START UP: Pillar Bank Focuses on Supporting Relationships

bank bolsters businesses with deep knowledge of the community

Pillar Bank's Chippewa Falls team.
Pillar Bank's Chippewa Falls team.

When a business customer reaches out to Neil Mathwig, market president for Pillar Bank in Chippewa Falls, it’s not usually on his office phone, but on his cellphone. That’s not a problem for Mathwig, who has spent nearly 30 years in the banking industry in Chippewa County. In fact, Mathwig considers it a point of pride: It means he’s built strong relationships with his clients and that they’re comfortable reaching out on their terms.

“Small business owners don’t work 9 to 5,” Mathwig says. “They work seven days a week, and they start at 5am and they don’t stop until maybe 9pm.”

Mathwig – who also oversees commercial lending at the Chippewa Falls branch – knows that entrepreneurs put their heart and soul into their businesses, so he’s willing to take the time he needs to get to know them and their needs. “It really comes down to spending the time and energy with those conversations to learn what are their greatest challenges and how can we help them overcome those challenges,” he says.

In practice, this means being available to customers when decisions need to be made quickly. Local decision-making is one of the benefits of a community financial institution like Pillar Bank, allowing decisions to be made faster than they might be at bigger banks with layers of red tape.


At Pillar Bank, the staff knows the community, and the community knows them. Mathwig, for example, is a Chippewa Falls native and Chi-Hi graduate who began his local banking career in 1994 at another institution. He joined Pillar Bank – then known as the First Bank of Baldwin – in 2019, helping launch the institution’s Chippewa Falls location. What began as a loan production office when Pillar Bank entered the Chippewa Falls market is now a full branch, which moved into a new building at 2868 County Highway I last March.

“I don’t want to go into a community where I don’t know anybody. How I think community banking should work is relationships.”

Pillar Bank traces its western Wisconsin roots back more than 140 years, but changed its name in February 2023 after expanding into communities beyond Baldwin, including Plum City, Spring Valley, Balsam Lake, Clear Lake, and Chippewa Falls. The latter branch serves Chippewa County and adjacent counties, where Mathwig is able to draw on the connections he’s formed over the decades.

“Many of the customers I worked with in the past came to Pillar Bank for the relationship we had previously,” he says. “I don’t want to go into a community where I don’t know anybody. How I think community banking should work is relationships.” That means relationships with local builders and contractors, with car salespeople and cleaning services, and with coffee shop owners. In fact, the franchise owner of the Caribou Coffee that shares a building with the new Chippewa Falls branch is a Pillar Bank customer.


While he knows it sounds like a cliché, Mathwig says his job is to help people make their dreams come true.

“Part of it is giving them a roadmap, because they don’t know where to start,” he continues. “They know where they want to go, but they don’t know how to get there.”

Mathwig’s years of experience allow him to help clients avoid common pitfalls, such as being overly optimistic – or, as he puts it, “getting too far over the front of their skis.” While bankers can get a bad rap for being too restrictive, their job is to avert risk, Mathwig points out: What’s good for the bank is generally good for the customer. Bankers want their clients to succeed, both for their clients’ sake and to benefit the broader community.

The Chippewa Falls branch,
The Chippewa Falls branch, 2868 County Highway I.

Successful entrepreneurs, Mathwig says, are those who are cautious. They pay attention to detail, gathering information, and talk to people. While they still must take risks, they consider their options carefully before making choices. However, when they make those choices, they are decisive.

“They’re very confident in themselves and their abilities and the people that are around them,” Mathwig says of successful entrepreneurs. “They don’t just jump in unknowing – they do a lot of research. And when they do make a decision, they’ve got action items already planned out.”

For business customers, Pillar Bank offers a variety of services, including checking, savings, and other accounts; a variety of lending options; and a suite of treasury management services which help businesses access funds quickly and protect against fraud.

In addition to business banking, Pillar Bank provides a full range of personal banking services, such as checking, savings, and other accounts as well as consumer loans and mortgages, including lending through FHA, VA, USDA, and WHEDA programs.

But whoever the clients are and whatever their needs may be, community comes first. “Pillar Bank is, and will always continue to be, a community bank,” Mathwig says.

Pillar Bank

To learn more about Pillar Bank, go to, call (715) 861-5567, or visit their Chippewa Falls branch at 2868 County Highway I.



Chippewa Valley Start-Up is sponsored by:

Royal Credit Union
200 Riverfront Terrace
Eau Claire, WI

Chippewa Valley Start-Up is sponsored by:

Royal Credit Union
200 Riverfront Terrace
Eau Claire, WI