. He encouraged networking, maintaining a dedicated work ethic, and attending extensive continuing education to enhance my leadership skills and banking knowledge, yet he never lost sight of the family atmosphere that keeps most MCB employees here for a very long time.”
Hoppenjan’s ascension to the president’s office could have been predicted by the fact that her Cuba City High School graduating class voted her Most Likely to Succeed. She was CCHS’ valedictorian.
“I like to work with numbers, and I like to work with people,” said Hoppenjan, who started at Mound City two weeks before the bank moved from Main Street to Pine Street in Platteville. “As a teller in those days we did a lot of things. We posted loan payments, we opened new accounts, and we helped other departments out.”
Hoppenjan worked for Just when he ran Mound City’s trust department, and then when Just was promoted she became the bank’s internal auditor.
“From there the board wanted to branch into Cuba City,” she said. “I was chosen to be the one to lead the first branching since 1935, when they went to Belmont. So I went back to operations, and I quickly learned I’d rather be hands-on.”
Hoppenjan credits Bernie Rosemeyer, former chair of Mound City’s board, for inspiring her to get her Certified Bank Auditor designation and further education in banking.
“He took the time to personally engage himself with my future aspirations by listening and coaching,” she said.
Hoppenjan became assistant vice president, then vice president, of retail services, and then senior vice president. She also became the secretary of the bank’s holding company.
“In order for this bank to remain independent and vibrant in the communities we serve today, I felt I was the best candidate to continue the personal, caring service we offer our customers,” said Hoppenjan.
Mound City Bank, which will celebrate its 100th anniversary next year, is one of the state’s independently owned banks. The $275 million bank is owned by 296 shareholders, none of whom own more than 5 percent of bank holding company stock.
“We are profitable, and our customers still want to have our community connection,” said Hoppenjan. “We are able to meet the financial dreams of our customers. We put them in homes, we start a new business, and we are their partner. We help them plan for retirement. So we start them out from birth to savings for college, and we’re able to be their financial partner throughout their whole lifespan.”
The banking industry has gone through upheaval in the past several years from the start of the late 2000s recession.
Badger State Bank in Cassville was one of an estimated 490 banks, eight of them in Wisconsin, to have failed since 2008.
“That is not good for our industry because our customer is number one and they need to trust the banking industry,” said Hoppenjan. “So we are all in this together, and we need to have a vibrant community.”
Banking is one of a decreasing number of professions that doesn’t require an educational background in the field. One reason is that the WBA and other banking associations offer classes to train employees that don’t have a banking background in the aspects of their business.
“We’re looking for good people,” said Hoppenjan, who chairs the Graduate School of Banking state advisory board. “It’s really inspiring to know that people care about adult education.
“When we hire someone, it’s about making sure we take them from being an educated person to an expert, and in order to do that they need to be well-rounded — they need to be educated, they need to take time for their family, and they need to be good citizens in the community. I think we lead by example.”
Hoppenjan also is Wisconsin’s representative for the GSB, which is funded by 18 Midwestern states’ banking associations.
“We’re listening to students, and then we provide feedback to the school — if they like the professors, if they don’t; if they like the class schedule, if they don’t; if they like the curriculum.”
Hoppenjan also has been president of the Platteville United Way for nine years.
“We service 13 nonprofit agencies, and we made contact in 2012 with more than 7,000 touches, with the money we’ve given,” she said.
Banks are usually business leaders in the communities they serve. Hoppenjan spoke at a forum held at UW–Platteville on state tax reform Jan. 16.
“We need talent, and in our case not only can one spouse work, both of them have to get jobs here, and that’s I think where we struggle,” said Hoppenjan of the Platteville area. “Independent community banks are the foothold of the community, along with the schools.”