The Johnson Financial Group has locations throughout southern Wisconsin, including this bank location in Kenosha. (Photo: Johnson Financial Group)
Talk about humble beginnings.
What was to become the Johnson Financial Group started out 50 years ago as a bank with three employees working in a double-wide trailer.
The company has since grown into a financial services firm that employs 1,200 and offers banking, wealth management and insurance services through its Johnson Bank, Johnson Wealth Inc. and Johnson Insurance Services, LLC.
And, in 2020, the company landed on the list of Top Workplaces for the first time.
The growth and the recognition as a Top Workplace comes from staying true to its founding values, said Jim Popp, Johnson Financial Group CEO.
“Fifty years ago, our founder, Sam Johnson, envisioned a bank with stronger capabilities than the small banks, while maintaining a more personal and truly local feel than the large banks,” Popp said. “Today, we’re the largest privately held bank in Wisconsin, but that value proposition remains the same.
“We strive to do what’s best for our customers, our associates and the communities we serve.”
Popp joined Johnson Financial Group in 2017 as president of Johnson Bank, taking over as CEO in January 2018. Prior to joining Johnson Financial Group, Popp worked for nearly 30 years at JP Morgan Chase & Co. where he led teams throughout Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Johnson Financial Group has $12 billion in assets under administration and annually makes $2 million in charitable contributions.
The company is headed by Helen Johnson-Leipold, who is chairman and a member of the fifth generation of the Johnson family.
Johnson Financial Group competes in a world of giant banks and financial services companies.
That suits Popp just fine.
“We like to say we know Wisconsin businesses because we are one,” he said. “Our roots are here, our focus is here, our decisions are made here. We have a vested interest in having Wisconsin be as strong and vibrant as possible for our business and our families.”
Local, private ownership has its advantages.
“As a well-capitalized, privately held bank, we can make decisions with a long-term view,” Popp said. “That allows us to be very intentional and focused as we invest in our people, facilities, technology and the communities we serve.”
That local, private ownership has also allowed the company to position itself as a destination employer and Top Workplace.
“We continue to hire and make ourselves an employer of choice for prospective candidates,” Popp said.
Despite a tight pre-pandemic job market, the company continued to hire.
“We have been very fortunate to be able to attract some very strong talent in all of our businesses in the past few years,” Popp said. “Our size, scope of service, private ownership and commitment to local communities has been a compelling recruiting tool.”
Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the company remains on a growth trajectory.
“We continue to add new associates across all of our businesses and markets,” Popp said. “Our business has grown nicely.”
Despite job losses across some sectors of the economy as a result of the pandemic, JFG is looking for people.
“In fact, it feels like we are managing our hiring process similarly now as before the pandemic,” Popp said. “We are constantly evaluating our business needs to ensure that we have the people with the right skills and talent needed to meet the needs of those businesses.”
“We’re connecting with candidates by phone, through virtual interviews and conference calls with a focus on flexible scheduling,” he added.
Popp said the company is well-positioned to continue growing.
“As we celebrate our 50th year, we’re certainly proud of the company that we have become,” he said. “When we look to the future, we see great opportunity to grow our banking, wealth and insurance businesses in the state of Wisconsin.”
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