by Robert Barba
Chris Bauer was done with banking and was ready for adventure.
As the industry boomed, and then busted, he was gallivanting and globetrotting, splitting his time between places in Wisconsin, Florida and Colorado, mixed in with jaunts to exotic and far-reaching places.
But in March 2009, an old buddy stopped by to have a beer with Bauer on his boat docked off Marco Island in Florida and talk to him about an opportunity in Wisconsin. That chat sent Bauer on a new kind of journey.
“I had no intention to be back in the banking business,” Bauer said. “I said yes, because I thought this could be interesting. It is going to be challenging, but I have the skill set to do it. I have the drive and the determination.”
Three months later, Bauer was the president and chief executive of Anchor Bancorp Wisconsin in Madison, one of the Midwest’s biggest and most badly damaged community banks. After several years of fighting for survival, Anchor began to breakthrough in 2013. The banking company last fall resorted to bankruptcy to make a recapitalization happen. Anchor went public last October, and analysts now see the once-doomed company as solidly built and poised for growth.
Bauer’s tireless efforts and Anchor’s improbable turnaround explain why the veteran executive is one of American Banker‘s three community bankers of the year.