Meet Chris Smith, Consumer Banker at Merchants Bank

Chris Smith and her family

Chris (seated on left) and Her Family

How long have you been with Merchants?
Chris: In November, I’ll have my 25 year anniversary with Merchants. I actually started as a Receptionist in our Downtown Winona location. From there, I helped in Safe Deposit and Bond area and then I went into Deposit Account Services, where I worked for about 10 years. Eventually, I transferred to the Personal Banking area as a Consumer Lender and came to our Onalaska branch when we opened here in 2004.

What is your top banking tip?
Chris: There are so many fraudsters out there. When it comes to your bank accounts, it’s important to do research and understand how the financial institution protects you and your information. For example, what I like about our credit card is the fact that you can call our employees directly if you have questions about your account. The people you talk to about your credit card are local. You’re not calling across the country.

What’s one thing your mom or dad taught you about money?
Chris: A penny saved is a penny earned.

If you won the Powerball what’s the first thing you would do?
Chris: I would buy a house in a southern state with a warm climate so I could enjoy the summer weather up here and the warm winters down south. I think winters here are too long. Ha!

Besides money, what’s your favorite green thing?
Chris: The grass and trees. I love the outdoors, especially in the Spring and Summer weather.

The Potato Recipe

BlogRecipeEmployeeFav-PotatoRecipe

Chief Financial Officer Sue Savat shares one of her favorite recipes from the Merchants Family Cookbook. “I really like this recipe for three reasons – it is really easy to make, really delicious to eat and really easy to clean up!  All very important factors in my cooking!”

Ingredients:

  • 1 envelope Lipton Onion Soup
  • 1/3 cup olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 2 lbs. potatoes, cut into 1 inch cubes

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In large plastic bag or bowl, add all ingredients. Shake or stir potatoes until completely coated. Empty potatoes into shallow baking or roasting pan. Bake, stirring occasionally, for 40 minutes or until tender and golden brown.

 

Merchants Family Cookbooks are available at all Merchants Bank locations for $15. Proceeds benefit local food shelf programs.

Dana Dobrunz Promoted to Personal Banker at Merchants Bank in La Crescent

Dana Dobrunz

Dana Dobrunz, Personal Banker

Dana Dobrunz has been promoted to a Personal Banker at Merchants Bank in La Crescent, according to Merchants Bank Southeast Region President Jay Friedl. Dobrunz will be responsible for serving customers’ personal loan and deposit needs.

“This is well-deserved for Dana and fortunate for our customers because they will have a single person they can go to for their personal loan and deposit needs,”Friedl said. “Her understanding of banking and people is a winning combination for the Bank and our customers.”

Dobrunz has been with Merchants Bank in La Crescent since 1993, where she has been a long-time Customer Service Representative. She has a strong relationship with the Bank customers in La Crescent.

“I’m excited that I will be able to help customers with more of their banking needs instead of referring them to someone else,”Dobrunz said. “I think the continuity is something people will appreciate. It can make banking more personal for them.”

Senior Operations Officer Kerri Bronk Receives Promotion to Lead E-Channel Focus at Merchants Bank

Kerri Bronk

Kerri Bronk, Senior Operations/E-Channel Officer

Merchants Bank Vice President and Senior Operations Officer Kerri Bronk has added the management and leadership of E-Channel activities to her responsibilities, according to Merchants Bank Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Sue Savat.

“As we have continued to develop our electronic delivery channels, we felt it was very important to have one person as the business leader for these channels as this is an area where our customers continue to expect more and more functionality and ease of use,” Savat said.

Bronk will now be Senior Operations/E-Channel Officer for the Merchants organization. Her new responsibilities will include Online and Mobile Banking, Debit Cards, Payment Systems and Consumer Mobile Deposit.  Additionally, she will work with the Marketing department on website solutions, and the Cash Management department on continued E-Solutions for business customers.

“Our customers deserve a seamless and responsive experience based on their individual needs when they bank with us,” Bronk said. “Electronic delivery channels will only continue to expand in importance.”

Bronk has been with Merchants since 1996, beginning her career as a Teller at the Goodview location. She was appointed Senior Operations Officer in 2009.

Meet Larry Accola, President – Merchants Bank Eau Claire

Merchants Bank Eau Claire

Larry Accola, President of Merchants Bank in Eau Claire

Hometown:
Larry: Pittsville, WI. It’s the exact geographical center of state.

Education:
Larry: I graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Originally, I majored in Engineering, but decided that it wasn’t something I wanted to do for a career, so I switched to Business.

I had never considered banking, but one of my professors mentioned there was an opening at Midland Bank in Milwaukee. At the time I worked for Mobil Oil Corporation in Milwaukee. I went to Midland and talked to their HR representative and she encouraged me to consider banking so I could be involved with many different types of businesses. From there, I solicited interviews with several banks in the area and started at what is now, US Bank.

I have never regretted choosing banking. I also completed the Graduate School of Banking three year program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

Family:
Larry: I have four children – two boys and two girls – and they’re all grown up. Three of them live near Seattle and the other lives in Austin, TX.

What do you enjoy most about your work?
Larry: One of my customers asked me recently if I ever considered retiring. I honestly haven’t because I really enjoy what I’m doing. I enjoy people and I enjoy commercial lending. I really like being involved with businesses and being a part of their success. I’ve learned a lot from different businesses over the years and I like applying that experience to the businesses I’m working with now to offer helpful solutions and suggestions.

What’s the most important financial lesson you’ve learned in your life?
Larry: Money is of course important and necessary but regardless of compensation, one has to enjoy and bring value to what they do for a living.

What does community banking mean to you?
Larry: Being part of a team. I think banking relationships should be transparent and not adversarial. Ultimately, what’s good for the bank is generally good for the customer and working together with their other professional advisors to make the customer successful is what it’s all about.

I like that we bring value to our customer relationships and create partnerships rather than just concentrating on the services we offer. Making customers successful also brings benefits to their employees and their communities.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Larry: I don’t know…I grew up on a dairy farm and I knew I probably didn’t want to do that. You have to be at the farm all the time and that’s a big commitment. It was a great place to grow up though. Honestly, I don’t know if I really said “this is what I want to be.”

What do you do when you’re not working?
Larry: Unfortunately, my grandkids do not live nearby, but I have some close friends that let me “stand in” as grandpa for their kids. I go to their sporting events to cheer them on, which is a lot of fun. I enjoy pretty much any spectator sport…football, basketball, soccer. I am a casual hunter and I am currently mentoring an 11 year old boy. I also like reading about the finance and banking industry. I just enjoy learning and every day realize how much there is to know.

Tell us something we don’t know.
Larry: What’s that phrase they say? “You can take the boy off of the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of the boy.” I have three antique tractors, which reminds me of my past. One of them is actually the same make and model as a tractor we had on the home farm. I also had the unique spectrum of experience of attending a one room country school for 8 grades and finishing my education at a 40,000 student urban university.

Learn more about Merchants Bank on our website.

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Do You Use Your Personal Credit Card for Business Expenses?

Business credit cards at Merchants BankWhile you may be tempted to use your personal credit card when paying for business expenses, it’s important to consider the risks you’re taking if you do. Plus, there are benefits to your business using a dedicated business credit card.

Here’s why it’s important to apply for a business credit card:

1. Minimize risk. While it may seem harmless to use a personal card for business expenses, you never know when you’re going to need to prove the difference between a purchase for yourself and a purchase for your business. Why blur the line?

Consider using one card solely for business expenses to keep from mixing personal and business purchases. In addition, mixing personal and business credit can harm your personal credit score, if your business is unable to pay off future debts.

2. Make things easier for your staff or accountant. Having dedicated business credit cards for yourself or other staff members helps you track business expenses more accurately. With a Merchants Bank Visa Business Credit Card, your employees can even have separate statements to make tracking even easier.

Plus, with a dedicated business credit card, you won’t be placing personal and business purchases on the same card, which can cause extra work for those handling the company finances.

3. Build credit. If you have plans to expand your business in the future, your business will need to be credit worthy. You can build credit for your business in a number of ways. A good first step is to open a basic business deposit account, like checking or savings, and apply for a business credit card. With these accounts, you can build a credit history of on time or early payments – much like you’ve done with your personal credit – which will be viewed favorably by potential lenders.

4. Credit card term advantages. Typically your business credit card will allow a higher credit limit and you may be able to get a better rate than a personal credit card. Be sure to read all the terms associated with the business credit cards you are researching to accurately compare your options.

Contact us today to learn more about business credit cards for your business.

Credit cards are subject to credit approval.
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Back to School Shopping for Your Student? Reward Yourself

ScoreMore rewards for back to school shopping$630.36. That’s the average amount a family with children in grades K-12 plans to spend on back to school expenses this fall, according to the National Retail Federation’s Back-to-School Spending Survey. In total, spending for K-12 and college is expected to reach $68 billion.¹

Considering the high price tag associated with back to school shopping, using a credit card that accumulates rewards points may be beneficial. If it makes financial sense for your family, why not get rewarded for the money you spend on school supplies, electronics, clothes and more for your student? Here’s how:

Choose the Best Rewards Card for You

Determining how you prefer to earn points and what you would like to redeem for your points will help you choose the right card.

For example, with the Merchants Bank Visa ScoreCard Credit Card, you earn one point for every² dollar you spend. Spend $1,000 and earn 1,000 points³. Points can be redeemed for airline flights, car rentals, merchandise and much more at scorecardrewards.com.

Take Advantage of Special Earnings or Points Offers

Once you’ve determined which credit card you’d like to use for back to school shopping for your student, research if that card provides special earnings or bonus points during the back to school shopping season. To find current information, you’ll want to check with your card issuer.

Through the ScoreMore program at Merchants Bank, you can earn bonus points year round with our Visa Scorecard Credit Card. If you have our ScoreCard Credit Card, you are automatically enrolled in ScoreMore and there are thousands of participating retailers to choose from. Simply active bonus points online at www.scorecardrewards.com, make your purchase at the participating retailor and earn bonus points automatically. You can earn anywhere from double to quadruple or more the points on your purchases.

Be sure to do your homework before applying for or using a rewards credit card. For more information on Visa Credit Cards at Merchants Bank, visit our website.
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Credit cards are subject to credit approval
¹https://nrf.com/media/press-releases/after-splurging-2014-families-trim-back-school-spending-2015
²Every net retail dollar spent earns rewards points. Cash advances, finance charges and fees do not qualify for points.
³Points are rounded up or down based on the transaction amount. For example, a transaction of $150.52 would equal 151 points.