Commercial, Ag and SBA Lending Trends

The economy continues to improve. One indicator we look at in banking is the increase in our lending portfolio.

GraphOur lending portfolio continues to grow at Merchants Bank.

  • Overall our lending portfolio has increased 15.7% through the first three quarter of 2014 compared to the first three quarters of 2013, where we had a very strong year compared to many other financial institutions.
  • Commercial lending increased 16.3% across all of our locations.
  • Ag lending has increased 12.9% and SBA lending has increased 16.3%.

The increase shows our expertise in and commitment to growing these important segments to help make the places we live better.

Contact a Business Banker today to learn more about business financing and leasing options at Merchants Bank. Subject to credit approval.

How Can Your Business Benefit from Positive Pay?

Tanya Schamaun thinks Positive Pay* “is just smart business sense.” Tanya is the Accounting Director at Winona State University and, along with co-worker Julie Sammann, has been using Merchants Bank’s fraud detection service Positive Pay since May.

“Positive Pay protects Winona State University from fraud. We can detect problems with copied or altered checks quickly and easily,” said Tanya.

Here’s how Positive Pay works: Each day, Winona State provides Merchants with an electronic inventory of checks issued. When the checks presented on WSU accounts each day are processed, Positive Pay matches the account number, check number and dollar amount of each check presented for payment against a list of checks previously authorized and issued by Winona State. All three components of the check must match exactly. When a check is reviewed that isn’t a match in the file, it becomes an “exception item.” Tanya or Julie then has the chance to review the image and can instruct the bank to pay or return the check.

“The whole process is very user-friendly. It only takes a few minutes a day,” said Julie. “Even if you don’t have your own IT department to help you create an inventory of checks to upload to Merchants, you can enter a check manually in a minute or less.”

According to Tanya, “[Positive Pay] is simple to use, even for a small organization. The hardest part is remembering your password!”

To learn more about how Positive Pay can help your business, contact one of our Cash Management specialists today.

*Fees may apply

Students Can Win With Merchants Bank Money Ball in St. Charles

MoneyballBlog

Two area students will each have a chance to win a $100 Merchants Bank Visa Gift Card by making a half-court shot at half-time of the St. Charles boy’s basketball game against Rushford-Peterson on Friday, January 16.

Students will be able to register up until half-time of the game and then will be chosen randomly to take part. To qualify to take the half-court shot, the students will have to make a free-throw and a three-point shot.

“This should be great fun for the students and should also benefit our athletic programs,” said Mark Linderbaum of Merchants Bank in St. Charles.

If a student makes the free throw, three-point shot and the half-court shot, the student will be presented with a certificate to redeem for a Merchants Bank Visa Gift Card. Funds up to $200 not won by the students will be donated to the St. Charles athletic programs.

Julie Pearson has Joined Merchants Bank as a Correspondent Mortgage Account Executive

JuliePearson

Julie Pearson has joined Merchants Bank as an Assistant Vice President and a Correspondent Mortgage Account Executive, according to Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing Sue Hovell.

Pearson will be covering Wisconsin, Iowa and a portion of Minnesota in her new position. Merchants Bank provides mortgage correspondent services for 86 separate financial institutions that include 193 separate locations. Merchants Bank also provides mortgage correspondent services in the remainder of Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska.

“Julie’s position is important to our organization and to the financial institutions she will help meet their goals to provide their customers with good rates, timely underwriting and effective servicing,” Hovell said. “One of the great parts of having Julie on board is that she is very familiar with the process.”

Pearson has been working with financial institutions in mortgage lending since 2001. Her career has taken her to two different banks where she sold home loans to the Merchants Bank Correspondent Program.

“We were fortunate enough to work with Merchants Bank on this venture, and I came to know how wonderful a partner they were in providing services,” Pearson said. “I look forward to providing the same level of service to my customers that I received when I was Merchants’ customer.”

Julie can be reached at (507) 494-0540 or japearson@merchantsbank.com.

How Can Your Business Prevent Credit Card Fraud?

ManWithCreditCardStaggering, sobering, scary. Those are just a few of the words that come to mind when you think about credit card fraud. Think of this, 97 percent of all companies suffer a data breach, according to a story CBS News’ “60 minutes” aired on November 30, 2014. So what can a company do? Most companies are doing all that they can. Still, it takes an average of 229 days from the time of the breach before it is discovered, according to the “60 Minutes” story. When a breach happens, a company tries to detect the breach as soon as it can and stop the bleeding as quickly as possible.

How can your company be protected? It really comes down to the company’s customers. There are a lot of tips that can be used. Here are just a few:

  • Keep information private and avoid sharing your information with other individuals.
  • Continually monitor accounts, including credit card and account statements.
  • Be skeptical. Question if things are what they seem. Hover over links to see where they lead. Verify email requests from companies.
  • Create strong passwords that are hard for others to detect and decipher and use passwords to protect your devices. (More information here on making a strong password.)
  • Ignore emails from senders you don’t know.

Individuals Should Take Greater Precautions with This Year’s Flu

FluArticle

Because this year’s flu vaccine is not as effective against a current, mutated strain of the influenza virus, individuals should be taking extra precautions this year.

This year’s flu is unpredictable. Early in December, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sent an advisory to doctors noting that more than half of the 85 influenza virus samples it had analyzed were different than the virus strains included in this year’s vaccine, signaling that there has been a mutation, or a drift, of the strain.

This season’s most commonly reported strain of the virus is influenza A (H3N2). In the past, influenza A has been associated with higher rates of hospitalization and death than other strains, especially for people at high risk for complications, such as the very young, the elderly and those with chronic health conditions.

Here are some things you can do:

  • Make sure you are vaccinated. During the 2012-13 flu season, 12,337 people were hospitalized with flu-related illness and 149 children died, according to CDC surveillance data. Ninety percent of those children were unvaccinated. While the flu vaccine is not as protective against a mutated strain, it can still decrease the severity of illness caused by such a strain.
  • Become educated on how influenza is spread. If you’re sick, stay home. Be sure to learn about preventive measures, like healthy eating, plenty of sleep, regular washing of hands, covering the mouth when coughing or sneezing, and drinking lots of fluids.
  • Check with your employer to ensure you have work alternatives in place, like working from home, if that is a possibility for your position.
  • When you start feeling symptoms, be sure to take antiviral medications. Such medications can make the flu milder and shorter.
  • If you’re sick, stay home or work from home. Don’t give the flu a chance to spread.
  • Set an example. If you’re a manager, don’t come to work sick. This tells the people you work with they should come in no matter how they feel.

 The above information is summarized and modified from an article from SHRM (Society for HR Management), written by Dana Wilkie.

Robert Root Has Joined Merchants Bank as Vice President for Network, Datacenter and PC Services

RobertRootWelcome

Robert Root has joined the team at Merchants Bank as Vice President for Network, Datacenter and PC services, according to Rodney Nelsestuen, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer.

“Robert is an important addition to our team as we continue to provide our customers the technology support they need today and in the future from their bank,” Nelsestuen said.

Root has more than 20 years of Information Technology experience, including the past 15 years with Eastwood Bank. He has a well-rounded background in infrastructure management, business analysis, information security and project management.

“I look forward to putting my skills to work for Merchants Bank and learning first-hand why it has the reputation as an industry leader in our region,” Root said.