Winona Women Lead the Banking Industry

by Sarah Squires, Winona Post


Sue Savat
Chief Financial Officer
Merchants Bank

Gone are the days when banking deals made during ‘ol boys club meetings, when men dominated financial markets and hometown banks. Today, Winona-area financial institutions are full of women leaders in every corner of the industry, from the front desk to the CFO offices.

When Ellen Smith, Winona National Bank Chief Retail Officer/Senior Vice President, first had an opportunity for a promotion to branch manager, she said she assumed another colleague would nail the job. “I thought about it and said, ‘hey wait, I should speak up,’” she recalled.

It’s a sentiment echoed by many women leaders across varied industries: in order to reach new heights in your career, you’ve got to promote yourself and let others know that you would like to achieve more.

Confidence is key, said Cherie Burke, Altra Financial Services Representative and Winona Rotary President. “You just have to not be afraid to have that conversation and say what you want to do,” she said.

Sue Savat, Merchants Bank Chief Financial Officer, agreed. Along with that key communication, an aspiring young banking industry leader should also network and be willing to explore different aspects of her company. “Volunteer for committees; volunteer for projects,” she advised. And, “Start with a good base of education.”

Savat explained that about 80 percent of the leadership positions at Merchants Bank are held by women, indicating the industry has truly shifted from its male-dominated past. One of the most important qualities in a good leader, she said, is being able to draw out the strengths of those she works with. “In a leadership role, it’s less important what you do, and more important what you do for those around you,” explained Savat.

Amber Hamernik, Eastwood Bank Residential Mortgage Lender, said getting your foot in the door and all the experience you can is an important part of setting the table for a career in the banking industry. “Even starting as a teller working part-time during school, or volunteering in the community [is important],” she explained. “The more things you have like that under your belt when you go into get a job, it’s going to look so much better.”

Hamernik, along with all the women interviewed for this story, explained how important women are to her company, and said that other women in banking leadership roles served as mentors for her. “Just seeing and working with other women in financial institutions that were in higher level positions — seeing what they had and what they could do — that was an inspiration,” she said.

Along with finding mentors and getting a traditional education, Smith said it is important to take advantage of any training opportunities that your employer might offer. “Seek it out,” she said. “Training is not just going to fall into your lap, so you need to be proactive.”

Burke said excelling in the banking industry is parallel to the tradition of rotarians everywhere, and, to the age-old Golden Rule. “You need to be honest; you need to be true to yourself, and you need to be fair to others,” she explained. And sometimes, careers, regardless of the industry, don’t come as planned, so aspiring professionals should be ready when an employment chance arrives. “Sometimes, it’s not something you’ve planned, and yet all of a sudden, opportunity presents itself.”

Amber Hamernikemail

Amber Hamernik
Residential Mortgage Lender
Eastwood Bank


Cherie Burke
Financial Services Representative
Altra Federal Credit Union


Ellen Smith
Chief Retail Officer
Winona National Bank

Merchants Bank Receives Regulatory Approval to Purchase Associated Bank Locations in Rushford and Lanesboro

WINONA, Minn. – The Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) has approved Merchants Bank’s purchase of the Rushford and Lanesboro branch locations of Associated Bank, according to Merchants Financial Group Inc., President and CEO Richard L. Mahoney.

“We are looking forward to the opportunity to serve these important customers,” Mahoney said.

The sale includes about $47 million in deposit and $11 million in loan relationships, as well as the physical locations of the banks in Rushford and Lanesboro. The approved sale also includes Ag loans and related deposits from Associated’s location in Red Wing. The sale is tentatively scheduled to be completed November 15, 2013. Terms of the sale have not been disclosed.

Holiday Shopping Made Easier for Your Customers

BusGiftCardRefreshedENAre you tired of handwriting all of those gift certificates for your customers? Wouldn’t it be nice to have everything with the gift certificate process electronic so you didn’t have to do the math? With the holiday season around the corner it is only going to become more difficult to track your paper certificates. Why not try Merchants Bank’s Business Gift Card program?

The Merchants Bank Business Gift Card program allows your business to offer gift cards to your customers.  You can even launch the program in five to seven days so that your business will be prepared for the holiday shopping season. You can even personalize and brand the card using your business name.

Increase the average spending of your customers and the frequency of their visits. Reward your loyal customers and attract new ones with the Business Gift Card program at Merchants Bank. 

Make the gift card purchasing process easier for you and your customers.

For more information on the Merchants Bank Business Gift Card program, please contact Credit Card Department Manager Deb Kemp at (507) 457-1160 or by email at Let Merchants Bank help you start offering gift cards or make your gift card process easier today.

Snowbirds, Are You Going Away for the Winter?

SnowbirdENIf you’re going away for the winter, please let us know so that we can be sure to send your important information from Merchants Bank.

You can change your address in one of two ways. You can come in and see one of our Customer Service Representatives. They can set up the change and set up a time for the address to automatically convert when you return.

The other way to change your address is through Online Banking. Go to “Other Services” and then “Change of Address.” If you change your address this way, you need to remember to change it back when you return.

You’ll also want to let your other important contacts know where you’re going to be, so they can be in touch. We have “Snowbird Kit” information available for download on our website under “How Can We Help You?”.

Don’t forget to change your address when you travel south for the winter so you can enjoy your time away knowing that Merchants Bank will be able to send you the information you need.

Let Your Bills Pay You

ScoreCardHolidayENDid you know you can earn points when you use your Merchants Bank Visa ScoreCard? You can even redeem those points that you earn to order a gift card to one of your favorite shopping locations.

 Each qualifying transaction you make earns you valuable Bonus Points. You may redeem your points at any time. The larger your Bonus Points total, the greater the value of the award you may choose.

When you open your credit card account, you will receive your ScoreCard Rewards catalog for your shopping convenience, or you can login to and shop away.

For more information contact your local Merchants Bank office or visit our website.

We’ve Got Your Back, Trust Us

Merchants Bank Trust DepartmentIf you want the freedom to travel at a moment’s notice, advice for estate planning, or help with tools for asset management, it’s a relief to know that somebody will take care of your finances.

Whether you are at home, or halfway around the world, the Trust Specialists at Merchants Bank are prepared to manage your affairs 365 days a year because we’ve got your back.

The Trust Department at Merchants Bank offers integrity, experience, and peace of mind to its clients and will come to meet with you at any of our locations.

We Care

We know how important it is to work together as a team with your other advisors to cover all the aspects of your financial life. We have a history of success that continues to motivate us with each new person and family we help realize their dreams.

Trusts are for people:

  •  Who are alone
  •  Looking for freedom
  •  Wanting to stay independent
  •  With special needs

There are different types of trusts, and your situation will best determine what is right for you:

  • Revocable living trust
  • Irrevocable living trust
  • Trust under will
  • Charitable trust
  • Power of attorney, guardian or conservator
  • Self-directed or Trustee directed IRA

We can offer you these services as well:

  • Estate planning
  • Estate administration. We can act as your personal representative
  • We can act as Trustee for revocable or irrevocable trusts
  • Healthcare coordination
  • Tax preparation and filings
  • Full-time, professional money management
  • Selecting, re-balancing and monitoring of investments

Call us at (507) 457-1153 for more information, or click here.