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BizTimes Milwaukee: What is your favorite success story?

Jim Popp: I know it’s biased, but I love the Johnson Financial Group success story. In 1970, Sam Johnson saw the banking landscape consolidating and felt that communities were being left behind. He believed there was a need for a truly local bank that could be bigger and more capable than the smallest banks were able to be, while also being more local and community-centric than the largest banks were willing to be. With that vision, Johnson Bank started in a double-wide trailer on a corner in Racine, WI. We still believe in that philosophy today and that story is a big reason I’m here!

BizTimes: What failure have you learned the most from?

Popp: I’m not sure I can pinpoint just one. Trial and error – with a few failures along the way – is a natural part of the evolution and progression of any business. The financial services industry is evolving at an incredible pace, pushing all of us to grow, adapt and change the way we do things. At JFG, we accept that we’ll fail from time to time as we make changes to improve our customer and associate experience. The expectation is that we course-correct, learn from the experience and not make the same mistakes again.

BizTimes: What do you see as your most important responsibility to your employees?

Popp: Our associates are truly the “secret sauce” that drives our success. We have a responsibility to make JFG an exceptional place to have a career – not just a job. That means fostering a culture that is safe, productive, energetic, and inclusive. It means investing in our associates through training and development, coaching and mentoring, while providing opportunities for career advancement and mobility. Happy, engaged associates are the life blood of good companies.

BizTimes: What do you see as your most important responsibility to your customers?

Popp: We have a responsibility to be solution providers, not salespeople, for our customers. That means probing and listening to understand their unique stories and needs. Once we know their story, we do our best to deliver the advice, counsel, and capabilities to make their lives easier and meet their personal goals. At JFG, we also talk a lot about providing a banking experience that is Simple, Safe, Competent and Personal. If we can do that, we have a great chance of delighting our customers and developing lasting relationships.

BizTimes: What is your corporate philosophy? What sets it apart?

Popp: JFG was built on the idea of making life better for the people, companies, and communities we serve. That means being a great place to work; delivering an exceptional customer experience; and being laser focused on engaging in the communities we serve. We’re privately held, family owned, and truly local. We’ve built a business that is diversified and well capitalized, with all the capabilities of the bigger national organizations. Most importantly, our shareholders expect us to make decisions and invest in our company with an eye toward the next quarter century, not just the next quarter. We think that sets us apart.

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