Meet Nick Benz, Treasury Management Sales Officer Lead

Nick Benz, Treasury Management Sales Officer Lead

A Certified Treasury Professional (CTP), Nick Benz brings 17 years of Treasury Management experience with him to Merchants as well as his empathetic approach to working with local businesses.

What drew you to Merchants Bank?

What really drew me to Merchants is the structure – in an organization this size, you know your voice is being heard. We have decision-making management at the local level, people that understand what business is like in that unique market, which is such an asset when you want to be able to make quick decisions with your customers.

How do you approach working with customers?

I try to take a consultative approach – I ask a lot of questions to figure out what would best suit that customer’s unique needs and what would bring them enhanced efficiency and benefits.

What is one of the top things businesses can work on right now to improve their security?

One of the biggest things going on right now is email compromise. Fraudsters are able to send fake emails that look like they’re from people in your organization that you recognize, usually asking you to send money somewhere.

One of the best ways to combat this is to make sure you have secure, dual-control internal processes in place for when your business makes payments – especially large ones. “Dual-control” means that a payment (or other action) has to be reviewed and approved by two people before it is made. Making sure that a transaction is approved by two or more parties increases your chance of catching any fraud attempts.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve heard?

I’m a firm believer in the golden rule: treat people as you would like to be treated. That mentality really helps you have strong empathy and compassion for everyone you work with.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I enjoy sports and have two kids that play baseball and basketball, so going to games and helping coach baseball takes up most of my off-work hours.

Our Treasury Management experts are always ready to discuss ideas, opportunities and options for your business. Contact your local Treasury Management Sales Officer – we’re ready to support your business as you work toward your goals.

Meet Rob Pyle, a Commercial Banker at Merchants Bank in Lakeville

Rob Pyle, Commercial Banker

Rob has more than 15 years of experience in the Commercial and Business Banking field, specifically in lending and credit analysis. He’s familiar with the Twin Cities region and working with businesses of various industries and sizes.

What drew you to Merchants Bank?

There are many things that impressed me about Merchants: valuing community support and local leadership, focusing on mutual success and longevity, which is demonstrated by nearly 150 years in business. It’s also a real benefit to be employee-owned.

What do you hope customers say about working with you?

Firstly, that I’m trustworthy – you absolutely want to trust that your banking team has your best interests at heart. Secondly, that I found them beneficial solutions for their unique situation without being pushy. It’s not about selling products, it’s about helping their business be more efficient, secure and successful.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve heard?

It’s not really advice, but I find that it helps takes the pressure off when you find yourself stressed out: find ways to enjoy life. Take note of the little things that you’re grateful for and remember that life isn’t meant to be a race.

Favorite thing about the Lakeville area?

I love to explore state and national parks with my wife and daughter, and this area has so many beautiful places to visit that are very conveniently located.

What do you like to do in your free time?

As I mentioned before I love getting outside with my family as well as keeping up with baseball and football – especially when we’re able to go to live games.

Our Commercial Bankers are always ready to discuss ideas, opportunities and options for your business. Give your local banker a call – we’re ready to support your business as you embark on supporting your business goals.

Nick Benz Joins Merchants Bank as Treasury Management Sales Officer Lead

Nick Benz, Treasury Management Sales Officer Lead

Nick Benz has joined Merchants Bank as a Treasury Management Sales Officer Lead, according to Andrew Guzzo, Winona and Southeast Regional President.

“Nick brings more than 15 years of treasury management expertise to our team, helping local businesses find efficiencies and implement beneficial cashflow strategies. I’m excited to see how he puts his knowledge to work for our valued clients at Merchants,” said Guzzo.

A Certified Treasury Professional (CTP), Benz has 17 years of experience in treasury management and banking working with businesses of all sizes. He was most recently a Treasury Management Payment Consultant for US Bank and has spent the majority of his career providing business clients with expertise in this area, which continues to grow in importance as businesses look for innovate ways to safely manage cash.

“I’m excited to join a growing community bank that values technology. The world has changed quickly over the past year, and I want to help our business clients adapt and continue to grow into the future,” said Benz.

Benz is a graduate of Winona State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration and Marketing and currently lives in Onalaska with wife and two children. Having previously lived in the Coulee Region, he is looking forward to becoming active community volunteer again. In his free time, he coaches his children’s baseball team and likes to be outside and enjoys hunting and fishing. 

The Merchants Bank Treasury Management & Commercial Lending team is comprised of more than 40 local experts, available throughout our regional footprint. Merchants’ Treasury Management Sales Officers help with cash flow strategies, custom account protection tools to monitor for fraud and effective options for collecting and making payments. As a regional banking leader, Merchants can assist businesses of any size with their business financing needs, including Treasury Management and deposit services.

Merchants Bank is a full service community bank with 23 bank locations in southeastern Minnesota and west-central Wisconsin and a leasing division, Merchants Bank Equipment Finance, in Edina. Headquartered in Winona, MN, MFGI has more than $2.5 billion in assets. Merchants was founded in 1875. Loans are subject to credit approval. Member FDIC.

Rob Pyle Joins Merchants Bank as Vice President/Commercial Banker

Rob Pyle, Commercial Banker

Rob Pyle has joined Merchants Bank as Vice President/Commercial Banker, according to Dan Vlasak, President for Merchants Bank in Lakeville.

“We’re excited to have Rob join the talented team in Lakeville and I know his experience in commercial banking will be valuable to our clients as we help their businesses grow and reach their goals,” said Vlasak.

Pyle has more than 15 years of experience in commercial banking, credit analysis and treasury management solutions, spending most of his career in the Twin Cities market. He was previously the Vice President of Commercial and Business Banking sectors for Old National Bank and also worked as a Credit Analyst for several years, helping assess the creditworthiness of businesses applying for commercial loans.

“I really enjoy working with business clients in all industries and of all sizes,” said Pyle. “My favorite part of my job is finding just the right financial solution for each specific client. Forming a strong business relationship and gaining the client’s trust has always been of the utmost importance to me.”

Pyle graduated from Drury University in Missouri with a Bachelor of Arts in Exercise Sports & Science and a Master in Business Administration. He is looking forward to becoming more involved in the Lakeville community. Pyle lives in Burnsville with his wife and daughter and enjoys exploring state and national parks with his family and is an avid baseball and football fan.

The Merchants Bank Commercial Lending team is comprised of more than 40 local experts, available throughout our regional footprint. In addition to traditional commercial loans, Merchants bankers specialize in ag bankingSBA loansfloor plan financing and equipment lease financing. As a regional banking leader, Merchants can assist businesses of any size with their business financing needs, including Treasury Management and deposit services.

Merchants Bank is a full service community bank with 23 bank locations in southeastern Minnesota and west-central Wisconsin and a leasing division, Merchants Bank Equipment Finance, in Edina. Headquartered in Winona, MN, MFGI has more than $2.5 billion in assets. Merchants was founded in 1875. Loans are subject to credit approval. Member FDIC.

Meet the I Believe Leadership Series Class of 2021-2022

I Believe Leadership Series logo
Masood Dehnavifar, Trust Manager, Winona
Bruce Goblirsch, Market President, Hastings
Melanie Jorgenson, Lead Teller, Winona
Nick Moon, Appraisal Evaluation Specialist, Winona
Dave PierretDave Pierret, Commercial Banker, Winona
John Piscitiello, Commercial Banker, Apple Valley
Molli Vodak, Commercial Lending Assistant, Winona
Ashley Wagner, Retail Lending Assistant, Winona
Jennifer Welch, Personal Banker, St. Charles

Meet Kirk Muhlenbruck, Market President in Northfield

Kirk Muhlenbruck, Market President

Kirk has a long track record of leadership in banking and now he’s ready to bring his career into the community he’s called home for almost 20 years.

Will you briefly outline your banking history?

Kirk: I sure can. I started serving customers in the retail space, then moved into commercial banking and team leadership. Now I’m excited to work close to home and spend more time serving the Northfield community.

What drew you to Merchants Bank?

Kirk: In the previous markets I’ve worked, Merchants has had a distinct presence, specifically, a great reputation and loyal customer base. When I heard about Merchants coming to the Northfield community, I knew it’d be a great fit here. With a focus on serving our communities, long-term stability and honoring local history, it made perfect sense for me to join the Merchants team. Our servant leadership philosophies align and I will have the opportunity to more fully integrate into my home community.

How do you approach working with customers?

Kirk: I want my customers to feel and know that I hold their best interests at heart. We’re here to be your trusted business partner. I like to ask questions to find out not only what customers need now, but how we can support them down the road. I take a holistic approach to their situation and we find the best fit from there.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve heard?

Kirk: Something my first manager emphasized has stayed with me to this day: it’s all about building lasting relationships. And that’s what I focus on to this day, is building mutually beneficial relationships and helping our local families, businesses and community grow.

Favorite thing about the Northfield area?

Kirk: You know what they say: location, location, location. The variety of the Twin Cities is easily accessible and some of the best healthcare in the world is close by as well, but in Northfield you still get that local, small-town familiarity and pride.

What do you like to do in your free time?

Kirk: Our family spends a lot of time outdoors; Hiking, fishing and golfing. When our three children were growing up we went camping a lot as well. It’s such a beautiful region. My wife and I are looking forward to more extended travel.

Our Commercial Bankers are always ready to discuss ideas, opportunities and options for your business. Give your local Merchants Bank a call – we’re ready to support your business as you embark on supporting your business goals.

Master Adaptability to Keep Your Business Viable – Expertise from CCO Mark McGrory.

Mark McGrory, Chief Credit Officer

It has become clear that making sure your business can be adaptable to new situations is essential for its longevity. Chief Credit Officer Mark McGrory shares what his team has seen work to help businesses stay viable when the world asks us to keep up.

What are some things you’ve seen businesses do to stay relevant in this pandemic-influenced environment?

The two biggest things I’ve noticed that have helped businesses are:

  1. Adapting day-to-day business operations
  2. Really knowing who your customer is and how to reach them.

When adapting your day-to-day operations, making sure you have a grasp of what the new business cycle (as in, the natural highs and lows of your income flow) will look like for you is essential – anticipate challenges and figure out how to address them.

Consider your needs and expenses (and find ways to limit those) and then work that information into a modified business model. In other words, understand how changes will affect your specific business process and what makes you unique in your industry.

Secondly, taking a step back to really make sure you understand your customer is so important as well. The more a business is able to say, “I know my customers. I know what they need and how they function. I know how to reach them to make sure they know I’m open and can still help them,” the more a business may be able to start finding ways to stay open or at least operate. For most businesses this past year, it meant making sure their technology was ready to connect with their customers, primarily by having an easy-to-use website (more on that later).

How can businesses take advantage of the relationship they have with a community banker?

It’s always advantageous to maintain a good line of communication with your Commercial Banker. If you can schedule meetings, maybe over the phone or even a video conference, it’s great to keep them up to date on what’s going on with your business. Make sure they know the challenges you’re dealing with and any opportunities that might be beneficial to pursue. Your banker can help analyze those challenges and opportunities, as well as review different financial options.

Other than your banker, it’s always helpful to have good relationships with these professionals as well:

  • An attorney
  • An insurance professional
  • A business mentor – someone who is doing well on a large scale in your field, someone you trust to provide honest guidance, with your best interests at heart.

What will help businesses keep their footing long term? 

After last year, it’s hard to say anything with certainty anymore. But something that has proven to be beneficial for businesses is to make sure your technology is up to date and user friendly for your customers – especially your website and how you take payments (our Treasury Management Services can help with that).

These are the three key things you want to make sure your technology can do:

  • Help customers contact you
  • Help you meet their needs
  • Have easy ways for them to pay you

Making sure you have this fundamental business process down can help maintain cash flow and liquidity.

Any silver linings to be seen in retrospect?

Seeing our local economies and communities struggle is difficult, but we’ve been happy to see some success stories from our customers, and those really come from being able to look at a situation and see the opportunities.

The folks that have managed to stay viable have been keeping an open mind, thinking about how they can still help their customer and pursuing those opportunities, rather than letting the uncertainty and fear take over their mindset.

Our Commercial Bankers are always ready to discuss ideas, opportunities and options for your business. Give your local Merchants Bank a call – we’re ready to support your business as you work toward your business goals.

Kirk Muhlenbruck Named Market President for Merchants Bank in Northfield

Northfield, Minn. – Long-time Northfield resident and experienced community banker, Kirk Muhlenbruck, has been named the new Market President for Merchants Bank in Northfield, according to Dan Massett, Central Region President.

Muhlenbruck has more than 30 years of banking experience, serving mainly in senior commercial and retail leadership roles. Since 2005, he had been with Think Mutual Bank in their Rochester and Eagan locations. He was also previously with Wells Fargo in Rochester as well as Community Bank President for Wells in Northfield.

“Kirk brings a broad background related to strategic leadership, commercial banking and community involvement to Merchants, which will be extremely beneficial to his role in Northfield. Moreover, he embraces the community service culture that Merchants Bank embodies,” said Massett.

“I’ve lived in Northfield for 19 years with my wife, Lori and our three children. We love this community,” said Muhlenbruck. “I’m very much looking forward to ‘coming home’ to Merchants and being a resource for our customers, employee team and our Northfield community. I’ve always been an active community volunteer and have served for nonprofits such as Laura Baker, Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce and the United Way.”

Muhlenbruck attended Simpson College, earning a Bachelor of Arts in Management & Marketing. His hobbies include spending time outdoors hiking, fishing, camping, golfing and traveling with his family.

Since 2019, Merchants Bank has been a community partner in Northfield, when they acquired First National Bank of Northfield. As a regional banking leader, the Bank offers a full array of traditional banking and mortgage solutions, wealth management services and can assist businesses of any size with their business financing and treasury management needs. Merchants Bank is a full-service community bank with 21 bank locations in southeastern Minnesota, two bank locations in west-central Wisconsin and a leasing division, Merchants Bank Equipment Finance, in Edina. Headquartered in Winona, MN, MFGI has more than $2.5 billion in assets and is the 4th largest bank chartered in the state of Minnesota. Merchants was founded in 1875.

3 Essential Small Business Security Practices

BronkKerriSecurityOfficer

Keeping your business protected from fraud and security threats can feel like an overwhelming job. One place to start is by focusing on internal controls that help keep your business’s financial information more secure. Our Security Officer, Kerri Bronk, recommends putting the following three internal controls into practice and reviewing them regularly.

“The idea is to have a combination of different types of security checks and balances in place – and to make sure you keep them up-to-date,” said Kerri. “These simple internal controls can really have an impact on how secure your business information can be.”

Authorized Account Signers

A small business may want to have a few people listed on a financial account as an authorized signer. This can vary by business but may include the owners, an office manager or bookkeeper.

Kerri advises, “[a]uthorized account signers have access to some of the essential functions of your financial account, so you want to make sure this type of access is only granted when necessary.”

 FAQs about Authorized Signers

  • What can an authorized account signer do? An authorized signer is different from an account owner (who has complete control over a financial account). In regards to a checking or savings account, for example, a signer can make withdrawals, sign checks and access some account information.
  • How many authorized account signers can I have? There is no limit. However, the more individuals who have access, the more risk you’re taking.
  • How often should I review this access? On an annual basis or when you’ve had an employment change in your executive management team or accounting/payroll staff.
  • How do I make changes to authorized account signers? Changes to authorized signer need to be done in person at a Merchants Bank location. Contact your Customer Service Representative to make an appointment.

Authorized Cardholders

You might like to have the option for several people to make business purchases with a debit or credit card. This is where authorized cardholders come in.

FAQs about Authorized Cardholders

  • What can an authorized cardholder do? An authorized cardholder can use a debit or credit card tied to your business account to make purchases and get cash from an ATM. You can set spending limits per card user to help keep spending in check.
  • Does the authorized cardholder need to be a signer on the account? No, you can give a person access to a card without having other signing abilities.
  • How many authorized cardholders can I have? There is not a set limit to the number, but again the more access, the harder it will be to track spending.
  • How often should I review this access? Who has access to business debit and credit cards should be reviewed more frequently. We’d recommend making updates to your authorized cardholders each quarter or when you have staffing changes.
  • How do I make changes to authorized card holders? For both your Merchants Bank debit or credit cards, stop into your local Merchants Bank location for assistance.

Access to Account Information

Knowing who has access to your business account information and keeping the number of people to a minimum is one of the best ways to avoid a security or fraud threat.

FAQs about Account Access

  • What kind of information can I give employees access to? You can select the level of information you want an employee to receive in Small Business Online Banking or Commercial Online Banking or credit card transactions through mycardstatement.com. You can also use our mobile card controls – CardValet for debit cards and our Merchants Bank Credit Card App – to have alerts on card spending.
  • How many people can have this access? This varies by solution, please ask at your local Merchants Bank location.
  • How often should I review this access? It’s extremely important to stay current with account access. This should be updated immediately when staff join or leave your business.
  • How do I make changes to who has access to my account information?
    • Statements: Contact your local Merchants Bank location for assistance.
    • Small Business Online Banking and Commercial Online Banking: Once you have set up your account with you as the owner, you can add or remove secondary users and define account access per user at your convenience. If you have any questions or need help with user setup, contact our:
    • mycardstatement.com: Contact your local Merchants Bank location for assistance.

“My last tip regarding internal controls is to ensure that no single employee has access to all the financial aspects of your business,” said Kerri. “For example, you want to make sure that employees who can pay business expenses with a business credit card are not the same employees who pay the credit card bill.”

Just remember that Merchants Bank is always here to help. If you think your business bank account information has been compromised or have a security concern, contact your local Merchants Bank location and ask to speak to your Treasury Management Specialist or a Customer Service Representative.

Merchants Financial Group, Inc., Announces Dividend increase resulting from strong First Quarter Earnings

Greg Evans, President & CEO

WINONA, Minn. – Merchants Financial Group, Inc. (MFGI) announced first quarter net income of just over $9,666,000 according to MFGI President & CEO Gregory M. Evans.

As a result of the strong earnings performance, the MFGI Board of Directors authorized a semiannual dividend increase from $.75 to $.80 cents per share to shareholders during its quarterly April meeting. Dividends will be paid in June to shareholders of record as of May 21, 2021.

“I remain very proud of the efforts of our entire team and the ability to adapt to the ever-changing economic environment,” said Evans. “We continue to be intensely focused on meeting the unique needs of customers at what continues to be an unsettled economic time.” 

Net income is $4.2 million ahead of MFGI’s plan for 2021 and nearly $5.8 million ahead of 2020 performance, which was impacted by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic during the March timeframe.  The large drivers of Merchants performance continue to be strong residential mortgage lending volume ($233 million in loans in the first quarter) and the Bank’s commitment to origination of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans through the Small Business Administration. Approximately 65% of the Bank’s PPP loans that were originated in 2020 had been completely through the forgiveness process by the end of the first quarter, and the Bank has originated an additional $74 million of PPP loans during the current round of funding for the program in 2021. 

“Homeowners continued to take advantage of the low interest rate environment for purchasing homes and refinancing existing loans,” noted Evans. “Also, rapid acceleration of PPP loan forgiveness allowed recognition of income from loans generated last year, across all regions of the company.”

Merchants Financial Group, Inc. is a publicly-traded Company. Ownership is made up of its more than 440 employees and mostly individuals and families from southeastern Minnesota and west-central Wisconsin.

Merchants Bank is a full-service community bank with 23 bank locations in southeastern Minnesota and west-central Wisconsin and a leasing division, Merchants Bank Equipment Finance, in Edina. Headquartered in Winona, MN, MFGI has more than $2.5 billion in assets. Merchants was founded in 1875.