Meet the Winners of Merchants Bank’s Money Ball in Cannon Falls

Jenny Holz from Merchants Bank pictured with winners Avery Rustad (left) and Ashlyn Sjoquist (right).

During the Cannon Falls and Kasson-Mantorville Girl’s basketball game Friday, January 20, two students claimed prizes for making shots during Merchants Bank’s Money Ball, according to Jenny Holz, who is coordinating Money Ball for Merchants Bank.

Avery Rustad, a 4th grader, made a lay-up and free throw and earned $15. Ashlyn Sjoquist, an 8th grader, made a free throw and a 3-pointer to earn $35.

“It was a lot of fun, and we were happy that Avery and Ashlyn were such good shots,” Holz said. “I hope we have a student make the half-court shot next time.”

To be eligible, students sign up before halftime of the varsity game. Two contestants are then chosen randomly, one from 1st-5th grade and another from 6th-12th grade. Each contestant has a minute to make shots. The 1st-5th grader wins $5 for a made lay-up, $10 for made free throw, and then if both shots have been made, the student has one chance to win $25 for a made 3-pointer. If a 3-pointer isn’t made, the money rolls over to the next game. The 6th-12th grader wins $10 for a made free throw, $25 for a 3-pointer, and if both shots have been made, the student has one chance to win $100 for a half-court shot. If the half-courter isn’t made, the money rolls over to the next game.

The next chance for students to take part in Money Ball in Cannon Falls is the Boy’s game Feb. 3 against Kenyon-Wanamingo. There will also be a chance for students to take part in the Girl’s game Feb. 10 against Goodhue.

Merchants Announces Record Earnings of $14,154,891 in 2016


Rod Nelson, President/CEO

Preliminary net income numbers show that for the second consecutive year Merchants Financial Group, Inc. (MFGI) has realized record earnings with $14,154,891 in 2016, according to MFGI President & CEO Rodney R. Nelson. The numbers are subject to final audit.

This year’s earnings surpassed last year’s record of $13,454,698. Nelson noted that 2016 also saw two dividend increases for shareholders, going from 53 cents to 55 cents per share in the Spring, and 55 cents to 56 cents per share in the Fall. MFGI share price started the year at $42.75 and was $54.40 at year-end.

“Our employees provided exceptional service and guidance to our customers to help them achieve their financial goals, and through doing that drove our income in the areas of mortgage activity, loan growth and credit card income,” said Nelson, who is retiring Tuesday, January 31, after 17 years with the Merchants organization.

Nelson noted that total loan growth was 7.2% over 2015. Deposits increased by 9.1% and MFGI’s capital grew from $139 million at year end 2015 to $150.1 million at year end 2016, an 8% increase. Total assets ended the year at $1.623 billion.

Nelson said five locations –Winona, Onalaska, Rochester, Lakeville and Hastings –and the company’s leasing division, Merchants Bank Equipment Finance, topped $1 million in earnings.

“We believe that our focus on community banking and the power our local leaders have to make decisions, along with the lending capabilities that come with a bank of our size, make us unique in our industry and the best choice for individuals and businesses across our region,” Nelson said.

Greg Evans, who has been with the organization 28 years and is currently Chief Banking Officer, will succeed Nelson as MFGI President & CEO.

MFGI owns 21 Merchants Bank locations, including Minnesota locations in Winona, St. Charles, Goodview, Rochester, Rushford, Lanesboro, Caledonia, La Crescent, Spring Grove, Cannon Falls, Red Wing, Hampton, and the southern Twin Cities metropolitan suburbs of Apple Valley, Cottage Grove, Hastings, Lakeville and Rosemount. Merchants has Wisconsin locations in Eau Claire and Onalaska. All banks are FDIC members and equal housing lenders. Additionally, MFGI also owns Twin Cities-based Merchants Bank Equipment Finance, a division of Merchants Bank, N.A.

The ownership of Merchants Financial Group is made up of its more than 440 employees and its shareholders, mostly individuals and families from southeastern Minnesota and west-central Wisconsin.

Meet Mike Swanson, Commercial Banker

Mike Swanson, Commercial Banker

Get to know Mike, Commercial Banker,  and how he helps businesses – big and small – meet their financial goals.

Share a little about your background and banking career.
Mike: I started in banking as a part time teller in high school at Vermillion State Bank. Two years later, I moved to First Federal Bank (now known as MidCountry Bank) as a Construction Loan Assistant. After college, I moved back to the retail side of the bank as a Personal Banker and eventually became a branch manager there.

In 2012, I started at Merchants Bank as Personal Banker. Since then, I’ve changed office locations and roles a couple of times and eventually was fortunate enough to move to the commercial side of banking, in my current role as a Commercial Banker. It had been a goal of mine to move into a commercial role for many years and I feel very fortunate Merchants has afforded me that opportunity and in my hometown no less!

What do you like most about your job?
Mike: When people hear you are a banker they tend to draw conclusions about number crunching and spreadsheets, but I’m a community banker because I like people! I love building relationships and getting to know my clients, their goals, dreams, and aspirations, and most importantly helping them achieve them.

I also greatly enjoy my community and Merchants Bank’s commitment to the communities we serve allows me to be involved in several organizations. Part of my job is to help make Hastings a great community for all of us who live and work here.

What kinds of businesses do you typically work with and how do you help them?
Mike: That’s one of the great things about Merchants – whether you are a one-man show landscaper or plumber, or have employees in multiple locations – we are going to have products and services to offer you. I’ve work with several one-man operations in landscaping, agriculture, all the trades (plumbing, electrical, etc), as well as real estate investors, accountants, and doctors.

We can help with equipment purchasing and leasing, working line of credits, credit card, and an entire suite of cash management services too. We have something for every kind of business.

What do you hope your customers say about working with you?
Mike: I hope they say “that was such a great experience I’m going to tell everyone I know about Mike at Merchants!” Really, I hope they know I am working for them and that I’m here to offer them options in order to meet their future goals. I hope they say I am a long-term trusted partner to help them reach their goals.

What does community banking mean to you?
Mike: Community banking means that we, the Bank, take care of our community. Decisions are made by people who understand the local needs of families, businesses and farmers.

In today’s world, you can’t walk into just any bank and ask to talk to the president. But at Merchants you can because of our local, market-based leadership. Being a community bank means we partner with you through opening your child’s savings account, financing your first home, or helping you get the business of your dreams started. It means when you walk in the door, we’re going to know your name and you will know ours.

Loans are subject to approval.