It was a low-key encounter as Anchor BanCorp Wisconsin leaders greeted more than 100 stockholders and employees at the company's annual shareholders meeting Tuesday at the Crowne Plaza hotel.
President and chief executive Chris Bauer said Anchor, parent of AnchorBank, has made real progress on the four goals he laid out when he took over the Madison bank three years ago: strengthen the management team; enhance risk management; realign the balance sheet; and improve efficiency.
Bauer said delinquent loans have fallen sharply, capital levels are higher and the bank company continues to cut costs.
"Now, we're at a period of time where we've stabilized the company; we can begin to grow," he said.
But Anchor is not out of the woods. "Major challenges still remain," said board chairman David Omachinski," including a tough commercial real estate market and Anchor's big debts — $133.5 million to the U.S. Treasury and $157.3 million to a group of banks led by U.S. Bank.
"We are committed to raising further capital," Omachinski said. So far, there are no takers.
Only half a dozen shareholders spoke out during a question-and-answer session, but a couple of the questions were pointed.
Asked one person: Why isn't the federal government taking over the bank?
"Regulators see that Anchor is making progress, and it would be counterproductive to close the institution," Omachinski said.
Another shareholder, Christopher Barth of Monroe, asked how long the U.S. Bank consortium will wait for its money. Bauer said he expects the loan, due in November, will be extended again.
But Barth said he thinks it's just a question of time before the other banks act, potentially pulling the plug on Anchor. "I don't think it has a chance at all of surviving," Barth said.