Meet Chris Smith, Consumer Banker at Merchants Bank

Chris Smith and her family

Chris (seated on left) and Her Family

How long have you been with Merchants?
Chris: In November, I’ll have my 25 year anniversary with Merchants. I actually started as a Receptionist in our Downtown Winona location. From there, I helped in Safe Deposit and Bond area and then I went into Deposit Account Services, where I worked for about 10 years. Eventually, I transferred to the Personal Banking area as a Consumer Lender and came to our Onalaska branch when we opened here in 2004.

What is your top banking tip?
Chris: There are so many fraudsters out there. When it comes to your bank accounts, it’s important to do research and understand how the financial institution protects you and your information. For example, what I like about our credit card is the fact that you can call our employees directly if you have questions about your account. The people you talk to about your credit card are local. You’re not calling across the country.

What’s one thing your mom or dad taught you about money?
Chris: A penny saved is a penny earned.

If you won the Powerball what’s the first thing you would do?
Chris: I would buy a house in a southern state with a warm climate so I could enjoy the summer weather up here and the warm winters down south. I think winters here are too long. Ha!

Besides money, what’s your favorite green thing?
Chris: The grass and trees. I love the outdoors, especially in the Spring and Summer weather.

Dana Dobrunz Promoted to Personal Banker at Merchants Bank in La Crescent

Dana Dobrunz

Dana Dobrunz, Personal Banker

Dana Dobrunz has been promoted to a Personal Banker at Merchants Bank in La Crescent, according to Merchants Bank Southeast Region President Jay Friedl. Dobrunz will be responsible for serving customers’personal loan and deposit needs.

“This is well-deserved for Dana and fortunate for our customers because they will have a single person they can go to for their personal loan and deposit needs,”Friedl said. “Her understanding of banking and people is a winning combination for the Bank and our customers.”

Dobrunz has been with Merchants Bank in La Crescent since 1993, where she has been a long-time Customer Service Representative. She has a strong relationship with the Bank customers in La Crescent.

“I’m excited that I will be able to help customers with more of their banking needs instead of referring them to someone else,”Dobrunz said. “I think the continuity is something people will appreciate. It can make banking more personal for them.”

Senior Operations Officer Kerri Bronk Receives Promotion to Lead E-Channel Focus at Merchants Bank

Kerri Bronk

Kerri Bronk, Senior Operations/E-Channel Officer

Merchants Bank Vice President and Senior Operations Officer Kerri Bronk has added the management and leadership of E-Channel activities to her responsibilities, according to Merchants Bank Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Sue Savat.

“As we have continued to develop our electronic delivery channels, we felt it was very important to have one person as the business leader for these channels as this is an area where our customers continue to expect more and more functionality and ease of use,” Savat said.

Bronk will now be Senior Operations/E-Channel Officer for the Merchants organization. Her new responsibilities will include Online and Mobile Banking, Debit Cards, Payment Systems and Consumer Mobile Deposit.  Additionally, she will work with the Marketing department on website solutions, and the Cash Management department on continued E-Solutions for business customers.

“Our customers deserve a seamless and responsive experience based on their individual needs when they bank with us,” Bronk said. “Electronic delivery channels will only continue to expand in importance.”

Bronk has been with Merchants since 1996, beginning her career as a Teller at the Goodview location. She was appointed Senior Operations Officer in 2009.

Cindy Adolph Receives Promotion to Lead Risk Initiative at Merchants Bank

Cindy Adolph

Cindy Adolph, Risk, Compliance and Audit Manager

Merchants Bank Vice President Cindy Adolph will take on new responsibilities to help Merchants analyze, report and manage risk, according to Merchants Bank Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Sue Savat.

“Addressing and mitigating risk is one of the most important challenges facing banking today and in the coming years,” Savat said. “Cindy has been leading our efforts to date in this important field. Formalizing and focusing her energies will add an even sharper point to this significant area.”

Adolph will now be the Risk, Compliance and Audit Manager for the Merchants organization. In her new role, Adolph will be responsible for the leadership, innovation, governance and management necessary to identify, evaluate, mitigate and monitor all of the company’s risk components.

“It’s important for us to take the necessary steps to ensure we are aggressively addressing risk, so we can continue to keep our customer and bank information secure,” Adolph said. “Given technology, it’s a role that will continue to increase in importance.”

Adolph joined the Merchants organization in 2007 with the acquisition of The First National Bank in Cannon Falls, where she had been working since 2002. Prior to that, she worked for 21 years at Goodhue County National Bank.

Merchants Financial Group, Inc. Posts Second Quarter Earnings Ahead of Plan

Rod Nelson, President/CEO

Rod Nelson, President/CEO

Merchants Financial Group, Inc. (MFGI) posted earnings of $6,275,265 through the first half of 2015, more than $960,000 ahead of its plan, according to Merchants Financial Group, Inc. President & CEO Rodney R. Nelson.

“It’s again been a team effort and a team accomplishment,” Nelson said. “Specifically, the performance was driven by good commercial loan volume, mortgage loans that exceeded our expectations and continued excellence in credit quality.”

Nelson noted that the banking industry continues to evolve, and the Merchants Bank organization is continuing to enhance what it offers, especially in the areas of bank security and e-channel delivery, to ensure customer expectations are being met.

“As I look forward to the remainder of the year, I am anticipating we will continue to meet and exceed our goals,” Nelson said.

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 440 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 Bank Mortgage Lender Arlene Schwerzler Recognized in “Independent Banker” Magazine

Arlene Schwerzler, Mortgage Lender at Merchants Bank

Arlene Schwerzler, Mortgage Lender at Merchants Bank

Merchants Bank Mortgage Lender Arlene Schwerzler has been recognized in the July issue of “Independent Banker” magazine as an outstanding community banker.

The magazine, a publication of the Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA), recognized six community bankers from around the country.

“It’s important to me to work with my customers from the beginning of the process to the end, so they understand the advantages of being smart borrowers. I take pride in educating my customers. I want them to understand why good credit is important and how mortgage pre-approval can benefit them, among other things,” Schwerzler said. “The recognition in the magazine is nice, but it’s really just a bonus for doing what I really like to do.”

Schwerzler is the top mortgage producer for the Merchants organization in total number of loans, with more than 1,025 in the past three years. Schwerzler has been with Merchants for more than 17 years and has consistently been a top producer.

“Arlene is so good at what she does because she understands and can communicate the technical side of a mortgage and also helps people through the emotional side of the process,” said Sue Hovell, Schwerzler’s supervisor and a Senior Vice President at Merchants. “The real testament to her commitment to helping her customers is that most of her business comes from referrals.”

Larry Accola Appointed President at Merchants Bank in Eau Claire

Merchants Bank Eau Claire

Larry Accola, President of Merchants Bank in Eau Claire

Larry Accola has been appointed President of Merchants Bank in Eau Claire, according to Merchants Financial Group President and Chief Executive Officer Rod Nelson.

“We believe Larry is a great addition to our team in Eau Claire,” Nelson said. “He knows the market and the people of the region and is the perfect choice to help us continue to build our brand in the Chippewa Valley.”

Accola has more than 25 years of experience in the Eau Claire market, including more than 20 years at Royal Credit Union, where he served as the Senior Vice President of Business Loans and Services.

“Merchants Bank has a tremendous reputation as a community banking leader throughout southeastern Minnesota and west-central of Wisconsin. It is a perfect fit for the values and financial needs of the people and businesses in our area,” Accola said. “I look forward to sharing the Merchants’ story.”

Accola has a long history of community involvement, including the Eau Claire Economic Development Corporation, Eau Claire Noon Kiwanis, Eau Claire County Industrial Development Agency, Eau Claire City Revolving Loan Fund, Eau Claire Near Equity Loan Fund, Eau Claire Chamber of Commerce, Chippewa County Economic Development Corporation, Chippewa Falls Chamber of Commerce and the Eau Claire Downtown Business Improvement District.