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.

Meet Larry Accola, President – Merchants Bank Eau Claire

Merchants Bank Eau Claire

Larry Accola, President of Merchants Bank in Eau Claire

Hometown:
Larry: Pittsville, WI. It’s the exact geographical center of state.

Education:
Larry: I graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Originally, I majored in Engineering, but decided that it wasn’t something I wanted to do for a career, so I switched to Business.

I had never considered banking, but one of my professors mentioned there was an opening at Midland Bank in Milwaukee. At the time I worked for Mobil Oil Corporation in Milwaukee. I went to Midland and talked to their HR representative and she encouraged me to consider banking so I could be involved with many different types of businesses. From there, I solicited interviews with several banks in the area and started at what is now, US Bank.

I have never regretted choosing banking. I also completed the Graduate School of Banking three year program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

Family:
Larry: I have four children – two boys and two girls – and they’re all grown up. Three of them live near Seattle and the other lives in Austin, TX.

What do you enjoy most about your work?
Larry: One of my customers asked me recently if I ever considered retiring. I honestly haven’t because I really enjoy what I’m doing. I enjoy people and I enjoy commercial lending. I really like being involved with businesses and being a part of their success. I’ve learned a lot from different businesses over the years and I like applying that experience to the businesses I’m working with now to offer helpful solutions and suggestions.

What’s the most important financial lesson you’ve learned in your life?
Larry: Money is of course important and necessary but regardless of compensation, one has to enjoy and bring value to what they do for a living.

What does community banking mean to you?
Larry: Being part of a team. I think banking relationships should be transparent and not adversarial. Ultimately, what’s good for the bank is generally good for the customer and working together with their other professional advisors to make the customer successful is what it’s all about.

I like that we bring value to our customer relationships and create partnerships rather than just concentrating on the services we offer. Making customers successful also brings benefits to their employees and their communities.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Larry: I don’t know…I grew up on a dairy farm and I knew I probably didn’t want to do that. You have to be at the farm all the time and that’s a big commitment. It was a great place to grow up though. Honestly, I don’t know if I really said “this is what I want to be.”

What do you do when you’re not working?
Larry: Unfortunately, my grandkids do not live nearby, but I have some close friends that let me “stand in” as grandpa for their kids. I go to their sporting events to cheer them on, which is a lot of fun. I enjoy pretty much any spectator sport…football, basketball, soccer. I am a casual hunter and I am currently mentoring an 11 year old boy. I also like reading about the finance and banking industry. I just enjoy learning and every day realize how much there is to know.

Tell us something we don’t know.
Larry: What’s that phrase they say? “You can take the boy off of the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of the boy.” I have three antique tractors, which reminds me of my past. One of them is actually the same make and model as a tractor we had on the home farm. I also had the unique spectrum of experience of attending a one room country school for 8 grades and finishing my education at a 40,000 student urban university.

Learn more about Merchants Bank on our website.

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Congratulate New Staff and Promotions

At Merchants Bank, we are happy to welcome new employees and celebrate new positions filled by current staff. These frontline employees are all looking forward to serving you. Take a moment to congratulate them.

Cindy Adolph

Cindy Adolph

Cindy Adolph has been promoted to Risk Compliance and Audit Manager/VP and will take on new responsibilities to help Merchants analyze, report and manage risk. In her new role, Cindy will be responsible for the leadership, innovation, governance and management necessary to identify, evaluate, mitigate and monitor all of the company’s risk components. She joined the Merchants organization in 2007 with the acquisition of The First National Bank in Cannon Falls, where she had been working since 2002.

 

Kerri Bronk, Senior Operations and eChannel Officer/VP

Kerri Bronk

Kerri Bronk has been promoted to Senior Operations and eChannel Officer/VP and has added the management and leadership of E-Channel activities to her responsibilities. Her new responsibilities will include Online and Mobile Banking, Debit Cards, Payment Systems, and a number of new offerings, yet to be announced. Additionally, she will work with the Marketing department on website solutions, and the Cash Management department on continued E-Solutions for business customers. Kerri has been with Merchants since 1996, beginning her career as a Teller at the Goodview location. She was appointed Senior Operations Officer in 2009.

 

Yeleana St Mane

Yeleana St. Mane

Yelana St. Mane has joined Merchants Bank as a Teller at our Rochester Green Meadows location. For the past 15 years, Yeleana worked at Michaels Restaurant in Rochester. She also worked at Macy’s Department Store. Yeleana is originally from Russia and came to America 15 years ago. She graduated from the University of Novosibirsk, Russia with a Computer Engineer degree. She has two grown children and enjoys reading and ice skating.

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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 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.”