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.

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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.

John Piscitiello Joins Merchants Bank in Apple Valley as a Commercial Banker

John Piscitiello, Vice President and Commercial Banker

John Piscitiello, Vice President and Commercial Banker

John Piscitiello has joined Merchants Bank in Apple Valley as a Vice President and Commercial Banker, according to Merchants Bank Regional President Lawrence Stovern.

“John’s experience with commercial lending and his experience in the Twin Cities market will allow him to assess and meet the needs of his customers,” Stovern said. “We look forward to John growing with us as we continue to expand our reach in the Twin Cities.”

Piscitiello has been in the banking industry the past 16 years, most recently with Associated Bank. He has also worked with the Safire Group, Merrill Lynch/Bank of America, and he started his career working in construction lending for his own company.

Piscitiello is a Winona native and graduate of Saint Mary’s University in Winona. Merchants Bank was founded in Winona.

“I grew up with Merchants Bank and know that it is an incredible organization and an exceptional lender. It’s also one of the best kept secrets in banking in the Twin Cities. That’s starting to change, and I look forward to introducing more business owners and key decision makers in the Twin Cities to Merchants Bank,” Piscitiello said.

Visit our website to learn more about business loans, lines of credit and more. Subject to credit approval.

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.

LouwagieJimJim Louwagie has joined Merchants Bank as a Commercial Banker in Lakeville. Jim has had an extensive background in banking, including working for Bremer, Wells Fargo and Signal Bank. In addition, Jim was a Bank President/Team Lead for Anchor Bank for six years. Most recently, Jim was the Chief Operating Officer for BDS Laundry Services. Jim is happy to be back in banking and at Merchants Bank.

 

MonfreJasonJason Monfre has joined Merchants Bank as a Mortgage Lender in Rochester. Jason was recently a full-time student and worked at the Charter House at the Mayo Clinic. He also previously worked at America One Finance as a Branch Manager/Owner and at Ameriquest Mortgage as an Account Executive. Jason loves sports (basketball, football, and baseball) and played baseball in college for the Indiana Hoosiers and the Minnesota Gophers. Jason loves to play guitar and sing, especially with his one year old son.  He is originally from Milwaukee, WI and is a big Brewers and Packer fan.

ShannonTriciaTricia Shannon has joined Merchants Bank as a Part-Time Teller in Caledonia. Tricia previously worked at Alco as a Group Manager for ten years. She lives in Caledonia with her five daughters, grandson and four cats. To relax she enjoys crocheting.

Meet Dawn Garms, Mortgage Lender at Merchants

Garms,DawnWhen did you start your banking career?

Dawn: I started as a mortgage Lender with Altra in 2001. I was there for twelve years and then came to Merchants in 2013.

What is your top tip for a first time home-buyer?

Dawn: Get pre-approved first. Pre-approval helps you determine the maximum amount you can spend to purchase a home. You can also go over what to expect for monthly payments, down payments and other mortgage options with a lender at that time. It really gives you a clear picture of what you can afford and how that fits into what you’re comfortable with for your personal monthly budget.

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

Dawn: The best thing they taught me is the importance of knowing your finances. Know what you can handle so that you are comfortable in your monthly budget.

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

Dawn: I would travel all over Europe for an extended period of time, and explore all of the different countries.

Besides money, what’s your favorite green thing?

Dawn: The green of fresh trees on a mountain hike.

What’s one lesson you learned when buying your own home?

Dawn: Use a lender that is knowledge so they can guide you through the process. Buying a home should not cause a headache…it should be a smooth, pain-free process.

Subject to credit approval. Contact Dawn today to get start the application process for mortgage pre-approval. To find current mortgage rates and apply online, 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.