Wealth Podcast Post

Your Financial Foundation with Al Araque

George Grombacher March 30, 2023

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Your Financial Foundation with Al Araque

LifeBlood: We talked about setting a strong financial foundation, cutting through complexity and getting people simple answers to difficult questions, meeting people where they are, the value of a long-term perspective, and how to have your desired impact, with Al Araque, SVP and Director of Consumer, Private and Small Business Banking with Johnson Financial Group.   

Listen to learn about banking trends across generations!

You can learn more about Al at JohnsonFinancialGroup.com, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

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Our Guests

George Grombacher

Al Araque

Episode Transcript

george grombacher 0:15
My place is George G. And the time is right welcome today’s guest strong and powerful Alan Kay, hell are you ready to do this? George? I’m ready. Let’s do this. All right, let’s go now is Senior Vice President and Director of consumer private Small Business Banking with Johnson Financial Group. Al excited to have you on, tell us a little about your personal lives more about your work and why you do what you do.

Al Araque 0:39
You bet, George, it’s great to be here. It’s so thanks for having us on. having me on. A little bit about my personal life. I was from the East Coast, born and raised in New Jersey, had the chance to study economics and minor in student yard at Denison University, a small liberal school in Ohio. I know you’re familiar with small schools and going to Valparaiso.

I live in Florida and South America, Chicago before moving to this great state of Wisconsin, back in 2014, with with my wife and two kids, that are now 19 and 17.

Personally, I, George, I’ll tell you, I just love to get involved and give back. Helen Lee Paul Johnson, our chair chair person, an owner of Johnson Financial Group, you know, she says, give back more than you can get.

So I tried to do that in my own little way. So get involved with different organizations like the Wisconsin Bankers Association, or the Hispanic professionals of Greater Milwaukee Penfield Children’s Center, or even our Employee Resource Group here at Johnson Financial Group, uplifting people of color. And so anyway, I could give back and add value, I try to do that the best I can. I’ve been in the business for the banking business for over 25 years, I actually started as a licensed banker, then went into some management positions locally, regionally, nationally at at a large financial institution. But today, as you mentioned, I have the privilege of leading three businesses in consumer private and Small Business Banking, and

I get to work with some of the best in the industry, across banking, wealth, and insurance, love what I do, I love the work that I do with the people that I that I that I have the chance to do that with. And being a part of this great culture here at Johnson Financial Group.

george grombacher 2:40
Awesome. I’ve got a six and a three year old. So you are probably feeling a little bit terrified and excited that your kids are almost over the age where they’re off into the real world, or at least College.

Al Araque 2:55
We’re still learning. So we’re still taking notes, continue to have an open mind happy to share any of my learnings along the way with you, George,

george grombacher 3:04
I appreciate that. All right. So you are the part responsible for consumer, private and Small Business Banking, those are all different, but I’m sure similar, what what are some of the through lines?

Al Araque 3:19
Yeah, we get you know, there are to your point, there are a lot of similarities in which we just get to help people. And we get to help people at businesses as well. We also get a chance to help our associates. And those are things that I’m passionate about helping individuals and Associates make the most out of their careers make the most out of their lives. And it’s rewarding to be able to assist, you know, individuals, families, businesses in and make an impact in the community. You know, consumer banking and private banking, we get a chance to work with individuals and families, obviously, Small Business Banking, get a chance to work with business owners that are just starting or looking to expand their businesses, or in some cases looking to, you know, sell their business. So we work with individuals in different stages of their lives. Something that we’ve been been doing here for over 50 years. At Johnson Financial Group. It’s been it’s been a fun journey.

george grombacher 4:24
Yeah. I imagine if, if the goal is to have a positive impact and serve people you get the opportunity to do that directly to the consumer, but then also through the folks that you are helping to do a better job and so get to sort of attack that from a couple of different angles. And I appreciate that. How has we’ve gone through an obviously interesting time through the pandemic and it feels like in a lot of ways, we’re coming out the other side, how have you seen the banking industry evolve and change throughout their time?

Al Araque 4:54
It’s, it’s, it’s evolved quite a bit, especially in the last 20 Five years that I’ve been in the business, but the one thing that’s been fundamentally the same, which is that, you know, individuals, consumers or businesses alike, are looking for advice. They’re looking for a trusted advisor that could help them along their journey, whether they’re just starting out, maybe looking to buy a home, continue to build a family, maybe they’re starting a new job, or leaving an old job. Or, as I mentioned, starting a business, perhaps they’re going into retirement. We were here, regardless of the environment to help them through those big decisions in life. You know, obviously, there’s been a shift, I think, in one of your prior podcasts, you mentioned during the pandemic, how customers did a lot of savings during the pandemic and their debt has decreased. And now today, we’re seeing the inverse of that. And so we love to meet customers, where they’re at, understand what their needs are, and try to find sound solutions for them so they can have peace of mind and, and strive for that financial security that I think we’re all looking for.

george grombacher 6:22
Yeah, yeah, I think that that’s something that’s that’s for some reason, overlooked a lot of that time, a lot of stuff out there is talking about how to get rich, or how to become a millionaire. But for my my money, it’s it’s a big piece of that is let’s try to find financial peace of mind first and find financial security. And that’s sort of the launchpad that allows us to go after that financial prosperity, peace.

Al Araque 6:45
Absolutely. And you know, what we, what we’ve learned today, right, is that customers want options. They want to be able to bank how they want where they want, and when they want. And so what I think it’s important in the industry today is that we provide consumers with the ability to do just that, which is why we try to balance our approach by providing digital solutions, whether it’s our my jfG mobile banking app, so they could take care of their basic banking needs, deposits, withdrawals, payments, or visit one of our locations to take care of those simple, simple transactions. We know clients are, you know, in terms of what they’re looking for, in their banks today, or from their banks today is, is is advice, how can we add value to their lives today and in the future. And so we try to position ourselves in a way where we could give them options to those digital channels, obviously, have, you know, locations across the state of Wisconsin, we have about 30 Plus locations in Wisconsin and office in Minnesota. So they could visit us if they choose to. And in have experts advisors in our, in our in our locations, to be able to take care of their more complex needs, your short term and long term financial goals. And so we try to get really, really good at those simple things. And while their needs have continued to evolve, you know, we try to, you know, build those relationships where we get to know clients and understand what’s important for them, making sure that we offer them solutions that are right for them, and their families or their business. And then we want to stay connected with them. We want to have a long lasting relationship, you know, for for a very long time, it’s to make sure that we continue to make a difference in their lives. And so it’s a fun job we love, we love what we do we have some of the best, you know, bankers in the industry do that. And yeah, it’s been fun.

george grombacher 9:08
It’s really interesting how consumer behavior, it changes from generation to generation, and just depending on what’s going on in the world, and my assumption would be that younger people are less apt to want to go into a physical location, but I could be really wrong about that.

Al Araque 9:27
And I think the statistics show exactly what you just said, George, they they like convenience. They want to be able to easily access financial information at their fingertips, whether it’s their mobile device or iPad or computer. But what we’ve learned is that they enjoy the millennials and the younger generation still enjoy meeting with professionals for some of their more complex needs and And you know, in our branches, we’ve, we’ve kind of shifted from being a transactional center to an advice center. So we get to proactively reach out to clients and connect with them and invite them and then even, you know, the younger generation and seeing how we could help them with, with, with some simple things, whether it’s creating a budget or managing debt or, or how to save and the different channels or vehicles that they have available to be able to do that. So. So yes, they’re still looking for advice, if that makes sense.

george grombacher 10:34
No, it does. 100% think that the more connected we get, the more options we have. It’s almost like a tyranny of choices, it’s sort of just all becomes kind of noise. And I’d like to go back to basics, I’d like to be able to connect with somebody that I feel like knows what they’re talking about, and can, you know, take a global look at things and say, Hey, have you thought about just doing this, and let’s make sure you do understand the basics, like setting the budget. And if you’re in debt, put a plan together for how to actually get out of it and start saving.

Al Araque 11:07
Couldn’t agree more, George, and I think that’s the key, you refer to it, which is kind of taking a more global view of your financial situation. I’ve been in the business for 25 years, I still have a banker, that I sit down with my wife, and I get a chance to write down our goals, make sure that we’re aligned, and we meet with our banker and the appropriate experts, whether it’s related to my insurance, or you know, taking out a home equity line of credit, do some home remodeling, ensure that we’re on track for our retirement goals. As I mentioned, I have two kids in college, right and making sure we get them through to school and position them for success in the future. There are insights and in and guidance that we could get from talking to those that do this in and out, right. And pinnable look at the full picture, I was just talking to a colleague today, who is was helping the client about long term care. That’s, that’s real, right. And we don’t often think about that, you know, when we’re younger, but something that you should, you should have those conversations today to make sure that that we plan for that, I think if you ask any person, they know at least one person that needs some type of long term health care. And so those are that those are the conversations that you know, that you would benefit from having with an expert and advisor or banker to be able to be sure that you’re looking at that global picture.

george grombacher 12:51
It strikes me that not to do a commercial for your bank, but we It strikes me that you’re in a unique position, because you’re probably able to take a long term view, then maybe some larger organizations that are constantly needing to worry about the short term and the quarterly so you can make investments in let’s build community, let’s let’s make resources available and actually, you know, be reaching out and cultivating that and making people aware and they will over time, take advantage of it.

Al Araque 13:26
Absolutely. I couldn’t say better myself, George, you know, it’s interesting, Sam Johnson started this bank in 1970. And he knew that there was a need for a different type of bank. And you’re right, we plan for the next quarter century, not the next quarter. And so our decisions is really all about our clients and our employees. And, and that’s how we have an opportunity to to really make an impact in the community. Because, yes, we want to grow our business, we want to make sure that we remain relevant and meet the needs of of our clients and our communities. But, but it’s not about just meeting short term expectations. And that’s how we’ve operated over the last the last 50 years. So I couldn’t agree more. It’s it’s definitely how we operate our business. We’re family owned business, the largest privately owned financial institution here in the state of Wisconsin. And we bring the expertise of some of the larger faiz fighting financial institutions, but provide that personalized service, like a lot of community and regional banks, and it’s that’s our sweet spot. That’s where we, you know, try to the space that we try to play in.

george grombacher 14:58
Yeah, that makes a ton of sense. Let’s pick opportunity and and certainly a big challenge. And it’s true for individuals and more affluent families and individuals, and certainly businesses as well. Are there any trends that that that you’re what, what trends are you most excited about? Or maybe most concerned about when, when it comes to small businesses?

Al Araque 15:24
It’s a great question, George. And, you know, when we’re speaking with, with small businesses, and we’re family owned, so we know, we know businesses? Well, again, it’s different for every business owner. And we try to meet them where they’re at. But if you have someone that’s just starting their own business, maybe they’re, they’re the only employee, you know, their needs might be different compared to someone that’s been established for 20 years, but still considered a small business. And in but things like, you know, making sure that they have access to capital, they have the ability to meet their, their short term obligations. And so we have, I think that’s top of mind for a lot of small businesses, especially, you know, with with the economy, the way it’s been, you mentioned the pandemic earlier, some of the issues that we’ve had with supply, the supply chain. And, you know, there’s, there’s orders that needs to be made. And we’ve got to make sure that the cash flow was there to meet those demands. And we provide solutions for customers there. And then we deal with customers kind of on the other end of the spectrum, that, that are looking to kind of transition their business to, you know, a family member or sell their business and get a chance to work through that with those clients. But I don’t know those trends haven’t necessarily changed. But the dynamic of their business in terms of where money is coming in, and how money is going out. That’s what we try to keep our our pulse on and make sure that business owners feel confident about how they’re going to run their business. We want business owners to focus on what they’re most passionate about. And that is their business. And we try to keep it super simple for them in terms of their banking and their finances. And we have a team of experts that could help them across the board and we partner closely with with their other, you know, partners and experts like accountants and legal counsel. So long one that responds to your question, I’m not sure there’s any specific trends other than, you know, some of those needs kind of get amplified, depending on different times in the economy, I think, ultimately, is cash flow. Where’s the money coming in? How are we paying? How are they able to pay their their vendors and and, and their obligations, and that they keep the business following?

george grombacher 18:11
Love it? Well, thank you so much for coming on. Where can people learn more about you? How can they connect with Johnson Financial Group?

Al Araque 18:21
George Russell was a pleasure to be on thank you again. If you are looking to learn more about Johnson Financial Group, I would encourage individuals to visit our website, which is www dot Johnson financial group.com You could search for nearby location actually could find that advisor or just reach out to me directly on LinkedIn or via phone 262-619-2988 Is my phone number happy to help and and connect me with an expert.

george grombacher 18:56
Excellent. Well, if you enjoyed as much as I did, show your appreciation and share today’s show with a friend who also appreciates good ideas go to Johnson financial group.com and check out the great resources and find out if there’s an opportunity to work together and you can contact al directly via phone or track him down on LinkedIn and he will get you pointed in the right direction. Thanks, Goodell.

Al Araque 19:20
Thanks again, George. And thank you for what you do as well.

george grombacher 19:23
Thank you. You’re welcome. And until next time, remember, do your part by doing your best

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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