Meet Tom Stahl, Senior Consumer Banker at Merchants

StahlTomWhen did you start your banking career?

Tom: I’ve been in lending with Merchants Bank since December 1988. I started at the Winona location and worked there for two years. Then I moved to La Crescent in January of 1991 and have been here ever since.

What one piece of advice would you give someone looking to apply for a HELOC?

Tom: Do your homework. A HELOC is basically a big credit card with a lot better rate, but the rate can change and some customers don’t understand that. It’s also good to have a firm dollar amount that you’re going to need for your home improvements.

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

Tom: Simply, don’t spend what you don’t have. Don’t overextend yourself. Borrow responsibly.

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

Tom: I’d set a charitable foundation up. I know that sounds kind of funny, but it’s truly what I’d do. It would be a nice opportunity to give back.

Besides money, what’s your favorite green thing?

Tom: The grass at Target Field. I love baseball.

If you could start a home remodeling project right now, what would it be and why?

Tom: A sunroom….it would be somewhere to relax.

Contact Tom today to start the application process for your Home Equity Line of Credit. For more information on HELOC options at Merchants Bank, visit our website.

Meet Connie Fort, Assistant Manager of Consumer Loans at Merchants

Connie and her husband, Tim

Connie and her husband, Tim, at the Grand Canyon

When did you start your banking career?

Connie: Twenty-six years ago I started at Merchants in Winona as a Commercial Lending Assistant. I knew that I wanted to get into lending, so I switched and became a Customer Service Representative. I stayed in Customer Service for seven years and then became a Credit Analyst. During that time, I learned that I was the kind of person who wanted to be in front of customers. A few years later, the Consumer Lender position opened up and I’ve been here for ten years now. Before Merchants, I worked at a brewery in La Crosse…can you believe that?

What one piece of advice would you give someone looking to apply for a HELOC?

Connie: Make sure to check your credit rating. There are a few websites that allow you to download a free credit report and you can bring in the report and we can go through it together. It’s also helpful if you come with an idea of how much you want to borrow and then together we can determine how much equity you have in your home.

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

Connie: To save, save, save. You do not buy anything until have saved for it. My parents were very frugal with their money and they passed that on to me and my two sisters.

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

Connie: I would buy a cabin up north. We love to be outdoors…just canoeing or spending time on the lake. It’s just an awesome way to relax and forget about everything.

Besides money, what’s your favorite green thing?

Connie: When I think of green, I think of Spring and the pretty trees and blooming flowers.

If you could start a home remodeling project right now, what would it be and why?

Connie: I want to change my bedroom because we don’t have a master bath. We’ve found out that when we have family visiting and we have to share the same bathroom it can become difficult.

Contact Connie today to start the application process for your Home Equity Line of Credit. For more information on HELOC options at Merchants Bank, visit our website.

Meet Andrea Lisowski, Consumer Loans Manager at Merchants

From l-r: Andrea's friend, Linda; her husband, Jeff and Andrea take in Lambeau Field.

From l-r: Andrea’s friend, Linda; her husband, Jeff and Andrea take in Lambeau Field.

When did you start your banking career?

Andrea: It will be thirty years this June. I have been very fortunate during my time here. I started at Merchants a floater, basically going between a few different departments like bookkeeping and proof. After that I was afforded the opportunity to learn several different positions, including being a Teller, working in our Loan Servicing Department and also as a Customer Service Representative. I’ve been in Consumer Lending for 25 years. This department has a lot of experience…we’ve all been all here a long time and have a great knowledge of several different departments.

What one piece of advice would you give someone looking to apply for a HELOC?

Andrea: Think about a HELOC as something that can meet your immediate and future needs. You need to have a longer term thought process in mind, because it’s a flexible product that has many possible uses. You may need a new roof this year, but will you have any house updates next year or the year after that? Do you have a child going to college in the near future? I believe our HELOC is one of the best products that we offer. If you’re disciplined in your borrowing, it’s an option that could make a lot of sense for you.

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

Andrea: If you don’t have the money, you don’t buy it. They also taught me the Envelope Saving plan. It does work if you stick to it!

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

Andrea: My husband and I have always wanted to do a “stadium tour.” Buy luxury RV and go with some friends around the country to different baseball or football stadiums. That would be fun.

Besides money, what’s your favorite green thing?

Andrea: The green turf of a football or baseball field. My husband and I have enjoyed many great memories of our kids on the field!

If you could start a home remodeling project right now, what would it be and why?

Andrea: I would do a bathroom remodel. We’re limited in space and we only have one bathroom. I’d make our current bathroom larger and add on another where we could fit it.

Loans are subject to credit approval.

Contact Andrea today to start the application process for your Home Equity Line of Credit. For more information on HELOC options at Merchants Bank, visit our website.

Meet Mike Swanson, Senior Consumer Lender/Branch Manager at Merchants

Mike and his wife, Julie.

Mike and his wife, Julie.

When did you start your banking career?

Mike: This is my fifteenth year in banking. I actually started as a teller in high school and then transitioned to a Construction Liaison after I graduated. From there I became a Personal Banker, an Assistant Manager, and a Branch Manager. I came to Merchants three years ago as a Personal Banking Officer and am now a Senior Consumer Lender/Branch Manager.

What one piece of advice would you give someone looking to apply for a HELOC?

Mike: Be patient throughout the process and stay informed. There are a lot of rules and regulations around HELOCs and so we need ask a lot of questions and get a lot of documentation. The details of a HELOC – how it can be used, payment options and more – can also be confusing to customer as well. Make sure to ask your lender plenty of questions.

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

Mike: Treat credit as a privilege and not a right. No one owes me an opportunity to take out a loan or a credit card. Treat money and credit with respect.

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

Mike: Pay off my and my wife’s student loans. After that, we’d want to travel. We have always wanted to go to Ireland. My wife studied there in college and I’d like to experience that with her.

Besides money, what’s your favorite green thing?

Mike: My wife’s eyes.

If you could start a home remodeling project right now, what would it be and why?

Mike: We have the start of bathroom in the basement that I would finish. The basement has a nice living room that was there when we moved in, but someone started to build a bathroom and never finished it. It’s that lingering project that came with the house.

Loans are subject to credit approval.

Contact Mike today to start the application process for your Home Equity Line of Credit. For more information on HELOC options at Merchants Bank, visit our website.

Meet Mary Illetschko, Mortgage Lender at Merchants

Mortgage Banking Merchants BankWhen did you start your banking/lending career?

Mary: I started as a Part Time Teller at a bank while I was going to college and then moved into personal banking shortly afterwards. I started in the mortgage business in 1991 at Old Stone Credit. Eventually, I started my own company and became an independent mortgage broker. I worked for myself for 11 years and really enjoyed it…I kept my business small and work came to me through word of mouth referrals. When the market crashed in 2008, I ended up closing my business and going to work for a small community bank. I came to Merchants in 2011 and really enjoy being a part of this team!

What is your top tip for someone looking to build a home?

Mary: Do your homework and shop for the right builder. A lot of people just look at the price when choosing a builder, however, cheaper isn’t always better! Visit several model homes in your price range and make sure you are comfortable with the builder before signing a contract. You should also go into the process pre-approved for your construction financing so you know exactly what you can afford. Knowledge is power when you’re buying or building a home.

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

Mary: My dad retired from a career in banking after 40+ years, therefore my parents are very conservative. They instilled in me the importance of saving for the future, but also having fun while living within your means.

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

Mary: I would catch the next flight to St. John’s, rent a villa on the beach and then make a call to my financial planner and attorney.

Besides money, what’s your favorite green thing?

Mary: Green grass on a golf course! I enjoy golf not only for the sport, but for the beauty and incredible views that can be found on various courses. I play on a nine hole women’s league in Woodbury and try to play at least one 18 hole round on the weekend.

Picture your dream house. What’s your favorite room and why?

Mary: I would have a large great room. It would be equipped with a wet bar, pool table and a buck hunter game. In addition, I would have a large screen TV where I could enjoy Minnesota Viking and Wild games!

Contact Mary today to get start the application process for your home building or buying project. To find current mortgage rates and apply online, visit our website.

Loans are subject to credit approval.

Meet Ann Vanderloo, Mortgage Lender at Merchants

Ann Vanderloo, Mortgage Lender

Ann Vanderloo, Mortgage Lender

When did you start your lending career?

Ann: 25 years ago at a company called Old Stone Credit. From there, I moved to First Union and then to Anchor Bank. I’m proud to say I’ve been in community banking for 18 years and six of those years have been with Merchants.

What is your top tip for someone looking to build a home?

Ann: Do your homework and shop for a good builder, your local Builders Association or a home tour is a good place to start. You also want to make sure you familiarize yourself with the whole construction process…it’s much different from buying a house. It’s important to know before you get too far if building as house is for you.

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

Ann: Save. Save. Save. My parents were very conservative people. They taught me to spend my money wisely and keep a log of where my money is going.

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

Ann: I would go see a financial planner and an attorney. After that, I would take vacation. I love to travel.

Besides money, what’s your favorite green thing?

Ann: Trees and plants. We actually inherited a very large garden with our current home. It’s mostly flowers, but I enjoy keeping it up.

Picture your dream house. What’s your favorite room and why?

Ann: Just big, big kitchen. We spend so much time in the kitchen and that seems to attract your audience when you have people over. But, I would also love a three season porch.

Contact Ann today to get start the application process for your home building or buying project. To find current mortgage rates and apply online, visit our website.

Subject to credit approval.

Meet Jeanne Struckman, Mortgage Lender at Merchants

Jeanne Struckmann, Mortgage Lender

Jeanne Struckmann, Mortgage Lender

When did you start your banking career?

Jeanne: I started as a Part Time Teller at Home Federal. From there I became a Full Time Teller, then a Personal Banker, then I helped with second mortgages and finally a Mortgage Lender. I had a great mentor that helped me along the way. This year, I’ll have been with Merchants as a Mortgage Lender for nine years.

What is your top tip for someone looking to build a home?

Jeanne: Get educated. Sit down and take the time to discuss options with your lender. Everyone’s situation is a different and it’s good to talk to an expert up front.

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

Jeanne: You whine if you have it, you whine if you don’t.

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

Jeanne: I would call a banker.

Besides money, what’s your favorite green thing?

Jeanne: My golf cart. I love riding around in it with my Yorkshire terrier, Ozzy. We bring the golf cart to our permanent camp site in Houston County.

Picture your dream house. What’s your favorite room and why?

Jeanne: A four season porch…even us extroverts need some down time. We’re actually in the process of putting one on ourselves right now. I’m looking forward to sitting out there with my dog, watching life go by.

Contact Jeanne today to get start the application process for your home building or buying project. To find current mortgage rates and apply online, visit our website.