Who We Are

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
E-Mail
Direct Line: 262-369-1095

The founder of Fortress Partners Capital Management, Ltd., 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 publicly-traded community (micro and small market capitalization) banks and thrifts, and two private equity partnerships investing in closely held community banks. Jon has served in commercial and agricultural lending and tax oriented equipment leasing functions, and management capacities in large publicly-traded banks in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and 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 was, in turn, acquired 10 years later by a publicly-traded bank holding company which in turn was acquired by BMO Harris Bank.

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 as a member of its audit committee until its sale in April 2017 to Seacoast Bank (SCBF), Stuart, Florida; Ovation Holdings and its banking subsidiary, Encore Bank, NA and served as a member of its risk and audit committee and its bank board loan committee until the closing of its sale to Lake Michigan Credit Union in April 2018. He also serves as a director of Eberle Communications Group, Inc., a direct mail marketing firm in McLean, Virginia and Advantage Leasing Corporation (Advantage+ Financing™), an asset based and direct business lender headquartered in Brookfield, Wisconsin. He also serves as an advisory director of BankMyBiz providing automated relationship-based lending for banks nationwide.

Jon recently served two terms as chairman of the board and remains a director (through June 30, 2018) of WELS Investment Funds, Inc. which manages over $200 million of assets of congregations and affiliates of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. He recently became an advisory board member of CALLA, the Center of the Advancement of Lutheran Liberal Arts headquartered at Concordia University Chicago, River Forest, Illinois. Jon has an AB in Political Science and Economics from Marquette University and has completed extensive graduate studies in micro-economics and economic history at Marquette toward the awarding of an M.A. in Economics until completion was precluded by an out-of-town job move.

Edwin J. Depenbrok
E-Mail
Direct Line: 262-790-6863

Ed Depenbrok founded dbrok group, llc in 2001 to provide consulting services focused on financial, accounting, and planning support services for Community banks. He has over 40 years of experience in all areas of banking financial management. His experience includes 23 years of experience at Bank One, where he held positions ranging from Controller at community banks, to Chief Financial Officer at a state holding company (Bank One Wisconsin), to Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of the national Retail business line.

As the team leader of dbrok group, Ed has provided financial management support, coaching and development, strategic planning facilitation, and directed performance improvement projects for community banks. He completed a nearly two and one-half year assignment as the non-employee Chief Financial Officer of CIB Marine Bancshares (CIBH), Pewaukee, Wisconsin, a publicly traded Bank Holding Company and served as an integral part of the successful capital restructuring of the company through an innovative use of Chapter 11 bankruptcy by a banking company. More recently, he served as interim Chief Financial Officer of Baytree Bank & Trust Company, Lake Forest, Illinois which was acquired by The Federal Savings Bank, Chicago, Illinois and, has provided interim financial management leadership to Town and Country Financial Corporation (TWCF), Springfield, Illinois.

He also served on the Board of Directors of Ridgestone Bank, Brookfield, Wisconsin (RFSI) which was acquired by Byline Bank in 2016.

Ed’s strong community banking knowledge, experience and application of best practices is particularly helpful in the analysis of current and prospective Community Bank investments. Ed has assisted Community banks in the adaptation of best practice tools and concepts to enhance the financial management process of Community banks. He exemplifies the strong value placed by Fortress Partners Capital Management in working as a partner with the banks in which we invest as we ensure feasible action plans are successfully executed to meet the business objectives of the Community banks in which we invest.

Stacy Streich
Client Service Operations
E-Mail
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
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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 has over 40 years leadership experience in the financial service and manufacturing industries with an emphasis on strategic realignment, revenue enhancement, mergers and acquisitions and financial performance. He currently serves as an Advisory Director of Fortress Partners Banc Ventures I & II. Jim has been the owner and President of Advantech Manufacturing, Inc., a company engaged in the business of manufacturing products for the dry particle sizing industry, since April 1998. He serves as a director of a number of closely held companies and several not-for-profit organizations. He is a director of Citizens Bancorp, Inc., Eau Claire, Wisconsin, a $940 million bank holding company with locations in northern Wisconsin and central Minnesota and chairman of the bank’s directors’ load committee. He is also active in real estate development and venture capital in northern Wisconsin and in southeastern Wisconsin. Additionally, Jim held several executive positions at Firstar Bank (now known as US Bank), most recently serving as Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer at Firstar Bank Iowa, NA from April 1991 to April 1996.