Shannon Spahr of Merchants Bank Successfully Completes CPA Exams

Shannon Spahr

Shannon Spahr

Merchants Bank Finance Specialist Shannon Spahr has passed her Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exams.

“The CPA exams are difficult, and Shannon’s ability to pass those exams while working full time for us reflects not only her ability, but also her focus on meeting a significant goal that moves her career ahead and helps move us ahead as an organization,” said Sue Savat, Chief Financial Officer for Merchants Bank. “We’re happy for her and proud of her accomplishment.”

Spahr said she recognizes the investment of her time and energy is paying dividends for her career. Spahr has been with Merchants since September of 2010 and has recently moved into her role as a Finance Specialist. Spahr said the four CPA exams each take three and a half to four hours, and the passing rate for each of those exams is 45%-50%.

“I believe that hard work, maintaining a positive attitude and support from family and co-workers all contributed to me passing the exams,” Spahr said. “I’m very grateful to have the chance to work under Sue’s direction here and look forward to learning more.”

Spahr is a graduate of Winona Senior High School, Winona State University, where she received an Accounting degree, and Stetson University, where she received her Master’s in Accountancy.

“I’ve always valued furthering my education. It provides me with a great foundation. The book knowledge is important, but I feel I’ll be able to learn the most from my co-workers,” Spahr said.

Breathing Exercises for Relaxation

Sometimes you just need a moment to catch your breath. In fact, many doctors recommend controlled breathing for both short- and long-term relaxation. Here are five simple breathing exercises you can do anytime, even at your desk during the workday.

Alternate nostril breathing
This easy breathing technique is done in a meditative pose and is said to be like a jolt of caffeine that sharpens your focus.

To do this, hold your thumb over your right nostril while you inhale through the left nostril. At the height of the inhalation, close off the right nostril with the middle finger of the same hand while releasing the thumb. Then, exhale through the right nostril. Repeat

Bellows breath
According to the American Medical Student Association (AMSA), this breathing exercise can be used to improve energy throughout the workday. It’s also known as the stimulating breath and relies on short, fast rhythmic breathing.

Sit in an upright position with your spine straight. Gently close your mouth and quickly inhale and exhale through your nose, like you are pumping air into a tire. Do this for no longer than 15 seconds for beginners and up to one minute for more advanced practitioners to avoid hyperventilating.

Abdominal breathing
Known as diaphragmatic breathing, abdominal breathing reduces tension while improving the flow of blood and lymph within your body by expanding the lung’s air pockets, reports AMSA. Do this technique twice a day or as needed when you’re feeling stressed or in physical pain.

Take a deep breath with one hand placed on your chest and the other on your abdomen. The latter hand should rise further than the one on your chest, indicating you’re using your diaphragm to push the air to the bases of your lungs. As you inhale deeply and slowly though your nose, focus on a word like “relaxation,” and hold it for a count of seven. Exhale for a count of eight while thinking of a word associated with the feeling or emotion you want to release, such as “stress,” AMSA suggests. Repeat the cycle five times total, aiming for a rate of six inhale/exhale combinations per minute.

Counting the breath
Use this breathing technique when you have longer periods of time to spare, recommends holistic guru Dr. Andrew Weil.

Sit upright with your spine straight and head slightly tilted forward. With eyes closed, take a few deep breaths to regulate your rhythm. Begin the exercise by counting “one” as you exhale. Count to two and up to five for each subsequent exhale before repeating the cycle. Do not exceed five counts while meditating on this technique for 10 minutes or longer.

Equal Breathing
Slip into your bed with the purpose of balancing your body and mind after a long day. Experts equate this yoga breath to counting sheep because it distracts you from anxious or racing thoughts.

Inhale through your nose for a count of four; then exhale for a count of four. Repeat this for as little or as long as you desire, eventually building up to eight counts. All the while, you should focus your breath and thoughts on calming your nervous system.

Relaxation breathing can take as little as five minutes or a hour, depending on your needs and time. The best part is you can do these exercises anywhere and anytime. All you need is to focus and, of course, get those lungs pumping.


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Mark Willer Named Market President for Merchants Bank’s New Location in Eau Claire

Mark Willer

Mark Willer

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. – Merchants Bank has named long-time Eau Claire financial services leader Mark Willer as Market President for its new Eau Claire location, according to Merchants Financial Group President & CEO Rodney R. Nelson.

“Mark has a deep understanding of the financial needs of consumers and businesses in the Chippewa Valley. His experience in our industry and genuine belief in the importance of community makes him a natural fit for our banking Team,” Nelson said.

Willer has been a part of the Eau Claire community since 1979 and from 1984 until recently had been a key part of the management team at Royal Credit Union, serving as Chief Operating Officer for 15 years.

“Merchants is the perfect fit for me. The values of the organization are the same that are important to me. Merchants believes in enriching the lives of the people who live and work in our community,” Willer said. “I look forward to introducing the Merchants brand to the area.”

Willer has a long history of community involvement and leadership. He is currently President of Downtown Eau Claire, Inc., a member of the local Junior Achievement board, a member of the City of Altoona Finance Committee, a member of the St. Mary’s Parish Endowment Fund Committee, co-chair for Taste of Eau Claire, and a past board member of the Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce.

“I look forward in taking the lead as Merchants Bank serves our community,” Willer said.

Merchants Bank has agreed to purchase Alliance Bank’s Mall Drive location, as well as deposits and loans from the Mall Drive location and Alliance’s Pinnacle Way location. All told, Merchants Bank will be acquiring about $48 million in deposits and $17 million in loans. The sale has received regulatory approval and is expected to be completed February 14. Terms of the sale have not been released.

Important Billing Notice Changes Effective January 10, 2014

Changes to billing notices for first mortgages, second mortgages and home equity loans effective January 10, 2014

Due to new regulatory requirements that went into effect January 10, 2014, we are now required to provide additional billing information for our consumer mortgage loan customers.

Changes for those on automatic (ACH) payments:  If your Merchants Bank mortgage payment is automatically deducted from your checking or savings account each month, you will now start receiving a billing notice as well.

We understand this change may cause questions.  This statement is for information purposes only and your automatic payment will continue as in the past. While Merchants cannot legally allow you to opt out of receiving this billing notice, we do encourage you to contact Merchants Bank Loan Servicing at 800-765-2194 if you have questions and we’d be happy to walk you through the change.

Changes for those who use a coupon payment book:  If you use a Coupon Payment Book to submit your Merchants Bank mortgage payment each month, you will be receiving a new coupon book after January 10, 2014.  This new regulation requires banks to disclose additional information on mortgage loan coupons; therefore, we are required to provide you with a new coupon book. Please discard your old coupon book and begin using your new one when you receive it. Your payments are not changing, there is just additional information included, such as loan balance and interest rate, and the coupon format has changed slightly.

Again, we understand this may raise questions and we encourage you to contact Merchants Bank Loan Servicing at 800-765-2194 with any question you may have.