Customer Stories

Forward Bank

The central Wisconsin community bank serves 13 central Wisconsin communities while being an active partner through financial donations and volunteer work.

CEO

Industries: Banking

Headquarters: Marshfield, Wisconsin

Year Founded: 1919

Locations: 14, in 13 communities

Services provided: Personal and business banking, mortgages, investments, insurance

Board structure: Eight members, including a president, CEO, current chair, past chair, and four directors.

Donations (2022): $831,000

Volunteer hours (2022): 9,289

A Community Bank in the Truest Sense

When John Marshall sought out a board of directors to join, he wanted to see an organization that reflected his own values as part of its day-to-day operations.

The Medford, Wisconsin resident says Forward Bank’s work in its 13 central Wisconsin communities meshed well with his own values.

“I knew a number of the members of the management team, a number of the loan officers and people in the area,” John said. “Our is based out of Marshfield, which is 35-40 miles away from here, and I live in Medford which has one of our branches, and we like to have representation in the different areas that we have branch locations. Um, but mainly the thing was the stuff that they do for their communities.”

That “stuff” included over $831,000 in charitable donations and 9,289 volunteer hours in 2022. More recent individual donations include $100,000 to support a pickleball complex development; $10,000 to help a local American Legion post build a veterans memorial wall; and $50,000 to help another organization build a band shell.

“What ties in the most is that the bank operates the way I and the other directors live our lives,” Marshall said. “We are involved in different things that help make the community better. Banking as a rule has got a little aura around it that … I don’t want to say taking advantage of other people, but capitalizing on opportunity. The service that I think we provide in our communities can help.”

Community Work Doesn’t Stop There

Forward Bank goes above and beyond in serving its customers with the personal touch a community bank provides, too. Its Charitable Money Market Account (CCMA) program enables members to open an account, and Forward Bank donates to a participating charity of the account holder’s choice, based on the account’s average balance, without taking money from the account to do so.

The bank also features a scholarship program, in which it awards 14 $500 scholarships each year, one for each community it serves. It also partners with local school athletic programs to encourage attendance at local sporting events and give back to communities. In all, it’s hosted over 180 contests and donated over $79,000 to local athletic programs since 2015.

“We try to respond to the needs of the community,” John said. “It just makes it so much fun to keep looking for that next expansion and keep thinking of ways that we can continue to do what we do so well. But it’s a way I live my life. It’s the way I want people to be treated.”

“We try to respond to the needs of the community. It just makes it so much fun to keep looking for that next expansion and keep thinking of ways that we can continue to do what we do so well. But it's a way I live my life. It's the way I want people to be treated."

John Marshall

— John Marshall
Board of Directors member
Forward Bank

The Role the Board Plays

John said Forward Bank’s board plays a larger role than he suspects most banks play in the day-to-day operation. The eight-member board includes six outside directors, the bank president, and the CEO.

He joined the board in 2012, served as board chair, and now serves as one of those six outside directors. In addition to monthly board meetings, John serves on the board’s audit committee, which approves loans outside the scope of what the bank’s loan officers are authorized to approve.

“Three of us [board members] are accountants, which gives us an advantage and a disadvantage in that we dive into the details so much,” John said. “The other three outside directors are all owners of manufacturing or private businesses, so they have that same skill set of being able to look at the situation and think of it from their perspective and situations they’ve dealt with.”

The most rewarding part of this process for John is when Forward Bank can help folks who have struggled to get help elsewhere. He referenced a Mennonite farmer who was relocating to Wisconsin from Pennsylvania and was struggling to get a loan for his farm.

“That kind of a commitment from our employees is really, really neat,” John said. “I was moved by that because this guy wanted to get in this area and we were able to to do that for him.”

John also credited Forward Bank employees, not only for the work they do for bank customers, but their own work in the community.

“They’re all in the community and they’re equally dedicated to the cause,” John said. “They get it. They understand our story and what we what we want to do.”

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