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.

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.

Jason Monfre Joins Merchants Bank in Rochester as a Mortgage Lender


Jason Monfre has joined Merchants Bank as a mortgage lender, according to Merchants Bank in Rochester President John Doyle.

“Jason’s ability to connect with people and understanding of the mortgage industry will allow him to guide customers to a mortgage that is the right fit for their needs,” Doyle said. “He will be an asset to our organization because our customers will benefit from what he can offer to them.”

With more than 10 years of experience in the mortgage industry in Wisconsin, Nebraska and Minnesota, Monfre said he’s excited to help Rochester area residents with their mortgage needs.

“I couldn’t be happier to be in this position at Merchants Bank, where I can develop strong and lasting relationships and, at the same time, provide customers with a top of the line product that meets their housing and borrowing goals,” Monfre said.

Monfre has a long history of volunteering in the community, especially in mentoring young people in recovery from drug and alcohol addictions, and in coaching youth baseball. Monfre has bachelor’s degrees in both Psychology and Economics from the University of Minnesota. He played Division I baseball at Indiana University and the University of Minnesota.

Cheesy Hash Browns Recipe



  • 32 oz. package hash browns
  • 16 oz. sour cream
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese



Mix all ingredients and place in greased pan. Bake at 350° for 1 hour.


Merchants Family Cookbooks are available at all Merchants Bank locations for $15. Proceeds benefit local food shelf programs.

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.

Are Idle Balances Costing Your Business Money?


Did you know there are several easy, automatic ways to manage the cash flow of your business? You can use sweep, target or zero balance accounts to efficiently direct your money. Here’s how it works:

Sweep Accounts: A Cash Management Sweep account allows your business to earn income on its extra balance. Your Business Checking account is reviewed daily and excess funds are automatically “swept” into a savings account to earn interest or to a Line of Credit to pay down balances. When you need the funds, the money is swept back in to your Business Checking account. This is a great way for your business to optimize its cash flow. Merchants offers two types of sweep accounts to fit your needs.

Target or Zero Balance Accounts: A Target or Zero-Balance Account is a business checking account that is automatically maintained at a “zero balance” or at a target balance that you specify. Target/Zero-Balance Accounts allow businesses to maintain separate accounts for various divisions, locations, or functions such as payroll, while automatically consolidating cash from those accounts.

If you’d like to learn more about how easy and convenient sweep and target/zero balances accounts could be for your business, contact one of our Cash Management specialists today.