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Our Mission Statement

Fortress Partners provides uncommon investment and portfolio management services rooted in the banking and financial services industry to institutional and individual investors designed to build and preserve wealth. Our approach is based upon decades of combined experience earned by our investment team in the federal bank regulation, executive bank management, and investment analysis of financial institutions.

This experience is augmented by extensive industry-related investment research and portfolio management. We will provide competitive portfolio performance through investments concentrated in bank and thrift equities that have, as an industry, provided better returns than the broader market indices.

We are invested in this industry with our clients so are interests are aligned. We are committed to providing a high level of transparency to, and communication with, our clients and investors to enable them to accurately assess the basis for their trust in us.

Jon C. Bruss

CEO & Managing Principal
Direct Line: 262-369-1095

The founder of Fortress Partners, Jon, has more than 50 years of experience in commercial banking, finance, and investment banking. He formed and manages a sector-specific fund investing in the publicly-traded community (micro and small market capitalization) banks and thrifts, and two private equity partnerships investing in a tightly held community bank.

Jon has served in commercial and agricultural lending and tax-oriented equipment leasing functions, as well as management capacities in large, publicly-traded banks in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Omaha, Nebraska, and a Fortune 1000 manufacturing company in Milwaukee. He also served as SVP and Director of Investment Banking with Blunt Ellis & Loewi in Milwaukee.

In 1998, he organized and managed Town Bankshares and Town Bank, which was sold in 2004 to Wintrust Financial Corporation. He also formed Fortress Bancshares in 1992, which acquired three banks and in turn acquired ten years later by a publicly-traded bank holding company, which was acquired by BMO Harris Bank.

Jon served as a director of GulfShore Bancshares, Inc. and GulfShore Bank, Tampa, Florida and an advisory member of its audit committee until April 2017 when it was acquired by Seacoast Bank (SCBF) in Stuart, Florida. Ovation Holdings, and its banking subsidiary, Encore Bank, NA. He is also a member of their risk and audit committee and bank loan committee; Eberle Communications Group, Inc., a direct mail marketing firm in McLean, Virginia, and Advantage+ (Advantage Leasing Corporation) an asset based direct business lender headquartered in Brookfield, Wisconsin.

Jon recently served two terms as chairman of the board and remains a director of WELS Investment Funds, Inc., which manages over $180-million of assets of congregations and affiliates of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. He has an AB in Political Science and Economics from Marquette University. He has also completed extensive graduate studies in microeconomics and economic history at Marquette.

Scott B. McCallum
Senior Advisor
Direct Line: 267-346-1176

Scott has over 35 years of experience in commercial banking, community bank consulting, investment banking and private equity investing. He has been serving as Senior Advisor to Fortress Partners since early 2009 where he assisted with new investment due diligence, existing portfolio management, formulating portfolio exits, strategic and capital planning engagements, and exploring new fund development.

Scott served as a consultant to Resource Financial Institutions Group, Inc. (the private equity arm of Resource America, Inc.), where he previously served as Principal of the general partner of several PE funds investing in banks. Until October 2015, he served on the board of directors of TrustAtlantic Financial Corporation, a $500-million in assets bank based in Raleigh, North Carolina, one of Resource Financial’s portfolio bank holding company investments. TrustAtlantic was successfully sold to First Horizon National Corp.

Scott also served on the board of another Resource Financial portfolio investment: Birmingham Bloomfield Bancshares, Inc., based in Birmingham, Michigan, a $300-million in assets from its startup in 2006 until its January 2017 sale to Bank of Ann Arbor. Previously, Scott served as Senior VP and head of the Chicago office of Austin Associates, LLC. There, he provided corporate finance, strategic planning, capital planning, asset/liability management, valuation, branch feasibility, regulatory, and M&A advisory to community bank executive teams and boards.

He started his professional career at Harris Bank in Chicago, where over a 20-year career he rose from the commercial banking training program to middle market relationship management, CRA management, capital markets advisory, community bank management, and small business segment management (the last two at the Senior Vice President level). He holds a B.S.B.A. in Finance from Miami University (Ohio) and an M.B.A. from Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University.

Stacy Streich
Client Service Operations
Direct Line: 920-203-5655

Stacy has been with Fortress since 2016. Her responsibilities include day-to-day operations, investor communications, and website administration. She has an extensive background in adult education, operations management, training and development, and office administration.

Stacy graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Stout with a Bachelor of Operations Management degree and Masters of Adult Education degree. She is studying for the Uniform Investment Advisers Law (Series 65) examination.

Advisory Board

We prize experience and knowledge in bank management, lending and credit, and governance and financial oversight. As banking has become more complex with advances in technology, regulatory changes, and enhancements in management techniques, we have found it increasingly helpful to consult others who have broad exposure to banking. We have created a unique group of advisory directors who are either investors in one of our funds or who represent investors in one of the funds. Each of them also brings a wealth of experience to their advisory roles. Our advisory directors meet with our staff periodically to discuss the performance of the funds we manage with special focus on the performance of the banks and thrifts owned in those funds. Specifically, for the funds investing in non-publicly traded banks and thrifts, the advisory board addresses conflicts of interest and valuation issues as they may arise. In addition, our advisory directors provide support between meetings by assisting in due diligence on new investments and ongoing review of specific institutions and markets. Naturally, Fortress Partners Capital Management staff retains ultimate responsibility for all decisions relating to fund investments.

Mark Baumgartner

Mr. Baumgartner is Senior Managing Director and Chief Investment and Risk Officer at B. C. Ziegler & Company, and has been with the firm since 1984. For twenty-five years Mr. Baumgartner worked as an investment banker. these activities included mergers, acquisitions and financial advisory work as well as tax-exempt and taxable financings on a fixed variable or blended interest rate basis. He is responsible for the review of all transaction underwritten by the firm which fall below the: A: rating category and the healthcare real estate team. He is a registered representative and a registered principal of FINRA, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. Mr. Baumgartner represents the Placement Agent for Fortress Partners Banc Ventures II, LP, on the Advisory Board.

Elliot H. Berman
Senior Advisor

Elliot has served the financial services industry and community banking as an attorney for over 30 years, focusing on mergers and acquisitions, corporate governance, enterprise risk management, bank regulation and e-Commerce. He is a nationally recognized expert in compliance issues regarding the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA), USA PATRIOT Act and regulations administered by the Office of Foreign Assets Control. He also has in depth knowledge of financial data processing, Internet banking and e-Commerce products. In addition to serving Fortress Partners, Elliot serves as Principal of Bowtie Advisors, focused on assisting family-owned, privately-held and non-profit clients in formulating and implementing, strategic plans, governance processes and practical business solutions to drive successful results.

Prior to establishing Bowtie Advisors, Elliot served as Senior Vice President, General Counsel & Secretary of Johnson Financial Group, Inc., a $3.9 billion family-owned community oriented diversified financial holding company headquartered in Racine, Wisconsin. In this position, he provided advice and counsel to the board of directors, executive and senior management on a wide variety of business, legal and regulatory matters. During his tenure in that position, he was, at various times responsible for the co-ordination of legal services to the company and its subsidiaries, for oversight of the company’s corporate compliance functions, governance matters, shareholder relations, enterprise risk management, corporate security and loan review. He also played a key role in the company’s acquisition and divestiture of various businesses as well as its recapitalization.

He holds a BS Elementary Education from the University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee and a JD from Marquette University Law School.

Richard Brown

Rick is a CPA and a recently retired bank and financial services audit partner in KPMG's Milwaukee office. Rick has extensive experience in the financial services industry, especially with banks and thrifts. While at KPMG he acted as audit partner on publicly traded banks, including Firstar Corporation, and many smaller closely held banks. Rick serves as a founding shareholder of Bank Mutual Corporation (BKMU), a Milwaukee based publicly traded savings bank; Partnership Community Bancshares, Inc., a closely held Wisconsin bank holding company; and several not-for-profit organizations. He also serves as a consultant to some of his former clients and continues to follow the banking industry closely.

James M. Bruss

Jamie is an elected director of Fortress Partners Capital Management, Ltd., an advisory director of Fortress Partners Banc Ventures I and Fortress Partners Banc Ventures II, and holds the position of Director of Legal and Compliance at OnCourse Learning, Waukesha, Wisconsin. OnCourse Learning is the leading provider of eLearning in the financial services, healthcare, real estate, and IT industries. He served Fortress Partners Capital Management, Ltd. from 2008 to 2015 as Managing Director and General Counsel where he assisted with new investment due diligence, bank regulatory relations, existing portfolio management, strategic and capital planning engagements and exploring new fund development. Prior to joining Fortress Partners, he served as a litigation attorney at a Milwaukee law firm.

Jamie earned a BA in Philosophy from St. Olaf College and a JD (Cum Laude) from Marquette University Law School, where he was a member of the Marquette Law Review.

William F. Bruss

Bill is an elected director of Fortress Partners Capital Management, Ltd., and holds the position of Chief Operating Officer, General Counsel, and Secretary of Waterstone Bank SSB and its publicly traded holding company, Waterstone Financial, Inc. (WSBF). He has served as Waterstone Bank's General Counsel for 20 years and assisted in the conversion of Waterstone Bank to the mutual holding company (MHC) structure in 2005 and its second-step conversion in 2014. His responsibilities include management of the bank’s and company's legal and corporate governance matters, and the bank's lending operations, human resources, regulatory compliance, internal audit, information systems, and facilities departments.

William J. Hickmann

Bill is an attorney with the Law Firm of Hickmann & Hickmann S. C. Bill has been a long-time bank investor and, along with Jon, co-founded Town Bankshares, Ltd., and The Delafield State Bank in 1998. Bill served as director and chairman of that bank and bank holding company. As chairman, he established the shareholder value optimization strategy that resulted in the sale of Town Bankshares to Wintrust Financial Corporation (WTFC) in 2004. Bill also served as chairman and as a director of Securant Bank & Trust and its holding company, Capital Commerce Bancorp, Inc for several years.

Randall S. Knox

Randy is Vice President of Finance of W. D. Hoard Co. in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin. He has served as an advisory director of Fortress Partners Capital Management, Ltd. since 2006. Randy invested with Jon in Fortress Bancshares in 1992 and he or his family have been involved in Jon’s banking and bank-related activities since then. Randy’s family has managed and owned a printing and publishing business in Fort Atkinson for decades and currently publishes Hoard’s Dairyman and a score of weekly and bi-weekly newspapers in Wisconsin. Randy serves as a director of 145 year-old PremierBank of Fort Atkinson and its holding company, First American Bankshares, Inc.

James R. Lang

Jim currently is owner and president of Advantech Manufacturing, Inc., a manufacturer of laboratory test equipment. He is also active in real estate development and venture capital. He serves as a director of a number of closely held companies and several not-for-profit organizations and as a director of Citizens Community Bancorp, Inc. (CZWI) located in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Jim served as president and CEO of Firstar Bank of Madison and later as president and CEO of Firstar Banks of Iowa. (Firstar is now part of US Bank.) Jim was active in the supervision of many of the Firstar community banks as President and CEO of Firstar Bank-Madison. He directed the acquisition and merger of the $3 billion Firstar Banks of Iowa and became its President and CEO, prior to retiring to pursue his own investment activities which include his interests in banking.