Richard Brachman, Town Bank of Madison
Richard Brachman, 59, could have been a writer. A sports writer, to be exact. As a Madison West high schooler, Brachman remembers being an early devotee of local sports writers Glenn Miller and Tom Butler, reading every one of their articles "cover to cover" as he dreamed of one day filling their shoes. And with enough athletic ability to earn a spot on the UW-wrestling team, coupled with a journalism degree, it appeared he was well on his way. But Brachman graduated from college in 1974, when the Vietnam War was at its height, and when, he said, journalism jobs were hard to come by.
Brachman said it was the "don't quit" mentality instilled as an athlete that fed his desire to find other employment, so he landed a job at Rural Insurance, staying for the next eight years. In 1985, John Mack, CEO of Community Banks Inc. (CBI), a small bankholding company, hired Brachman away from Rural to start an insurance and investment subsidiary, CBI Insurance Services. "John taught me a lot about banking," Brachman said. "He was a mentor to me, and took a chance on a young guy." It was a time when, according to Brachman, the concept of a bank dabbling in insurance and investments was almost unheard of. "He was very forward-thinking," Brachman said of Mack.
CBI later sold to Valley Bancorporation, and Brachman became president and director. He left in 1994 to form his own consulting firm, The Brachman Group, catering to the banking and insurance industry. He sold the business in 2007, and could have retired at that point, but another "Mack" had other plans. Two years ago, Jay Mack, Town Bank's CEO, John's son, and a long-time acquaintance, hired Brachman to be the market chairman for the Madison bank.
To say the banking world has changed is an understatement. While Town Bank is under the same scrutiny from the Feds as any other bank, Brachman believes its clients tend to be more appreciative of the diligence that goes into the bank's underwriting procedures — even to the point of viewing that process as an extension of their own business planning strategies. "We leave no stone unturned," he said, adding that the economy has leveled the playing field for banks. "While we're a $14 billion operation, we're not the biggest kid on the block, but we're not the smallest either. Yet, we're able to compete because the economy has stirred the competitive pot."
Brachman is proud of the fact that he never left the city he loves, and of a career which had early beginnings as a west side paper boy, a gas station attendant ("Check your oil, sir?") when gas cost 23 cents a gallon, and an early stint at McDonald's (at the current site of Whole Foods). His passion for sports has never waned: He and his wife, Connie, regularly attend countless UW sporting events, including hockey, wrestling and football games before which Brachman and his son still enjoy pre-game breakfasts at Mickie's Dairy Bar, as they've done for over 21 years. "I've only missed two football games since 1972," he said.
An emotional man, Brachman chokes up when discussing what's most important to him — his family. He is incessantly proud of his two grown children, but sadly, his parents, whom he credits for his success, both died early, in their fifties.
A "child of the '60s and '70s," Brachman often longs for a simpler time. "When I had my consulting practice, I'd sometimes spend between $400 and $500 on stationary." Now, he feels, much of that personalization is gone. "The world today is so materialistic." Then he laughed. "As I say that, I'm looking at my iPod. I love what I do, but Frank Sinatra is on my iPod."
Sign up for the free IB Update — your weekly resource for local business news, analysis, voices and the names you need to know. Click here.