The Case for Lower Rates – December 2023

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The era of low rates ended in March 2022 when the Federal Reserve started the most aggressive rate-hiking campaign in a generation, lifting their policy rate 11 times from near zero to a range of 5.25% – 5.50% in July of 2023, where it has remained. Until a few weeks ago, the central bank has wavered over what to do next: raise rates again or keep them “higher for longer.” The bias towards a more belt-tightening policy was understandable: Inflation remained far above the Fed’s 2% target, and, importantly, the rate hikes seemed to have little effect on the economy. Indeed, GDP accelerated to an eye-opening 4.9% growth rate in the third quarter, and unemployment has remained under 4% for 22 consecutive months – the longest stretch since the 1960s.

But as the calendar turns to 2024, the central bank is poised to switch gears. At their last policy meeting on December 13, they sent a strong message that the rate-hiking campaign has ended, and the next move will be down. The question is not one of direction but of timing. Fed officials projected three cuts during the next year, but not when the first one will occur. The financial markets are forecasting an even bolder pivot, pricing in six or seven cuts that would take the key policy rate – the federal funds rate – to below 4% by the end of 2024. Unsurprisingly, stocks and bonds staged big rallies following the latest Fed meeting.

It’s important to remember that Fed projections are just that —projections, not contracts that must be fulfilled or face legal penalties. Following the first hike in March of 2022, Fed officials predicted that the federal funds rate would wind up under 2% by the end of that year. It ended up at 4.5%. It’s also important to remember that financial markets tend to overreact to perceived policy changes, even nuanced ones, and suffer whiplash when perceptions by traders turn out to be wrong. Time will tell if history is about to repeat. From our lens, the good news is that the Fed appears to be on the right track after waiting too long to start the rate hiking cycle in 2022. Bucking almost every economist’s 2023 prediction, the so-called “soft landing” – a decline in inflation that doesn’t induce a recession – appears to still be within reach.

The Fed Pivots

It is not entirely clear why policymakers changed course at their December meeting, and it appears that not all are on board with the projected rate cuts. No single catalyst stands out. If anything, underlying conditions are more supportive of staying pat. Consumers, the economy’s main growth driver, are still spending at a healthy pace, the job market is still humming, and inflation, while retreating, is still above the Fed’s stated 2% target. A case can be made that the Fed is risking prematurely easing policy that could reignite the inflation embers.

But it would be a mistake for the Fed to wait until inflation gets closer to their 2% target before cutting rates. By then, it would be too late to cushion the economy from the damage that sustained high rates, not to mention the lagged effects of previous rate increases, would cause. You don’t want to wait until it starts raining to purchase an umbrella. By then, you will already be wet. A few months ago, the Fed believed that the risk of sustained high inflation outweighed the risk of a looming recession and a surge in unemployment. Hence, they decided to keep policy geared towards controlling inflation. Now, they perceive the risks to be roughly balanced.

Importantly, policymakers have repeatedly said they would start taking their feet off the brakes when inflation was sustainably trending towards 2%. Before hitting that target, there is still a way to go, but the trend is encouraging enough to believe it has staying power. Most inflation gauges have been running at annual rates of 3% or less over the last three and six months, and prices of many goods are outright declining, thanks to the healing of supply chain snarls that caused widespread product shortages during the pandemic. Many scoffed at the notion, held by the Fed in 2021, that the surge in those prices would be “transitory.” As it turns out, once supply caught up with demand, those prices have come down; it just took longer than expected to play out.

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Growth and Inflation

Perhaps the most surprising part of the Fed’s pivot away from tightening is that the economy is running hotter than policymakers thought even a few months ago. At the September meeting, Fed officials expected GDP to increase by 2.1% in 2023, accompanied by a 3.3% inflation rate. They also predicted that one more rate increase would be needed to tame growth and prevent inflationary pressures from strengthening.

Three months later, at the December policy meeting, that combination of growth and inflation expectations was thrown in the garbage can, along with expected rate changes. In their fresh set of projections, the Fed members now expect GDP to grow by a stronger 2.6% in 2024, even as they lowered inflation expectations by 0.5% to 2.8%. The rate increase predicted three months ago has been taken off the table and replaced by the aforementioned three cuts predicted for next year.

Simply put, the Fed no longer sees growth as a driving force behind higher inflation, a striking about-face from the earlier sentiment held by many prominent economists – that only a sharp rise in unemployment and lower wages could tame inflation. Indeed, Chair Powell acknowledged at his post-meeting press conference that he was (pleasantly) surprised that inflation continued to retreat amidst an economy that continues to grow at a healthy pace. Not all are convinced this can continue, but some unfolding developments suggest it can.

The Last Mile May Not Be So Tough

Despite the plunge in the inflation rate from a peak above 9% in 2022 to 3% today as measured by the overall consumer price index, there is a widespread sentiment that the easy pickings are over and squeezing the last 1% out of the CPI will be much harder. While prices of many goods are falling, prices of services are still running too hot; many believe that the inflation retreat will stall unless the underlying cause of service inflation, most notably labor costs, also comes down.

Undoubtedly, services prices are more closely linked to labor costs than goods, whose prices are influenced more by the cost of materials, transportation, exchange rates, and other non-labor factors. Restaurants, bars, medical practitioners, and barbers, among many other service providers, rely mostly on workers to generate revenues; hence, labor expenses have a major influence on how prices are set. While wage growth has softened over the past year, it is running above the pace consistent with a 2% inflation rate. Average hourly earnings are increasing by more than 4%, and median wages for a worker in the same job over the past year have increased by more than 5% from a year ago, according to the Atlanta Federal Reserve’s Wage Tracker.

But a key reason these increases are not fully passed on to consumers is that productivity has also increased by at least as much. Output per hour in the nonfarm sector surged by 5.2% in the third quarter, which offset the increase in worker compensation. Hence, the cost per unit of worker output declined during the period. Indeed, over the past year, unit labor costs increased by 1.6%, which is comparable to the pre-pandemic pace, and has declined for five consecutive quarters from 6.1% in the second quarter of 2022.

Wage Growth to Slow

Clearly, the productivity surge over the past year is not sustainable, as it reflects special post-pandemic influences, such as the rebound in output as supply chains healed. The AI revolution may also play a role, but that is likely to have more of a positive influence on stock prices than on output, although, in the longer term, its influence should increase. Past innovations, such as the widespread adoption of personal computers, took decades before they had the broad, diffuse productivity-enhancing impact that lifted output in every sector. And recent seemingly game-changing developments, such as the near-universal adoption of smartphones, have yet to have any discernable impact on positive or negative productivity.

It makes sense to measure true productivity trends over the course of a cycle. Stripping out the noise caused by the pandemic and its aftermath, productivity has increased by an annual rate of 1.5% since the fourth quarter of 2019, the same growth rate seen on average between the fourth quarter of 2007 and the fourth quarter of 2019. Assuming productivity growth is reverting to its longer-term trend of 1.5%, it would be necessary to slow nominal wage growth to around 3.5% to be consistent with the Fed’s 2% inflation target. Many believe that the labor market is too tight and worker bargaining power too strong for that to occur over the foreseeable future. The recent outsized gains by UPS and the United Auto Workers Union would seem to bear that out. However, workers bargained for those gains to catch up to past inflation, not expected inflation. One of the key successes of the Fed is that their aggressive rate hiking campaign kept inflationary expectations anchored. Recent surveys reveal that consumer inflation expectations are receding.

That said, worker bargaining power is tied to conditions in the job market. While unemployment is still historically low, that’s mainly because companies are not yet laying off workers. But overall, labor conditions are easing, as unfilled positions are declining, fewer workers are quitting, people are coming off the sidelines to join the workforce, and unemployed workers are taking longer to find a job, as reflected in a steady rise in continuing claims for unemployment benefits. This confluence of forces indicates that companies are cutting back hiring but are holding on to workers as they assess future staffing needs amid an expected slowing of economic activity. Workers are sensing this, and their wage demands are also easing as they see a loosening labor market. This unfolding scenario is looking ever more like a soft landing – a tapering off of wages and inflation without a recession-inducing spike in unemployment – which is precisely what the Fed aims for. The financial markets may be pricing more rate cuts than the Fed will deliver, but it seems policy is pivoting away from belt-tightening just in time.

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The information contained herein is for informational purposes only and does not constitute a recommendation or advice. Any opinions are those of Legacy Private Trust Company only and represent our current analysis and judgment and are subject to change. Actual results, performance, or events may differ based on changing circumstances. No statements contained herein constitute any type of guarantee, nor are they a substitute for professional legal, tax, or other specialized advice. 

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Marta G. O’Brien

Vice President & Senior Trust and Financial Advisor

Marta O’Brien joined Legacy in November of 2012. She holds a Bachelor of Business Administration degree and a JD from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Prior to joining Legacy, Marta had several years of extensive personal trust experience with two large national trust companies in Madison and Appleton.

Marta and her family have been long-time residents of the Appleton community. Marta is a graduate of Xavier High School and is an avid volunteer in the St. Francis Xavier school system. As a seasonal resident of the Waupaca area, Marta and her children can be found cruising the waterways by boat in the summer months. While Marta enjoys the outdoors and feeling the wind in her hair, she leaves it up to her kids to perform in the water-ski shows. She supports their efforts by volunteering for the ski club and truly enjoys interacting with kids of all ages at both the lake and school.

Laurene M. Brooks

Vice President, Senior Trust and Financial Advisor

Laurene BrooksLaurene Brooks joined Legacy in 2004, shortly after the company’s inception. She earned undergraduate degrees in journalism and Spanish, and her Juris Doctor (JD) designation from Marquette University. Laurene has over 30 years of experience in law and relationship management. In addition to assisting clients with financial management and estate planning, Laurene is Legacy’s senior fiduciary officer. In addition, she was a member of the Real Property, Probate, and Trust Division of the Wisconsin State Bar for 10 years and served as chair.

Outside of work, Laurene volunteers at Lourdes Academy and St. Raphael the Archangel Parish in Oshkosh. Laurene and her husband have 3 adult sons and 2 daughters-in-law, as well as 1 granddaughter, and a “bonus” son from Burundi, Africa. Outside of work Laurene enjoys spending time with her family, as well as golfing, hiking, traveling, and spending time at their cabin in Saxeville.

Angel Will

Trust Support Services Assistant

Angel Will joined Legacy in 2013 and works closely with our trust operations team as a Trust Support Services Assistant. Prior to working at Legacy, she worked in circulation at the Neenah Public Library and as an educational assistant for the Neenah Joint School District. Angel was born and raised in Neenah, though she left the Fox Valley for several years after she married her husband, a now-retired member of the United States Air Force. Together they and their three children lived in Michigan, Florida, Idaho, and Germany. Outside of work, Angel enjoys scrapbooking, visiting her children at college, and is currently working towards earning her orange belt in Krav Maga. She is also a frequent participant in a local trivia competition with her dual colleagues and family members, Lucy Will and Olivia Will.

Trinity L. Maurice

Trust Support Services Assistant


Trinity Maurice joined Legacy in 2019 as a Trust Support Services Assistant. She has several years of trust operations experience, and prior to joining our team served as a Trust Operations Administrator at another financial institution. At Legacy, Trinity handles many daily trust operations tasks and oversees the reception area. Her excellent communication skills ensure that all processes flow smoothly not only within her team, but throughout all of Legacy. 

Outside of work, Trinity, her husband, and their two children enjoy spending time together with their extended family. They enjoy going to the movies and are lucky to live just down the street from a theater! They also try to take a trip together at least once a year and enjoy the variety of attractions available at the Wisconsin Dells. 

Sarah L. Brown

Special Services Assistant

Sarah joined Legacy in 2012 as a Trust Services Support Assistant and has recently made the transition into our audit and compliance department as a Special Services Assistant. She has an Associate Degree in Administrative Management and over 20 years of administrative experience.

Outside of work, Sarah enjoys concerts, traveling, and photographing live music events. 



Rita J. Braun

Trust Support Services Assistant

Rita Braun joined Legacy in 2020 as our Neenah office receptionist and a member of our Trust Operations Department. She graduated from Fox Valley Technical College with an associate’s degree in Child Care and Development and has over 22 years of customer service and event experience.

Rita and her husband of 31 years have 3 adult children.  She enjoys spending time with family and is also an active volunteer in the Agape Café at Neenah’s Trinity Lutheran Church.

Kelly J. O’Shea

Assistant Trust Officer

Kelly O’Shea joined Legacy in 2014 as a Client Representative before transitioning into our tax department. Kelly has 28 years total of administrative experience and has spent the last 4 years in tax and estate planning. Kelly earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and Human Resources from the University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh and holds the Certified Trust and Fiduciary Advisor (CTFA) designation. 

Kelly is a Wisconsin native and currently lives in Appleton with her husband. Together they have two adult children. Kelly enjoys the outdoors and loves to read, volunteer at her church, and get together with friends and family over coffee.

Barbara A. Blashka

Tax and Financial Officer

Barbara has been leading our tax and financial planning group since 2006. She earned a BA from Lakeland University in Accounting and Business Administration and is a graduate of the National Graduate Trust School at Northwestern University. With more than 30 years of trust and financial experience, including 24 years concentrating on trust-related tax issues, Barb has an extensive record of client success. She serves as an invaluable resource to the other investment and trust professionals at Legacy as well as our clients.  

When she’s not busy studying the ever-changing IRS tax laws and regulations, Barb can be found visiting her two adult children, Austin and Jill. Barb also enjoys taking motorcycle excursions with her husband, Don, and their friends, boating during the summer and reading political thriller novels.

Teresa M. Pavelsky

Client Representative

Teresa joined Legacy in 2016 as a Client Representative. She graduated from Stratford Business School as a Medical and Administrative Assistant and has over 35 years of administrative and trust experience. 

Outside of work Teresa enjoys supporting various organizations that assist the homeless and address the issue of food scarcity. She is married and has two adult children, as well as several grandchildren. In her free time, Teresa loves to hike and read mystery novels. 

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Mary L. Jovanovich

Assistant Trust Officer

Mary Jovanovich joined Legacy shortly after the company started in 2004, having worked for more than two decades in the trust department of a large regional bank. As an assistant trust officer, she works closely with clients to manage many of their account service needs. Mary’s clients enjoy her cheerful personality and rely on her 30 years of trust administration experience.

Mary is a lifelong Wisconsin resident, and both she and her husband as well as their three grown children all graduated from Neenah High School (Go Rockets!). Never idle for very long, Mary can often be found peddling her bike along area trails and spending weekends doing outdoor activities with her four grandchildren. She is a longtime volunteer and organizer of the Neenah Summer Fun Runs, a series of community-sponsored events for children 14 and under. She also enjoys traveling with her husband to his Ironman competitions which have taken her to Lake Placid, New York, Hawaii, and Canada.

Kay F. Bahn

Client Representative

Kay joined Legacy in 2015 as a Support Services Specialist and transitioned to Client Representative in 2020. Prior to becoming a part of our team, Kay worked as a Program and Transition Manager. She attended the University of Wisconsin – Madison and is currently continuing her education at Lakeland University. At Legacy, Kay assists Marta O’Brien with her account administration and client relationships.  

Outside of work, Kay and her family love traveling, camping, hiking, and biking. Kay is also an active volunteer within the St. Mary Catholic School system, where her daughters attended elementary and high school, and can often be found at fundraising and sporting events. 

Olivia M. Will

Marketing Coordinator

Olivia joined Legacy in the summer of 2016 as a part-time Project Worker, completed a Hospitality and Marketing Internship during the summer of 2017, and was then promoted to Communication Design Specialist. She has since graduated summa cum laude from the University of Wisconsin – Stout with a BS in Hotel, Restaurant, and Tourism Management, and a certificate in Event and Meeting Management. Olivia also holds the Certified Financial Marketing Professional (CFMP) designation. After graduating in 2018, Olivia accepted a position at Legacy as the Marketing Coordinator and is currently pursuing her MBA with a concentration in marketing from the University of Wisconsin – Parkside and her MS in Technical and Professional Communication from the University of Wisconsin – Stout. 

Outside of work, Olivia enjoys reading and writing short stories. She is an avid concertgoer and frequently travels to Chicago, Milwaukee, and the Twin Cities in pursuit of seeing her favorite musicians live. Olivia also loves cooking and baking and is dedicated to seeing a movie with her fiancé in theatres at least once a week. She is also a frequent participant in a local trivia competition with her dual colleagues and family members, Angel Will and Lucy Will.

Judith M. Runde

Support Services Assistant

Judith Runde joined Legacy in 2016 as a Support Services Assistant and Client Representative. Prior to joining our team, she worked as a receptionist and accounting clerk for various businesses within a family office setting and has over 23 years of administrative experience. Judith genuinely enjoys working directly with her clients and is always ready to help answer questions and solve problems.  

In her free time, Judith enjoys taking evening walks and playing on a bocce ball team with her husband during the summer months. She also loves spending time with her eight grandchildren, who range in age from three to seven years old.

Doneen A. Hanson

Executive Assistant

Doneen Hanson joined Legacy in 2019 as an Executive Assistant. Prior to joining our team, she was the director at St. Paul’s Lutheran Child Center, where her responsibilities included budgeting, human resources, and creating and revising policies and procedures. Doneen earned her bachelor’s degree in Human Services from the University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh.

Outside of work, Doneen enjoys spending time with her family. During the Summer she enjoys gardening and boating. The rest of the year, she likes hiking and walking, as well as watching her children and grandchildren participating in all of their activities.

 

Sue Fencl

Vice President & Director of Support Services

Sue Fencl has been an indispensable member of Legacy’s team since our inception in 2004 and has been instrumental in directing our trust operations and client support services. She is a member of the executive committee that leads our corporate initiatives and helps set policies and procedures throughout the entire organization. Sue has more than 30 years of experience in banking and trust services and holds an associate degree in Business Administration from Florida Junior College in Jacksonville, FL.

Sue enjoys all things that are precious to Wisconsinites: the outdoors, a good fish fry, and an old-fashioned made from scratch. She enjoys her role as a grandmother to the fullest and spends much of her free time taking part in activities with her three grandchildren that have included taking tae kwon do and piano lessons right along with them. Sue spends her summers at a lake home where she still water skis and keeps the campfire stoked for s’mores late into the evening.

Suzanne C. Dennis

Audit & Compliance Officer

Suzanne Dennis joined Legacy in 2011 as a member of our Trust Operations department and recently moved into Audit & Compliance. She holds both the Certified Trust and Financial Advisor (CTFA) and Certified Securities Operations Professional (CSOP) designations and has over 20 years of experience in the financial services industry.

Suzanne and her husband enjoy traveling as well as hiking, golfing, and tennis. When at home, Suzanne spends time volunteering for the Fox Valley Humane Association, as well as doing yoga, reading, and gardening.

Lisa T. Bergan

Senior Client Representative

Lisa joined Legacy in 2010 as a Senior Client Representative. She holds a BS from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and the Certified Trust Financial Advisor (CTFA) designation. Lisa has over 18 years of trust experience and prior to joining Legacy, she worked in the trust department of a regional bank. Lisa is flexible and diligently works on every project that is assigned so that clients’ needs are met quickly and efficiently.

Lisa enjoys the area in which she works. Outside of work, Lisa and her husband take advantage of the area by biking on state trails, and in the spring they enjoy vacationing in Phoenix, Arizona. On lunch breaks in the summer, Lisa can be found outside and walking around the neighborhood surrounding the office. Lisa loves to participate in a variety of activities with her nieces and nephews.

Ranee H. Bahn

Vice President & Audit and Compliance Officer

Ranee Bahn joined the Legacy team as Audit and Compliance Officer in the spring of 2014. Her primary duties are to manage and monitor our internal audit, risk measurements, and compliance processes. She brings more than 18 years of trust experience to further strengthen the Legacy team. Prior to joining Legacy, Ranee had experience as a Client Services Manager, Trust Operations Manager, and Compliance Manager at Wisconsin-based regional banks. Ranee previously completed the requirements of the Personal Trust School at Cannon Financial Institute and has recently obtained her Certified Fiduciary & Investment Risk Specialist (CFIRS) designation.

If Ranee could combine her two favorite pastimes, it would be a book by John Grisham with a plot centered on a soccer team (to her dismay, the closest Grisham has gotten was a book about a former NFL player). She has traveled across the Midwest up, down, and sideways to attend her sons’ soccer games and is now enjoying the downtime provided by their college graduations.

Peter J. Schaefer

Vice President & Trust Investment Officer

Peter Schaefer joined Legacy in 2018 as a Trust Investment Officer and became a Vice President in 2021. He holds a bachelor’s degree in agricultural and consumer economics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, as well as both the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) and Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) designations. Peter has over 10 years of experience in the financial services industry working with affluent and emerging clients to provide financial and retirement planning services as well as wealth management.

Peter was born and raised in Madison, Wisconsin, and lived in Chicago for over 10 years before moving to Neenah, which explains his affinity for Illinois sports teams.  He and his wife Laura have two sons, Oliver and Mason. In addition to watching football and baseball, Peter enjoys playing golf and traveling to Wyoming to ski and hike. Peter also enjoys volunteering and is a member of The Oshkosh Community Foundation Finance Committee.

Connor R. O’Brien

Vice President & Trust Investment Officer

Connor O’Brien joined Legacy in 2021 as a Trust Investment Officer. Connor graduated from the University of Wisconsin – Madison where he studied finance and holds the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA®) designation. Prior to joining Legacy, Connor spent 5 years as a portfolio manager for a large regional bank where he assisted clients with asset allocations, tactical portfolio adjustments, and security selection. 

Outside of work, Connor is a lifelong hockey player, and in the winter, you’re likely to find him at an ice rink playing men’s league or pickup hockey. In the summer, you’ll probably find him on the golf course. Connor and his wife also enjoy live music and often attend local music events, such as Mile of Music, as well as concerts from major touring musicians. Recently, Connor and his wife welcomed their first child, and are very excited for this new change in their lives.

Nicole T. Jones

Investment Operations Officer

Nicole Jones joined Legacy in 2008 as a member of the investments department. She obtained her bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh and now has over 17 years of experience in the industry. 

Nicole is an active volunteer with the Fox Valley Human Society as part of their Reading to Rover program, where therapy dogs make visits to the Boys and Girls Club and local nursing homes. She also participates in various fundraisers for local animal shelters and rescues. 

In her free time, Nicole and her husband love traveling to snorkel, hike, and view wildlife. Most recently, they visited Canada to see polar bears and beluga whales on a safari. Nicole also enjoys walking her two dogs, kickboxing, running and attending spin class to stay active. 

Paul A. Griesbach

Senior Analyst & Portfolio Manager

Paul Griesbach joined our investment group in 2015, bringing with him a diverse background including 20 years of investment and finance-related experience. He completed his BBA in at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and holds several investment-related course certificates, most recently from London Financial Studies in modern asset allocation. Paul’s expertise in quantitative research and portfolio risk management contributes greatly to Legacy’s portfolio management team.

A native resident of the Fox Valley, Paul was raised on a family dairy farm and spent his summer vacations working in his grandfather’s water conditioning business. Through these and other experiences, the value of customer care and taking personal ownership was imparted early on. He uses his take-charge attitude to lead the Hortonville boys’ basketball booster club while at the same time serving as a coach for youth basketball teams for over a decade. When Paul, his wife of 21 years, and their two sons aren’t attending a basketball game, they enjoy traveling to places that offer spectacular views of nature such as Niagara Falls and Yellowstone National Park. Paul is also known to be an outdoor enthusiast, spending time in the fall with his family and friends stalking grouse and deer. You can also find him on the range enjoying a round or two of competitive trap shooting.

Nick Carver

Director of Investment Services

As a founding member of Legacy in 2004. Nick Carver has over 30 years of investment management experience and has always played a major role in Legacy’s investment process. He is especially interested in modern portfolio theory and developing concepts in the area of personal finance. Nick graduated from the University of Wisconsin – Madison with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, and subsequently earned his Juris Doctor (JD) from the University of Wisconsin Law School. He also holds the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation and was previously president of the CFA Society of Milwaukee. 

Nick has been married to his wife Ruth for 42 years. Together they have 2 adult children and 3 grandchildren. In his free time, Nick is an avid reader and enjoys competitive sailing, cycling, and music. 

Gary L. Schaefer

Business Development Officer

Gary Schaefer joined Legacy in 2019 to assist with the development of our Madison office. Gary has 45 years of experience in the banking industry, including 25 years spent as the President of Associated Bank in Madison. He obtained his bachelor’s degree in Business Management from Eastern Illinois University. 

Outside of work, Gary is very active in many community groups and organizations. He currently serves on the board of both The Oscar Rennebohm Foundation and the United Way of Dane County Foundation. Additionally, he is a past chairman of The Wisconsin Banker’s Association, Edgewood College, and the Madison Community Foundation.

Candy H. Thurs

Vice President

Candy Thurs joined Legacy in 2020 as Vice President North Central Wisconsin. She earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Auburn University and holds the Certified Trust and Fiduciary Advisor (CTFA), as well as the Certified Wealth Strategist (CWS®) designations. Candy has over 15 years of experience in the industry and has held several roles in private wealth management.  

Outside of work, Candy is very active in the Wausau community. She is on the board of The Boys & Girls Club of Wausau Area and the United Way of Marathon County and is also a member of Women United and Impact100 Greater Wausau Area.  

Candy and her husband spend their free time watching, and volunteering for the various youth sports their son is involved in, which include baseball, basketball, and football. Candy also enjoys downhill skiing, traveling, and finding ways to volunteer and give back to the community.

Tammy M. Ross

Trust Administrative Officer

Tammy Ross joined Legacy in 2006 as a Trust Administrative Officer and has over 25 years of experience in the industry. 

She earned her bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh, and her Master of Business Administration from Lakeland University. Tammy is also an honors graduate of the Cannon Financial Institute Retirement Plan Services Program as well as a graduate of the American Bankers Association Trust School. 

Additionally, Tammy holds both the Certified Trust and Fiduciary Advisor (CTFA) and Certified Retirement Plan Professional (CRPP®) designations. Tammy and her husband are both lifelong Neenah residents and have one son in high school. Tammy enjoys live music, attending concerts, and spending time with family at the shooting range.

Lisa G. Kewley

Vice President & Senior Trust and Financial Advisor

Lisa Kewley was a founding member of Legacy at our inception in 2004. She holds a BA from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and is a graduate of the National Trust School at Northwestern University. Lisa has more than 37 years of experience working with high net worth individuals and families, and currently leads Legacy’s efforts at developing financial initiatives aimed at addressing and serving the needs of women. She is the former president of the Women’s Fund for the Fox Valley Region and still participates in the organization through committee work. Lisa is also the current president of the Over the Teacups women’s group.

Outside of work, Lisa loves traveling to Denver to see her daughter and spending time at home with her goldendoodle Maggie, who occasionally enjoys participating in Lisa’s Zoom meetings. She also enjoys professional tennis as well as kayaking and golf. 

Susan M. Hickey

Vice President & Senior Trust and Financial Advisor

Susan Hickey joined the Oconomowoc Office of Legacy Private Trust Company in October of 2018 as a Vice President and Senior Trust and Financial Advisor. Susan has over 25 years of trust and financial planning experience and is a graduate of Marquette University, where she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Liberal Arts. Susan has been a featured speaker on several estate and financial planning topics and is a Past President of the Milwaukee Estate Planning Forum. She remains an active member of that organization.  

Outside of work, Susan is actively involved in the community. She is currently a board member for both the Saint Joan Antida High School and The Neighborhood House of Milwaukee. She is a former Board Chairperson for the Women’s Fund of Greater Milwaukee and a member of Impact 100 Milwaukee. In addition, Susan enjoys spending time with her family as well as running, reading, and traveling.

Kathleen A. Brost

Trust and Financial Advisor

Kathy Brost joined Legacy in 2016 as a trust and financial advisor, enhancing our client relationship team with a variety of experiences in multiple facets of finance and business operations. She holds a BBA from Lakeland College and a JD from the University of Wisconsin Law School. Throughout her career, she has continued her education by attaining both the Certified Financial Planner (CFP™) and Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU®) designations as well as a real estate brokers license. Kathy spent 12 years as a tax advisor before becoming a corporate counsel. Most recently, Kathy spent more than 10 years in private practice, acting as corporate counsel and directing compliance programs for several fraternal benefit societies across the country. Kathy was the President of the State Bar of Wisconsin from 2020-2021 and is now the Immediate Past President.

A native of the Fox Valley, Kathy enjoys working in her parents’ real estate development and construction firm. Kathy loves to travel and has enjoyed exploring areas in the more remote and obscure parts of the world with her husband. Together they are the parents of two grown children; their daughter is an architectural engineer, and their son is a process engineer. When Kathy is not traveling the world, she enjoys art, gardening, reading, and snorkeling. Kathy also serves on the board of the Bergstrom Mahler Museum of Glass as the Treasurer. 

Brenton D. Teeling

Vice President of Client Services and Administration

Brenton Teeling joined Legacy in 2016 as Vice President of Client Services and Administration. He earned his B.A., magna cum laude, from Loras College, and his J.D., with distinction, from the University of Iowa College of Law. He also holds the Certified Trust and Fiduciary Advisor (CTFA) designation. Prior to joining Legacy, Brenton was a shareholder and civil litigator at the Fox Valley’s largest law firm.  

With nine years of civil litigation experience, Brenton brings a sharp eye and steady hand to issues of problem-solving and achieving positive client outcomes. Brenton’s responsibilities at Legacy include overseeing the Legacy client experience and ensuring that internal controls are in place for effective and secure account management.

In his free time, Brenton enjoys spending time with his family and engaging in athletic pursuits including golf, softball, volleyball, kickball, and cycling. Coming from a long line of coaches, he also enjoys coaching basketball and has been active at St. Mary Catholic High School and with the Zephyr Basketball Club and the YMCA for youth players. Brenton serves on the Board of Directors for United Way Fox Cities and is the 2021-23 Emerging Leaders Committee Chair. In addition, he is a member of the Finance Committees for St. Margaret Mary Parish and North Shore Golf Club and regularly volunteers for other organizations and special events throughout the community.

Joseph E. McGrane

Executive Vice President

Joe McGrane is a founder of Legacy whose expertise has created and sustained our financial planning and administrative processes.

Mr. McGrane holds a BA in Economics from Loras College and a JD from the University of Iowa. He has more than 35 years of trust and investment management experience.

 

Michael B. Mahlik

President

Mike Mahlik is a founder of Legacy and has more than 35 years of extensive experience in trusts, investments, and financial planning.

He holds a BS in Business Administration from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and an MBA from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. 

Shoua Thao

Trust Operations Officer

Shoua Thao joined Legacy in 2019 as a Support Services Manager. Prior to joining our team, she was a Mutual Fund Manager at FIS. Shoua obtained her associate degree in Business Administration from Fox Valley Technical College and has 17 years of experience in the financial services industry. 

Outside of work, Shoua loves spending time with her family, particularly when they are taking trips together, going camping, or watching college sports. She is a firm believer in giving back to the community, which has led her to volunteer much of her free time at Appleton East high school
.