Our Mission Statement
Fortress Partners provides uncommon investment and portfolio management services rooted in the community 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 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 community 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: 262-719-3719
The Managing Principal and CEO of Fortress Partners Capital Management, Ltd. since 1991. Jon has more than 55 years of experience in commercial banking, finance, and investment banking. He formed and manages the FFP BankManagers Fund, LLC, which has historically invested in publicly-traded community (micro and small market capitalization) banks and thrifts and which grew to more than $29 million in assets under management by year-end 2006, and two private equity partnerships investing over $20 million in privately-owned community banks. Jon has served in commercial and agricultural lending and tax-oriented equipment leasing functions, and senior 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 Senior Vice President and Director of Investment Banking at Blunt Ellis & Loewi Inc. in Milwaukee, a Kemper Company.
Jon 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 and today operates as Town Bank, a $2.2 billion asset subsidiary of Wintrust
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 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 currently 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.
Jon recently served two terms as chairman of the board and 12 years as a director (through June 30, 2018) of WELS Investment Funds, Inc. which managed 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
Direct Line: 262-790-6863
A Senior Advisor of Fortress Partners Capital Management, Ltd. since 2018, and member of FFP BankManager Fund, LLC Investment Community. 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 bank holding 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) until its acquisition by Byline Bank of Chicago 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 in working as a partner with the banks in which the FFP BankManagers Fund invest as we ensure feasible action plans are successfully executed to meet the business objectives of the community banks in which the Fund invests.
Manager of Investor & 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.
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 our Fund 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.
Elliot H. Berman
Elliot has served the financial services industry and community banking industry 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. He has served as a Senior Advisor to Fortress Partners since 2013.
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.
James R. Lang
Jim has over 40 year’s 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, and a member of the Investment Committe of FFP BankManagers Fund, LLC. 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 Community Federal National Association, Citizens Community Bancorp, Inc., Eau Claire, Wisconsin, a $1.3 billion asset bank holding company with 26 locations in northern Wisconsin and central Minnesota and chairman of the bank’s credit 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.
James M. Bruss
Jamie has served as an advisory director of Fortress Partners since 2006 and a director of Fortress Partners Capital Management, Ltd since 2000. He 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 industry. 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 holds the position of Executive Vice President, 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 over 22 years assisting 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, deposit operations, credit, human resources, regulatory compliance, internal audit, information systems, and facilities departments. He has served as an advisory director since 2006 and a director of Fortress Partners Capital Management since 2000. Bill is a graduate of St. Olaf College and holds a JD from Marquette University Law School.
Randall S. Knox
Randy is the retired 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. Randy serves as a director of 145 year-old PremierBank of Fort Atkinson and its holding company, First American Bankshares, Inc.