When University of Wisconsin-Parkside students came to hear Russ Weyers' talk about the banking industry, they heard what they might have expected to hear.
"The Great Recession that we've gone through is going to change us and the way we do business going forward; very similar to what happened during the Great Depression," said Weyers who serves as president and CEO of the Racine-based Johnson Financial Group.
Because his Executive-in-Residence presentation was titled "The Great Recession and the Impact on the Future of Industry," a statement like that was not surprising. What may have surprised students was how frank Weyers was when talking about the banking industry and its profitability.
"How many of you have used your debit card in the last week?" Weyers asked his audience, raising a forest of arms in response. "Your debit card is one of the most profitable products we offer. We love when you use your debit card. Continue using your debit card as much as you can. I, personally, have never used my debit card. I always use my credit card on the theory: Why would I want to give someone the money today when I don't have to give it to them for 30 days. That's the difference between a debit and a credit card. We love the debit card. It's got great transaction fees."
Noting that 2010 was the first time since World War II that the amount of outstanding mortgage debt in America went down, Weyers predicted mortgage reform legislation now in Congress and the government's desire to get out of the mortgage business would mean the end of long-term mortgages.
"What's going to happen if we move forward with mortgage reform and we restrict people's ability to borrow or banks' ability to foreclose? The cost of borrowing money is going to go up and the terms you're going to be able to borrow it on will be less favorable. You will not be able to get a 30-year, fixed rate mortgage," Weyers said.
Weyers began his presentation by praising the large number of UW-Parkside alumni who work for Johnson Financial. He said the bank found that UW-Parkside grads were ready to "hit the ground running."
UW-Parkside School of Business and Technology Dean Fred Ebeid thanked Weyers for his endorsement of the university's students and expressed his appreciation for the executive's candor.
"These are the type of insights we want from our Executive-in-Residence program" Ebeid said. "Mr. Weyers gave our students a perspective on the recession, the recovery, and on the banking business that they couldn't have gotten anywhere else. I thought the program was fascinatingboth times I saw it."Weyers spoke with students during two sessions in the Student Center Cinema. He also met with a select group of students during a breakfast session and with UW-Parkside faculty and administration for lunch.