The following article was published in the January 2020 Issue of In Business Magazine and has been published here with permission from In Business Magazine.
Capitol Bank Emerged as Pivotal Player in Community Banking Landscape
Celebrating 25 Years: 1995 – 2020
Over the past quarter century, community banks have thrived in Dane County, and one of the consistent market leaders has been Capitol Bank. The locally owned institution was founded in 1995 with 244 local shareholders in an effort to establish a customer-focused community bank.
“In the 1990s, following a period of bank consolidations, there was a desire for local businesspeople to start new banks,” says Ken Thompson, Capitol Bank’s chairman, president, and chief executive officer. “They wanted banks where decisions about local business loans would be based on local market insights. We quickly found that business owners valued working with local decision-makers.”
Thompson credits much of Capitol Bank’s initial success to Jim Dolister, the company’s founding president who shepherded it through its first eight years and established it as a strong, stable, and reliable banking partner.
Dolister, who passed away in May 2017, had worked with Thompson for years at M&I Bank before inviting him to be among Capitol Bank’s first 10 employees. Today, the bank boasts 56 full-time employees, 300 shareholders, and assets that have soared from $5 million in 1995 to $380 million in 2019.
“We rely on fewer but more convenient and accessible locations,” Thompson says of the bank’s two locations in Madison and Verona. “The development of electronic banking channels has allowed Capitol Bank to grow without a heavy reliance on physical locations.”
In fact, 70 percent of the bank’s deposits are done electronically. Thompson admits that despite having electronic banking options, studies have shown that people still want their bank to be reasonably close to them. For this reason, Capitol Bank has considered expansion within the marketplace for the past decade. “Finding the right market and location at the right time is the key to establishing a successful new location,” says Thompson, who is also chair-elect of the Wisconsin Bankers Association Board of Directors.
Capitol Bank’s community roots remain strong and heavily involved, as their employees presently serve on 28 local boards. For its 20th anniversary in 2015, the bank donated $1,000 each to 20 local organizations on behalf of the bank’s longest-tenured employees. Thompson says he’d like to do something similar to celebrate 25 years. “It’s important to thank the local community for supporting us these past years.”
Thompson also cites his staff as a primary reason Capitol Bank survived the recession. “We had lower levels of problem loans compared to other banks,” he says, adding that the Verona branch was only a few years old when the recession hit hard. “Our employees had done a good job of underwriting solid loans with common-sense guidelines and making informed decisions about the probability of future cashflows.”
But surviving a major economic downturn was not the greatest challenge Thompson says Capitol Bank faced during its first quarter century.
“The biggest one was just getting our name known in the marketplace and establishing a strong reputation,” he says. “Banking is all about reputation, and our mantra was ‘One customer at a time.’ For me, I went from the biggest bank in the state to the smallest. The first three years were tough, but helping people and businesses achieve their financial goals is a wonderful calling. The journey has been rewarding for me and my team — taking an idea and turning it into a thriving community bank 25 years later.”
Capitol Bank’s longest-tenured employees:
(L to R) Cori Femrite, Rosalie Steiner, Ken Thompson, Lori Pond, Bill Conybear.
Capitol Bank is Member FDIC