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.

AccolaLarry copyLarry Accola has joined Merchants Bank as a Market President in Eau Claire. Larry has spent over 25 years in the Eau Claire market, most recently at Security Financial Bank as a Senior Vice President Relationship Manager. For the 20 years prior to that, he was Senior Vice President of Business Loans and Services at Royal Credit Union. Larry and his wife, Nancy have four married children and nine grandchildren. He enjoys all spectator sports, ranging from youth to professional, and is a casual hunter. He also has a small collection of antique farm tractors. Stayed tuned! Learn more about Larry in our August eNewsletter.

AndelTiffanyTiffany Andel has joined Merchants Bank as a Teller in Rosemount. Tiffany previously worked at Kids Hair and Wild Child as a Children’s Hairstylist. She will be getting married next July to her fiancé of eight years. They have two dogs; Regal, a two and a half year old long hair Chihuahua and Chevy, an eight month old Japanese Chin-Chihuahua mix.

 

AraujoEddieEddie Araujo has joined Merchants Bank as a Teller in Lakeville. Eddie previously worked at Urban Outfitters as a Sales Associate. Eddie is involved in church and likes to sing and play guitar. He also enjoys soccer and loves coffee.

 

 

BlaschkeAshlynAshlyn Blaschke has joined Merchants Bank as a Teller in Onalaska. Ashlyn is currently a student at UW-La Crosse and is planning to pursue a nursing or radiation therapy program this year. She previously worked at Bath and Body Works as a Sales Associate and at Hair Gallery as a Receptionist.

 

GrenonAbbyAbby Grenon has joined Merchants Bank as a Teller in Goodview. Abby previously worked at Winona State University as a Fitness Center Assistant and at Tunnel Trail Campground. She is currently majoring in Elementary and Special Education. In her free time, she enjoys crossfit at Crossfit Warrior Risen and her leadership involvement with H20 college ministries.

IlletschkoMaryMary Illetschko has been promoted to Vice President/Mortgage Loan Officer at Merchants Bank in Lakeville because of her exceptional performance, according to Merchants Bank in Lakeville President, Dan Vlasak. Mary has been with the Merchants Bank organization for nearly four years and in the mortgage industry for 24 years.

 

JohnsonCatherineCatherine Johnson has joined Merchants Bank as a Teller in Red Wing. Catherine recently graduated from Minnesota State University-Moorhead with a major in Speech-Language and Hearing Sciences and a minor in Music. She plans to continue her education this fall to become a Sign Language Interpreter/Translator. She previously worked at Cannon River Winery as a Taster/Bartender and at Applebee’s as a Server. In her spare time she likes to shop, roller blade and listen to/perform music.

MacCallumCharlieCharlie MacCallum has joined Merchants Bank as a Teller in Lakeville. Charlie enjoys spending time with his friends doing anything from playing video games on the couch to cliff jumping into a lake. He likes being outside and being active. Charlie attends Lakeville North High School.

 

SchillingLucasLucas Schilling has joined Merchants Bank as a Teller in Winona. Lucas recently moved to Winona from Eau Claire, WI where he previously worked for Royal Credit Union as a Teller and a Teller Team Lead. He spent two years at UW-Eau Claire pursing a Theatre major with a Dance minor, but now plans on attending Southeast Technical to purse an Associates in Accounting.

Traci Stier, Item Processing Officer

Traci Stier has been promoted to Item Processing Officer at Merchants Bank, according to Kerri Bronk, Vice President and Senior Operations Officer. Traci manages all the aspects of Merchants Bank’s ability to accept checks and remote deposit capture files, including setup, testing and the coordination of all the pieces that allow Merchants Bank to accept payments. She has been with the Merchants organization for the past 15 years.

ContactUsButton

Meet Kerri Bronk, Senior Operations/eChannel Officer at Merchants

Kerri speaking in Spring Grove about fraud

Kerri speaking in Spring Grove about fraud.

When did you start your career in banking?

Kerri: In November of 1996, I started as a teller at the Merchants Bank location in Goodview. A few years later, I moved to the Operations Department and I’ve been here ever since.

What’s one thing someone can do right now to protect their personal information?

Kerri: Think about where you are storing your personal information. For example, do you know where your birth certificate is or your Social Security card? You should keep paper items somewhere safe and accessible, like a safe deposit box – not in your purse or wallet.

Are there any websites where you’ve used the “save password” option? If so, this could make it easier for fraudsters to figure out your password for other sites. If there are websites you don’t use any more, go out and delete personal information that is saved or stored with that website.

What’s your biggest tip for preventing fraud?

Kerri: Know who you are providing your information to and question if sharing personal information is necessary in every circumstance. For example, a form at a business might ask for your Social Security Number. Is it necessary for you to give them the information or is it on file? Ask. Many times a Social Security Number isn’t required – it is just habit to have on the form for the business.

It’s always important to question if a situation seems too good to be true. If people listened to their gut more often, many of them wouldn’t be facing fraud issues on their account. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

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

Kerri: When I was a little kid, I sold produce. I would ask my dad if I should sell something for two “bucks” and he would always tell me that money was not called “bucks” they’re “dollars.” He would say “bucks are deer, not dollars.”

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

Kerri: I would set up a foundation so that I could continue to do good after I’m gone.

Besides money, what’s your favorite green thing?

Kerri: Flowers and produce. I grew up in the garden.

Has being the Security Officer at Merchants affected your life outside of work?

Kerri: My friends tease me all the time about being the “Security Officer.” I’m always thinking about the risks of a possible situation. I am always aware of my surroundings – making sure people see me when I walk outside, being aware of emergency exits in a building, using caution when giving out my personal information and posting on social media. I also think about how I respond to emails…if I don’t know the sender should I delete the email or risk getting a virus or being scammed? I think it is important to be in aware of and in control of your situation.

Traci Stier Promoted to Item Processing Officer at Merchants Bank

Traci Stier, Item Processing Officer

Traci Stier, Item Processing Officer

Traci Stier has been promoted to Item Processing Officer at Merchants Bank, according to Kerri Bronk, Vice President and Senior Operations Officer.

“Traci has shown leadership, especially in our most recent bank conversions following acquisitions,” Bronk said. “Traci and her team work with many departments in the Bank and have a daily impact on helping our customers because of the number of checks that process through their area.”

Stier manages all the aspects of Merchants Bank’s ability to accept checks and remote deposit capture files, including setup, testing and the coordination of all the pieces that allow Merchants Bank to accept payments. Stier has been with the Merchants organization for the past 15 years and noted that changes in technology, especially over the past few years, provide for faster responses for customers in processing their items.

“I enjoy and welcome the opportunities I have to assist any customers – both internal and external, to build relationships with people and earn their trust because they know I will take care of their needs,” Stier said.

Mortgage Lender Mary Illetschko Earns Promotion at Merchants Bank

Mary Illetschko, VP/Mortgage Loan Officer

Mary Illetschko, VP/Mortgage Loan Officer

Mary Illetschko has been promoted to Vice President/Mortgage Loan Officer at Merchants Bank in Lakeville because of her exceptional performance, according to Merchants Bank in Lakeville President Dan Vlasak.

“Mary has been a great contributor to the success of Merchants Bank and the Lakeville office,” Vlasak said. “She has been a consistently high producer, ranking in the top three in the organization in total volume for loans closed, and she also helps her mortgage customers become customers in other areas.”

Illetschko has been with the Merchants Bank organization for nearly four years and in the mortgage industry for 24 years.

“I enjoy helping people with their mortgages because you can assist them in making the best choices during an important time,” Illetschko said. “Whether it is the purchase of a first home, refinancing a current home or making the decision to build a new home, people deserve and appreciate good advice from someone who knows the mortgage industry.”

Illetschko said she has been fortunate to receive many referrals from her former clients, and over the past year she’s seen an increased demand for Merchants Bank’s construction loan product, where qualified applicants may be able to start for as little as a 5% down payment.

Construction and permanent financing are subject to separate credit approval. Terms and conditions may vary.

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…

New Staff Here to Help You

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.

AndersonCarleyCarly Anderson has joined Merchants Bank as a Teller in Apple Valley. Carly previously worked at Orangetheory Fitness as a Sales Associate and at Merrill Hair Designers as a Receptionist and Sales Clerk. Carly is currently attending Metropolitan State University and is pursuing a degree in Finance. In her free time, she loves taking her dog to the dog park or taking the four wheeler for a ride.

BondellRossRoss Blondell has joined Merchants Bank as a Teller in Rochester. Ross previously worked at Menards as a sales person and at Fastenal as a Machinist.

DodsonKristinKristin Dodson has joined Merchants Bank as a Teller in Hampton. Kristin and her family recently moved to Minnesota from Alaska. She previously worked for Northern Schools Federal Credit Union, the University of Alaska and most recently, was a stay at home mom. She enjoys spending time with her husband and their three children.

John Piscitiello, Vice President and Commercial Banker

John Piscitiello has joined Merchants Bank as a Commercial Banker in Apple Valley. John previously worked at Associated Bank as a Commercial Banker and at Safire Group as a Investment Banker. John is a Winona native and graduated from Cotter High School and St. Mary’s University. He and his wife have four boys. In his free time, he enjoys fishing the St. Croix river, coaching youth basketball for Lakeville North High School and supporting the Courage Kenny Foundation serving individuals with disabilities.

DigginsLiz

Liz Diggins has joined Merchants Bank as a Commercial Banker in Red Wing. Liz previously worked at Associated Bank for 12 years as a Sales and Support Specialist. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Business from the College of Saint Benedict and a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. She enjoys spending her free time visiting their cabin, fishing, gardening, golfing and reading.

Jim Vrchota, Vice President and Commercial Banker

Jim Vrchota has joined Merchants Bank as a Commercial Banker in Winona. Jim previously worked at United Prairie Bank as a Senior Vice President and at Center National Bank as a Commercial/Ag Lender. He has been in banking since he graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1981. He and his wife, Tami, have been married for 35 years and have four grown children. Jim’s hobbies include running, community theater and hunting.

ContactUsButton

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.