Mortgage Operations Leader Completes Advanced Degree

WINONA, Minn. – Robert Dougherty, Vice President of Mortgage Operations at Merchants Bank, has completed his MBA at Concordia University in St. Paul.

Dougherty leads the mortgage operations area at Merchants Bank, which supports and processes mortgage loans for Merchants’ 18 locations, as well as 210 other community banks and credit unions across five states that make up the correspondent mortgage banking network that Merchants Bank serves.

“I think that through the MBA experience I better developed the ability to understand issues and opportunities holistically through areas of expertise like risk assessment, cost-benefit analysis and strategic planning,” said Dougherty, who has supervisory responsibilities for nearly 50 employees. “That should benefit my co-workers, and, in turn, our customers.”

Dougherty has been with the Merchants organization for two years and has nearly two decades of mortgage experience.

Merchants Bank’s Jeff Carter Graduates from Graduate School of Banking in Colorado


Jeff Carter

BOULDER, COLO. – Jeff Carter, Vice President and Business Banker at Merchants Bank in Cottage Grove, recently graduated from the Graduate School of Banking at Colorado (GSBC), a 25-month banking school which provides senior management and leadership education for community-banking professionals. Carter was among 164 graduates of the 63rd Annual School Session, hosted July 14-26 on the campus of the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colo.

GSBC students are recognized by their bank’s executive team as rising stars in their organizations, and as graduates, often continue to become leaders in their respective organizations.

“Completing the coursework and projects associated with the Graduate School of Banking at Colorado is a great accomplishment for community bankers around the country,” said GSBC President Tim Koch.

Graduates receive a diploma upon successfully completing six weeks of classroom training which focuses on the areas of general management, lending, leadership and human-resource management and financial management. Requirements for graduation also include comprehensive examinations, intercessions research projects and participation in a bank-management simulation course designed to provide the student with experience managing a bank.

Ronald McDonald House Charities of Western Wisconsin and Southeastern Minnesota Receives $426 in Merchants Bank’s 10 for 10 Celebration

10 for 10 Ronald McDonald House

Pictured are Steve Christiansen, Merchants Bank, Kristina Schoh of Ronald McDonald House, and Shawn Sackman of Merchants Bank.

ONALASKA, WIS. – Ronald McDonald House Charities of Western Wisconsin and Southeastern Minnesota was the July recipient of Merchants Bank in Onalaska’s 10 for 10 program, receiving a check for $426 for contributions made in July.

The organization directly improves the health and well-being of children by providing them a bridge to accessible health care.

“It’s great to see the work that Ronald McDonald House of Western Wisconsin and Southeastern Minnesota does in this area and how it touches the lives of people that we all know throughout the region,” said Steve Christiansen, President of Merchants Bank in Onalaska.

The 10 for 10 celebration features a different area nonprofit each month. Merchants grants the nonprofit $10 a day for each day of the month and matches up to another $10 a day that the nonprofit receives in donations over the month. Merchants granted $300 for June and matched another $63 dropped off at the Bank for the benefit of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Western Wisconsin and Southeastern Minnesota.

The August nonprofit featured is the Boys and Girls Club of the Greater La Crosse Area.

Jeff Carter Joins Merchants Bank in Cottage Grove as Vice President and Business Banker


Jeff Carter

COTTAGE GROVE, Minn. – Jeff Carter has joined the team at Merchants Bank’s Cottage Grove location as a Vice President and Business Banker. He will lead the team in Cottage Grove, according to Twin Cities Regional President Lawrence Stovern.

“Jeff’s experience and ability will be a tremendous asset to our customers, our staff and business owners throughout the area,” Stovern said “He has a great understanding of commercial, consumer and SBA loans.”

Carter has more than 15 years of banking experience, including time at TCF Bank in Bloomington, and most recently at Drake Bank in St. Paul. He has a great deal of expertise in commercial and SBA loans.

“My knowledge will allow me to look closely at a business and suggest the best course of action that business can take for financing,” Carter said. “I look forward to continuing to help businesses achieve their goals, and to continuing to help our community grow through being involved.”

Carter recently completed his course work at the Graduate School of Banking in Colorado. He is a member of the Neighborhood Economic Development Association (NeDA) of St. Paul and the West St. Paul Kiwanis Club. He has a long history of working with and volunteering his time with community organizations.

New Front-Line Employees


Say, “Hello” to our new staff

Merchants Bank is dedicated to providing you with top-notch service. We want you to be satisfied with all of your banking needs. We recently hired these qualified employees to provide you with the excellent service you deserve. Please help us welcome the new front-line team members of Merchants Bank.

Jeff Carter joined Merchants Bank, Cottage Grove as a Vice President/Commercial Banker. He previously worked at Drake Bank as a Vice President/Commercial. Jeff and his family reside in Hastings. Jeff is involved with the community as a Board Member for the Neighborhood Economic Development Association (NeDA) and the West St. Paul Kiwanis Club.

Jenny Kiese joined the Winona Lakeside team as a part-time Teller. Jenny and her husband moved off their dairy farm in Lewiston last year and now they live in Winona with their two teenagers Jake and Ellie. She is adjusting to “big city” life. Jenny is looking forward to getting to know her new customers and providing them with excellent service. She previously worked as a Teller at Winona National Bank.

Meggan Scanlan joined Merchants Bank, Caledonia as a part-time Teller. Meggan is currently attending Caledonia High School and also works as a lifeguard. She also previously worked as a Dishwasher/Prep Cook. Meggan is excited to be part of the Merchants team.

Brian’s Toys Continues to Build

Passion for Toys Leads to Success

BusSpotlightBriansToysENBrian Semling has been all about starting early and following his bliss.

Brian has been a life-long Merchants Bank customer. “I was just four or five days old when my parents opened my first Merchants Bank account,” Semling said. Semling has been with Merchants since then.

As a child, Brian played with “Star Wars” toys. In 1987, that memorabilia was sold at a garage sale. By 1992, Brian started collecting again, and by 1994, Brian opened his own business, “Brian’s Toys,” at the tender age of 16.

The business has grown from selling vintage “Star Wars” toys and collectibles, although it still does that, to selling contemporary “Star Wars” toys, “Transformers,” “Masters of the Universe,” “GI Joe,” “LEGO” construction sets, “Indiana Jones,” “Star Trek” and much, much more. They claim to offer the “world’s largest collection of Star Wars toys and Star Wars collectibles.”

The business has grown from its start in the basement and garage of his parents’ home in Fountain City, Wis., to a more than 8,000 square foot warehouse. The staff has grown to about 20 people, including family members. All sales are done online.

Merchants Bank has helped Brian’s Toys in a number of ways. In addition to providing business loans and lines of credit, Merchants has provided Merchant Processing for credit cards and Deposit on Demand where checks can be remotely scanned and deposited. Recently, Brian added ACH Block and Filters, which can block certain debits and credits from posting to an account, and can allow certain debits and credits from posting to an account while excluding others. Brian also added Positive Pay, which helps to make sure no fraudulent checks are issued on the business account.

“I feel there’s a real understanding of our history,” Semling said of the relationship with Merchants. “We’ve been very happy. If we need to discuss things, we definitely feel that there are real people that we can connect with and be treated fairly.”

Tammy Johnson, a Cash Management expert at Merchants, said that Brian is good to work with because he has an idea of what works best for him and is open to hearing about new products. The ACH Blocks and Filters and Positive Pay are relatively new products, Johnson said.

“He has a wonderful, thriving business,” Johnson said.

Semling said that he also likes the size and feel of a community bank like Merchants.

“There’s value in being able to meet with people face-to-face,” Semling said.

If you have some old “Star Wars” or other discontinued toys from the 1990’s or 2000’s, Brian’s Toys may be interested. “It could be an entire collection, or it may be just a toy or two,” Semling said. More information can be found at the website or email with any toys for sale to

For Semling, he still has a number of favorite toys, and it is hard for him to choose just one favorite. He did say one of the most collectible was an Anakin Skywalker from the “Power of the Force” series in its original packaging from 1984.

“I’ll say that Darth Vader is my favorite character, and that the first Darth Vader from 1978 in its original packaging is a favorite toy as well,” Semling said.

Leadership Leads to Opportunity

Tim Murphy sets the pace in Caledonia

Tim MurphyLeadership has led to opportunity in Caledonia as Merchants Financial Group, Inc. (MFGI) Board Member Tim Murphy’s engagement in the community has opened doors for Merchants Bank.

Murphy, who is on the Caledonia Advisory Board of Directors, as well as the MFGI Board, has taken a leadership role in community projects since 1975. His involvement, along with the involvement of Merchants Bank and the employees of Merchants Bank in Caledonia, has contributed to making Caledonia a better place to live.

Murphy is on the Board of the 4 Seasons Community Center. The community center was built about 10 years ago with $1.2 million raised from community donations. The fundraising for the project was spearheaded by Merchants Bank leadership and Merchants was a significant donor.

“That’s a great accomplishment for a town of 2,700, and one that the town can take pride in achieving,” Murphy said, adding that the facility now runs on donations and rental fees.

Murphy has led the fundraising for a new $1.7 million swimming pool for Caledonia. Murphy wants to make the new pool happen without raising taxes to pay for the project.

At Murphy’s urging, Merchants took a lead in the pool project, pledging the first $25,000. By the end of 2012, the project had reached $1.1 million and Merchants had increased its pledge to $100,000. Murphy pointed out that these donations are in addition to the hours employees and other board members spend volunteering and supporting community organizations.

“The Bank is being recognized for its generosity, and the Bank has a history of community involvement. People see who is taking an interest,” Murphy said, adding that Merchants’ business model of local decision making is good thing for the Bank in Caledonia and the community.

Craig (Caledonia Bank President Craig Schroeder) has a real good understanding of what’s important in this community,” Murphy said.

Murphy has practiced law in Caledonia since becoming an attorney in 1975. A native of Blue Earth, Minn., Murphy said that practicing in a smaller town has had benefits for the Bank as well.

He also knows that you have to pay your dues, work hard and show people that you really care about them. He said that’s especially true in banking.

“I’m a firm believer that you get back what you put into something, and people see Merchants is putting its money and employee volunteer time into the community. That is important to them when they make their banking decisions,” Murphy said.