Meet Rodney Nelsestuen, Chief Information Officer at Merchants

Rodney with his cat, Tinkerbelle

Rodney with his cat, Tinkerbelle

When did you start your banking career?

I’ve been in the financial services industry for over 30 years. I began as a commercial lender, actually, and did that for seven or eight years. Then, I went into the management as a Chief Credit Officer and eventually became a CEO of a financial institution in Michigan. We did a lot of commercial and ag lending to small and large businesses alike.

My first job as Chief Information Officer was at AgriBank, where I stayed for six years. Then, I worked for CEB TowerGroup, which is a financial services advisory firm. I did a lot of research, wrote reports, published articles and spoke at conferences and other speaking engagements around the world. But I missed “being in the ring,” as I call it. I missed the opportunity to actually practice what I was advising.

From my time at CEB TowerGroup, I learned that I wanted to work at a bank where personal contact is still important. At Merchants, I’ve found this strong culture of personal service and yet a bank that wants to offer digital products that are right at what the industry and its customers need.

Describe one of the biggest changes in technology you’ve witnessed in your career.

There is a dichotomy that’s evolved where the traditional approach of face-to-face service is not going away, but the digital approach and expectations of customers are growing rapidly. It’s more than generational. I see it happening as new digital ideas evolve. The time from developing a digital product to the time it becomes important to the business and the consumer is very short. And that time frame is only getting shorter.

How should customers approach protecting their personal information?

People have to think “I am responsible for my information.” They have to ask themselves…how much do I want to share and with whom? The social network is great, but it opens up a whole new field for fraudsters, so people need to take care with how much they share online. As a customer, I do have to share confidential and private information with the bank if I want a loan.. But, I also expect the bank to protect that information and to stay up to date with security practices. Both sides need to take responsibility.

What’s one thing your mom or dad taught you about money?

You know those ads on TV right now about people cutting their cell phone bill in half? They say “money doesn’t spend itself.” Well, I say “money doesn’t make itself.” Quite simply, they taught me that you don’t spend what you don’t have, and when you borrow, you need to do so knowing how you’re going to pay the loan back. Take charge of your finances, that’s kind of the first step…especially for young people.

If you won the Powerball, what’s the first thing you would do?

I’d pursue my dream of writing the great American novel. I write short stories and fiction. I actually had a book accepted for publication at one time, but it was a small publisher and went out of business before it was published.

Besides money, what’s your favorite green thing?

The first thing my wife purchased after we got married (a long time ago) was a pair of green velvet chairs. We still have them today. They’re not going anywhere.

Have you ever googled yourself? What did you find?

Yes, I have. Actually, there was another Rodney Nilsestuen – from Arcadia and I knew him growing up. I’m originally from Galesville and we both showed cattle in 4-H at the Trempealeau County Fair. He spelled the last name with one letter different and of course that meant we’d debate who got the spelling right. I’m pretty sure I’m right…

Meet Nikki Kemp, Fraud Specialist at Merchants Bank

Meet Nikki Kemp, Fraud Specialist at Merchants, pictured with her husband Ben at the top of Pike's Peak.

Meet Nikki Kemp, Fraud Specialist at Merchants, pictured with her husband Ben at the top of Pike’s Peak.

When did you start your banking career?

Nikki: I started at a much smaller bank in 2011 as a Customer Service Representative. When I first came to Merchants, I worked in the Electronic Banking department and since that time have become our Fraud Specialist.

What is your top fraud prevention tip?

Nikki: It’s difficult to pick one because there are so many tips to preventing fraud. I would say my first tip is to be conscious of where you are using your debit card – physical stores and online. Do you know and trust the company you are purchasing from? It’s important to stick with places you know. If a company or person calls asking you for your card information, be extremely cautious. Keep in mind that the Bank will never ask for your personal information unless you have previously initiated a conversation with us about your accounts or a loan application.

I would also recommend reviewing your bank statements or Online Banking records regularly. Set aside time to review purchases and if you notice something suspicious, call the Bank and talk to your Customer Service Representative or Electronic Banking immediately. If your account goes unchecked, fraud can go undetected for months or even years.

What’s one thing your mom or dad taught you about money?

Nikki: They taught me to be cautious with credit cards. It’s easy to get in over your head if you’re not careful. My husband and I regularly review upcoming expenses and discuss when we should pay with our credit cards versus our debit card. Once our plan is set, we stick to it.

If you could ring the bell at the New York Stock Exchange with anyone, who would it be and why?

Nikki: My husband. He has always wanted to go to New York City and I think he would like to enjoy the experience.

Besides money, what’s your favorite green thing?

Nikki: My garden – It’s my hobby outside of work. My family always had a garden when I was growing up and now I have one that’s 14×14 feet in my backyard (I know, because I had to dig out the sod myself!). We grow most of your standard vegetables, like tomatoes, onions and peppers. I also have pots for plants that spread, like strawberries.

For more information on our electronic banking options, visit our website.

Jim Vrchota Joins Merchants Bank in Winona as a Vice President and Commercial Banker

Jim Vrchota, Vice President and Commercial Banker

Jim Vrchota, Vice President and Commercial Banker

Jim Vrchota has joined the team at Merchants Bank as Vice President and Commercial Banker, according to Randy Domeyer, Senior Vice President and Commercial Banking Department Manager

“We are excited to have Jim join our team in Winona,” Domeyer said. “His experience in business development and lending will benefit our customers and our lending team here at Merchants Bank.”

Vrchota has more than 33 years of experience in the banking industry, much of it as a Senior Lender and Market President. Most recently he served as Senior Vice President at United Prairie Bank in Spicer, Minnesota, where he worked in commercial and ag lending. Vrchota also has a great deal of experience in SBA (Small Business Administration) lending.

“I am happy to be a part of a banking organization that has such a tremendous reputation for helping its customers meet their goals,” Vrchota said. “I look forward to becoming a part of the Winona community.”

Vrchota has a long history of community involvement, especially in the areas of economic development and community service.

Liz Diggins Joins Merchants Bank in Red Wing as a Commercial Banker

Liz Diggins, Commercial Banker

Liz Diggins, Commercial Banker

Liz Diggins has joined Merchants Bank in Red Wing as a Commercial Banker, according to Brian Hokanson, Senior Vice President and Senior Lender for Merchants Bank.

Diggins is well known in the Red Wing area, spending the past 12 years working with commercial and agricultural loans and loan customers at Associated Bank in Red Wing.

“Liz is a tremendous communicator, who enjoys working with clients and helping them to achieve success,” Hokanson said. “We are fortunate she has chosen Merchants Bank, and we look forward to working with her as she utilizes her skills helping others reach their goals.”

A Red Wing native, Diggins is currently the treasurer for the United Way of Goodhue, Wabasha and Pierce Counties. She also serves as treasurer for the Wells Creek Riders Snowmobile Club.

“I am thrilled to be working with Merchants Bank because of its commitment to the community,” Diggins said. “Helping Red Wing to continue to grow is important to me, and there’s no better place to make that commitment to the future than at Merchants Bank.”

In addition to graduating from Red Wing Central High School, Diggins has an undergraduate degree in business management from the College of Saint Benedict and a graduate degree from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.

John Piscitiello Joins Merchants Bank in Apple Valley as a Commercial Banker

John Piscitiello, Vice President and Commercial Banker

John Piscitiello, Vice President and Commercial Banker

John Piscitiello has joined Merchants Bank in Apple Valley as a Vice President and Commercial Banker, according to Merchants Bank Regional President Lawrence Stovern.

“John’s experience with commercial lending and his experience in the Twin Cities market will allow him to assess and meet the needs of his customers,” Stovern said. “We look forward to John growing with us as we continue to expand our reach in the Twin Cities.”

Piscitiello has been in the banking industry the past 16 years, most recently with Associated Bank. He has also worked with the Safire Group, Merrill Lynch/Bank of America, and he started his career working in construction lending for his own company.

Piscitiello is a Winona native and graduate of Saint Mary’s University in Winona. Merchants Bank was founded in Winona.

“I grew up with Merchants Bank and know that it is an incredible organization and an exceptional lender. It’s also one of the best kept secrets in banking in the Twin Cities. That’s starting to change, and I look forward to introducing more business owners and key decision makers in the Twin Cities to Merchants Bank,” Piscitiello said.

Visit our website to learn more about business loans, lines of credit and more. Subject to credit approval.

Merchants Financial Group, Inc. Posts First Quarter Earnings Ahead of Plan and Ahead of 2014

Rod Nelson, President/CEO

Rod Nelson, CEO

Merchants Financial Group, Inc. (MFGI) announced first quarter net income of $3,358,297, more than $620,000 ahead of plan and more than $560,000 ahead of 2014, according to Merchants Financial Group, Inc. President & CEO Rodney R. Nelson.

“We think the result bodes well for the remainder of the year,” Nelson said. “We have seen increased mortgage volume and income because of the influence of the low interest rate environment, and our commercial bankers continued their great efforts in establishing relationships that have led to increases in the commercial loan portfolio.”

As a result of the positive performance, the MFGI Board of Directors authorized a semiannual dividend of 50 cents per share to shareholders during its April meeting, the same dividend as paid after the third quarter of 2014. The dividend will be paid June 19 to shareholders of record as of May 15.

The first quarter income comes on the heels of Merchants Bank’s earnings of $12,349,685 in net income in 2014, its second highest total ever. Merchants posted net income of $11,612,049 in 2013 and $12,439,492 in 2012, its record year.

MFGI owns 21 Merchants Bank locations, including Minnesota locations in Winona, St. Charles, Goodview, Rochester, Rushford, Lanesboro, Caledonia, La Crescent, Spring Grove, Cannon Falls, Red Wing, Hampton, and the southern Twin Cities metropolitan suburbs of Apple Valley, Cottage Grove, Hastings, Lakeville and Rosemount. Merchants has Wisconsin locations in Eau Claire and Onalaska. Merchants Bank was founded in 1875 and is celebrating its 140th anniversary this year. All banks are FDIC members and equal housing lenders. Merchants Capital, the company’s leasing arm, is based in the Twin Cities.

Merchants Bank has more than 425 employees, many of whom give significant volunteer time to organizations in their communities. Additionally, during 2014, Merchants Bank made charitable donations to nearly 300 organizations. The ownership of Merchants Financial Group is made up of its employees and mostly individuals and families from southeastern Minnesota and west-central Wisconsin.

Merchants Financial Group, Inc. Reports Year to Shareholders and Re-elects Directors

Rod Nelson, President/CEO

Rod Nelson, President/CEO

Merchants Financial Group, Inc. (MFGI) held its annual meeting Thursday, April 9, formally reporting income to shareholders and re-electing four members to the MFGI Board of Directors.

MFGI President & CEO Rodney R. Nelson reported that the organization had an exceptional year, recording $12,349,695 in net income in 2014. It was MFGI’s second best year in terms of income, less than $100,000 behind 2012’s net income of $12,439,492.

“Our shareholders deserve this good news made possible by the positive work of our employees and the continued support of our valued customers,” Nelson said. “We look forward to a successful 2015.”

Re-elected to three-year terms as Directors were: Michael F. Cichanowski, Chief Executive Officer, We-no-nah Canoe, Inc.; Richard J. Pope, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer, WinCraft, Inc.; Timothy A. Murphy, Partner, Rippe, Hammell & Murphy; and Bruce E. Ryan, President, Ryan Windows & Siding, Inc.

Nelson, Chief Financial Officer Sue Savat, Merchants Bank President and Chief Banking Officer Greg Evans and Chief Information Officer Rodney Nelsestuen were featured speakers.

MFGI has more than $1.5 billion in assets and holds 21 Merchants Bank locations, including Minnesota locations in Winona, Rushford, Lanesboro, St. Charles, Goodview, Rochester, Caledonia, La Crescent, Spring Grove, Cannon Falls, Red Wing, Hampton, and the southern Twin Cities metropolitan suburbs of Apple Valley, Cottage Grove, Hastings, Lakeville and Rosemount. Merchants has Wisconsin locations in Eau Claire and Onalaska. Merchants Bank was founded in 1875. All banks are FDIC members and equal housing lenders. Merchants Capital, the company’s leasing arm, is based in the Twin Cities.

Merchants has more than 425 employees, many of whom give significant volunteer time to organizations in their communities. Additionally, during 2014, Merchants Bank made charitable donations to nearly 300 organizations. The ownership of Merchants Financial Group is made up of its employees and mostly individuals and families from southeastern Minnesota and west-central Wisconsin.