Welch, Birkholz Named “10 Days of Giving” Co-Chairs in Winona

Trust Merchants Bank

Nate Birkholz

Jen Welch

Jen Welch

Jennifer Welch and Nate Birkholz have been named co-chairs for the 2015 “10 Days of Giving,” which runs December 1-10. They will lead Merchants Bank employees in their efforts to collect food to benefit the food shelf programs operated by Winona Volunteer Services.

“Each year we are amazed at the generosity of people in Winona County,” said Welch, who is serving her second year as co-chair. “They truly recognize others are less fortunate and do what they can to help.”

Last year, the “10 Days of Giving” collected 231,155 of food, putting the 26-year total at 2,608,182 pounds. Two pounds of food are calculated for each dollar brought in, with the percentage of monetary donations increasing each year.

“It’s been my experience that people in Winona County both recognize the need and then do all they can to meet that need,” said Birkholz, who is serving his first year as co-chair. He has been with the Merchants organization for two years and heads the Merchants Bank Trust Department. “It’s gratifying to see that sincere response and the response of my co-workers. I believe nearly every employee at Merchants Bank in Winona contributes in some way to the food drive.”

In 2014 Winona Volunteer Services had 906 households using the food shelf each month, with another 88 households per month using the emergency food shelf. In total, an average of just over 36,700 pounds of food was distributed each month.

As in the past, Merchants will be collecting at its locations as well as schools and participating businesses around the area. For questions, please call Welch at 457-1108 or Birkholz at 457-1156. The “10 Days of Giving” will officially kick off with a press conference at 10 a.m., December 1 at Merchants Bank in downtown Winona. Monetary donations can be made out to “10 Days of Giving.” Monetary donations can be mailed to, or dropped off at Merchants Bank, 102 E. 3rd Street, Winona, MN 55987, attn: Chad Anderson. If you would like to make a donation online, you can go directly to the Winona Volunteer Services website. Indicate “10 Days of Giving” after entering your name.

Merchants Financial Group, Inc. Increases Dividend by Three Cents Per Share Based on its Performance Through the First Three Quarters of 2015

Rod Nelson, President/CEO

Rod Nelson, President/CEO

Merchants Financial Group, Inc. (MFGI) reported net income of $10,168,380 for the first three quarters of 2015, more than $400,000 ahead of last year’s pace of $9,749,529, according to MFGI President & CEO Rod Nelson.

Based on the performance, the MFGI Board of Directors voted to increase the shareholder semiannual dividend by three cents to 53 cents per share, Nelson said. The dividend will be paid to shareholders of record as of November 20, 2015.

“The reason for the strong performance is consistent with the factors that have driven our organization over the past several years: exceptional commercial loan growth compared to our peers, mortgage volume that has exceeded our plan and sound credit quality,” Nelson said.

Nelson said the Merchants organization is performing well at all of its 21 bank locations, and he expects the positive trend to continue.

Jim Peterson Joins Merchants Bank as a Commercial and Ag Banker

Commercial Banker

Jim Peterson, Commercial and Ag Banker

Jim Peterson has joined Merchants Bank in Cannon Falls as Vice President and Commercial and Ag Banker, according to Brian Hokanson, Senior Vice President and Senior Lender for Merchants Bank.

“We believe Jim’s skills, especially in the area of ag lending, are a tremendous fit for our focus as a bank, but, more so, the right fit for our current and future customers,” Hokanson said.

Peterson has 16 years of commercial lending experience, working both in North Dakota and Minnesota. In addition to serving the needs in the Cannon Falls area, Peterson will also work with Ag customers in the Rochester area.

“The areas of focus that are important to me are also important to Merchants Bank,” Peterson said. “It has a great reputation for taking care of the immediate and long-term needs of its customers. I’m happy to be part of the team.”

Peterson is a native of North Dakota and graduate of North Dakota State University, with a degree in Agricultural Economics. He has a long history of community involvement and a love for the outdoors, including time serving on the Advisory Board for the North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department. Jim and his wife, Tina, are looking forward to being active members of the Cannon Falls community.

Loans are subject to credit approval.

Meet Alyssa Rood, Quality Assurance/ Loan Review Specialist at Merchants Bank

RoodAlyssaHow long have you been with Merchants?
Alyssa: I have worked at Merchants for over six years. I previously worked as our Fraud and Purchasing Specialist. I moved to Quality Assurance in 2012.

What do you enjoy about coming to work every day?
Alyssa: I love Merchants Bank employees. We have some fun, quirky people here and I’m a fun quirky, gal. I feel like I fit in pretty well.

What’s one thing your mom or dad taught you about money?
Alyssa: They taught me that I needed to be realistic and save if I wanted to buy something special. When I was young, I knew I really wanted to go to Australia. So, I immediately started working in high school to save for the trip. I actually studied abroad there in the fall semester of my junior year of college.

What’s one thing on your bucket list?
Alyssa: I have an extensive bucket list. I see it as a fun checklist. The biggest thing on my list – skydiving – was checked off a couple of years ago. I would also like to write and illustrate a children’s book and whittle something.

Besides money, what’s your favorite green thing?
Alyssa: The Packers!

What’s your secret talent?
Alyssa: I pick up random hobbies. Things like learning how to do special effects makeup, creating stained glass, snowshoeing, etching glass, and many more over the years. It’s why my small apartment is very cluttered.

Meet Rachel Larson, Audit & Compliance Officer at Merchants

Rachel, pictured with her husband, Charlie and children, Greta and Charles

Rachel, pictured with her husband, Chuck and children, Greta and Charlie

How long have you been with Merchants?
Rachel: I started in the Bookkeeping area in 1999. Then, in 2000, I moved to the ACH/Wire department. From there I worked in the Internal Audit Department in 2004 and eventually the Audit/Compliance Department in 2005, where I still am today.

What do you enjoy about coming to work every day?
Rachel: The challenge and the people. My job is not monotonous; every day it’s something different. Banking industry regulations are evolving and complicated, and it’s challenging to stay up on top of everything, but it’s an attainable goal. Plus, I truly enjoy all of my co-workers.

What’s one thing your mom or dad taught you about money?
Rachel: How to do a projected three-month budget and stick to it. Really.

What’s one thing on your bucket list?
Rachel: To go to Denali National Park in Alaska with my husband and two kids. We love the outdoors…camping, fishing, you name it.

Besides money, what’s your favorite green thing?
Rachel: My Kindle, which is in a green protective case. I love to read…I read two books a week.

What’s your secret talent?
Rachel: Proofreading. I proofread articles, I proofread signs…I have no idea why. It must be the auditor in me.

Meet Wendy Cagle, Loan Review Officer at Merchants

Wendy, with her son, Clay, and husband, Greg.

Wendy, with her son, Clay, and husband, Greg.

How long have you been with Merchants?
Wendy: In 1993, I started in Mortgage Processing – the same year I got married, actually! In 1996, I accepted a position in Loan Review. When I started in Loan Review, I mainly reviewed mortgage loans and created monthly Board reports. Eventually, I transitioned to commercial loan review and commercial has become my main focus. I audit our loans to make sure loan policy is followed and risks are identified. I also review a sample of all other loans throughout the year too.

What do you enjoy about coming to work every day?
Wendy: I definitely enjoy my co-workers. They make my day fun. I truly enjoy my work too. A lot of people might think loan review is boring, but every file I open is a new adventure. I’m looking at new things every day. You get to see how businesses grow over the years. Plus, Merchants is such a community minded place. Our management’s positive approach brightens our work environment.

What’s one thing your mom or dad taught you about money?
Wendy: I’m a saver. If I wanted to buy something special when I was growing up, I had to save my own money for it.

What’s one thing on your bucket list?
Wendy: I’m not really a bucket list type of person. I want to live life every day and not wait for the future.

Besides money, what’s your favorite green thing?
Wendy: Green beans. I am a green bean nut. I’m a vegetarian and they are a staple of my diet.

What’s your secret talent?
Wendy: Always trying to see the good in every situation. I’ve been called Miss Positivity.

Mark Muck Joins Merchants Bank in Rochester as a Mortgage Lender

mortgage loans, home loans

Mark Muck, Mortgage Lender

Mark Muck has joined Merchants Bank as a mortgage lender, according to Merchants Bank in Rochester President John Doyle. Muck is transferring from the Merchants Bank location in Rosemount to fill the position at the Merchants Bank Green Meadows location.

“We’re excited to have Mark join our team. He has a complete understanding of the mortgage process and how to meet the needs of our customers,” Doyle said. “Mark’s experience with the Merchants organization is a bonus for our customers in that he’ll be able to share the full range and benefits of our products from day one.”

Muck has been with the Merchants organization since 2012 and has nearly 25 years in the mortgage industry, including 15 years owning his own company. He said he is especially excited about the products Merchants has to address the upcoming expansion and residential construction in the Rochester market.

“I believe our construction loan product is the best you’ll find. As Rochester continues to grow, I look forward to sharing it and our other mortgage loan solutions with members of the community,” Muck said.