Amy Gutierrez Completes Training at School of Trust and Financial Services

Amy Gutierrez, Trust Administrative Specialist

Merchants Bank Trust Administrative Specialist Amy Gutierrez, J.D., recently completed the Schools of Banking School of Trust and Financial Services class. The class was held August 21-25 in Manhattan, KS.

“Most valuable to our clients here at Merchants Bank was what I learned about estate administration and retirement planning, especially as it relates to looking at the big picture and what is best for those clients over a long period,” Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez completed training in Trust Administration, Fiduciary Income Tax, Estate Planning, Retirement Planning, Investments, Conservatorships and Special Needs Trusts, Probate, Compliance and Trust Accounting and Securities Processing.

She said what she learned will assist clients in their wealth management planning for their children, grandchildren and for supporting the philanthropic needs of their community.

The Schools of Banking is located in Lincoln, Neb., and is a jointly owned subsidiary of the Kansas and Nebraska Banking Associations. The School of Trust and Financial Services was held in partnership with a number of state bankers associations, including the Minnesota Bankers Association.

“It was great to be in a class where everyone was going through approximately the same experience and same timing in the Trust departments where they worked. We had the same types of questions, and that enhanced the learning for all of us,” Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez has been working in the Merchants Bank Trust Department since late Spring and has been with the Merchants Bank organization for nearly three years. She has a law degree from Northern Illinois University, a master’s degree from Eastern Michigan University, and an undergraduate degree from Winona State University. She is from Witoka and is a graduate of Winona Senior High School.

The Merchants Bank Trust Department helps individuals and families establish comprehensive wealth plans that identify their needs, goals, and resources for retirement. Trust services may include portfolio management and estate planning, as well as acting as an agent under power of attorney or as personal representative for estates.

Annette Bleninger, CTP, Joins Merchants Bank as a Cash Management Officer

Annette Bleninger, Cash Management Officer

Annette Bleninger, a Certified Treasury Professional (CTP), has joined Merchants Bank as a Cash Management Officer for Merchants’Twin Cities locations, according to Lawrence Stovern, Twin Cities Regional President.

“Annette’s knowledge, relationships and ability to connect with both our customers and our employees serving those customers will be a tremendous benefit to everyone involved. As we continue to grow and focus on Cash Management, this important aspect of our business will be a significant contributor to our overall growth in the Twin Cities,”Stovern said.

Bleninger has more than 15 years of banking experience in sales, customer service and operations in Cash Management. She has worked with customers of varying sizes to help them determine the products and services that will help them most effectively manage their short term funds. She said she is looking forward to working with customers and bankers across Merchants Bank’s Twin Cities locations.

“This is an excellent opportunity for businesses across the Twin Cities. Merchants’Cash Management offerings are comprehensive and more than competitive with larger banks,” Bleninger said. “The additional benefit Merchants offers is it is a community bank that is truly focused on the needs of its customers in the particular markets those businesses may call home.”

Ashley Harrison is Merchants Bank’s New Mortgage Lender in La Crescent

Ashley Harrison, Mortgage Lender

Ashley Harrison has joined the team at Merchants Bank in La Crescent as a mortgage lender, according to Steve Christiansen, Market President for Merchants Bank in La Crescent and Onalaska.

“We know Ashley will be a great addition to the team in La Crescent,” Christiansen said. “She is passionate about helping people, very approachable and she knows our mortgage process extremely well.”

Harrison has been with Merchants Bank for five years, and she has worked in the mortgage operations area for the past three years, specifically in mortgage underwriting and mortgage purchasing.

“I believe my experience in working in the mortgage area will help my customers. I know what is needed for a successful application and successful mortgage,” Harrison said. “I’m very excited to work as a mortgage lender. It has been my goal since I started working at Merchants because I know how well our customers are treated before, during and after they get their mortgage. It’s such a benefit for our customers that Merchants services our loans, so if they have questions after the mortgage, we’re there to answer them.”

In addition, to her experience at Merchants, Harrison has a degree from Winona State University in Business and Marketing.

Equifax Data Breach: Considerations for Protecting My Personal and Financial Information

We understand our customer and employee concerns regarding their personal and financial information following the recent Equifax data breach and offer these steps for you to consider to protect your information, now and going forward:

  • Consider monitoring updated information being released about the data breach directly from Equifax. You can go to their site and navigate to the information on this breach, or use this link at: https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com
  • You may want to consider signing up for Equifax’s free credit monitoring service. Equifax’s CEO statement can be found at: https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com. This site is also where you can check to see if your information was likely breached, and where you can enroll in the 12 month free security tracking services. Even if you find your information was not among the group that was likely breached, you may want to enroll for credit monitoring anyway for peace of mind. Enrollment is up to you. Be sure to read the disclaimers as you are enrolling. Note that Equifax has published updates to this incident and you can check on an ongoing basis for updates. There are other providers that you may consider as well, such as LifeLock, that will charge a fee for their service. 
  • Consider finding everything you do online where personal and confidential information may be involved and change all passwords. This is a good practice anyway.
  • Closely monitor credit and debit cards – all financial accounts really – and consider canceling old cards/accounts that you may have open but do not use.
  • Make use of all the security features with cards, including the ability to turn off your credit and/or debit cards and set alerts for activity that takes place on your cards or accounts. As always, we encourage you to consider doing this as a part of daily management of your financial affairs. Tracking and managing your financial affairs should be done every day.
              1. If you carry a Merchants Bank debit card, download the My Mobile Money Access app from your App store to track all debit card activity.
              2. If you use Merchants Online Banking, we encourage you to use the Alerts functions to monitor account activity as well.
  • Understand that much of your confidential and personal information may already be in the ether of the global internet and could be pulled together to steal your identity – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, other data aggregation sites, public records, online phone books, etc. As a best practice, never use passwords related to information that can be found online. Always monitor your credit reports for accounts opened in your name.

 

We publish fraud scams and alerts in a variety of ways. Follow us:

These suggestions and others may be useful to you. Be sure to keep tracking this issue and seek input and opinions from your trusted sources. Then take the course of action that is best for you.

Concerns? Contact us.

Congratulate New and Promoted Staff

New Staff

Kayla Beckjorden, Part Time Teller, Rochester – Green Meadows
Kayla previously worked at Kohl’s as a Sales Associate. During the summer she enjoys attending as many car shows as she can and she is also a huge animal lover.

 

 

Claudia Bergaus, Electronic Banking Specialist, Winona – Downtown
Claudia previously worked at HyVee as an Assistant Manager and at Midtown Foods in Customer Service and as a Cashier. 

 

 

 

Sam Bowen, Part Time Teller, Lakeville
Sam attends Lakeville North High School and previously worked at Chart House Restaurant. Sam is extremely excited to be here working at Merchants.

 

 

Jackson Dorma, Part Time Teller, Cottage Grove
Jackson was previously at District 833 Service Center at a Tech Intern and is very excited to join Merchants.

 

 

 

April Duncan, Teller & Vault Attendant, Winona – Lakeside
April previously worked as a Teller at Wells Fargo in La Crosse and as a Customer Service Representative at Directtv/Att in Huntville, AL.

 

 

 

EricsonTaylorTaylor Ericson, Teller, Lakeville
Taylor previously worked at River Valley Church as a Connections Coordinator. Taylor and her husband, Paul have been happily married for almost 4 years. Taylor is a photographer and enjoys being creative in her free time. She loves meeting new people and is excited to join the Merchants team.

 

 

FrankoBenBen Franko, Mortgage Lender, Eau Claire
Ben previously worked at Wells Fargo at a Mortgage Banker. He is actively involved in the community and serves on the Community Table Board of Directors as the Co-President. Ben and his wife have two children. He enjoys the outdoors, fishing and hunting. 

 

 

GernesCalebCaleb Gernes, Trust Assistant, Winona-Downtown
Caleb previously worked at Winona National Bank as a Teller and at Mugby Junction as a Barista. Caleb is currently attending Winona State University majoring in Marketing. He is a ballroom dancer, speaks French and has a pet bearded dragon.

 

 

GuzzoAndrewAndrew Guzzo, Regional President, Winona-Downtown
Andrew has spent the past 11 years in the banking industry, working for American Bank & Trust in the Quad Cities (Iowa/Illinois) area, and most recently leading NXT Bank in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Prior to that, he had more than 15 years of sales and sales management experience for US Foods. Andrew and his wife, Dawn, have four children, two boys and two girls. Learn more about Andrew here.

 

Alyssa Melbostad, Teller, Caledonia
Alyssa previously worked at Winneshiek Medical Center as a Rehabilitation Technician. Alyssa and her husband reside in Spring Grove with their son. She enjoys spending time with her family and getting outside as much as possible.

 

 

Melisa Miklya, Teller, Cottage Grove
Melisa previously worked at Microtel Inn & Suites. She is a single mother of a kind heart, spunky seven-year-old. In her free time, Melisa enjoys spending time with family, playing the piano for her grandma, crocheting and enjoying the fresh air.

 

 

Eryn Orth, Teller & Customer Service Representative, Winona – Goodview
Eryn previously worked at White Rose Bridal as a Bridal Consultant. She grew up on a dairy farm near Lewiston and recently graduated from UW-River Falls with her BS Degree in Agriculture Business. She is excited to be getting married in September.

 

 

MillerGina

Gina Miller, Commercial Banker, Onalaska
Gina previously worked at Wells Fargo Bank as a Business Relationship Manager for 17 years. She was raised in La Crosse, has been married for four years and has a daughter. She is active in the community as a member of the Coulee Region Young Professionals, a member of the Women’s Alliance of La Crosse, and a participant in the Chamber of Commerce’s La Crosse Area Community Leadership Program. In her free time, Gina likes to downhill ski, hike and spend summer days on the river. She also enjoys spending time with her family and friends.

 

ReardonRoseRose Reardon, Teller, Cannon Falls
Rose also currently works at Spartan Nash as a Guest Associate. 

 

 

 

 

Matthew Rodenburg, Teller, Winona – Downtown
Matthew previously worked at Destiny Life Church as an Associate/Youth Pastor and at Tri-County Record as a Journalist/Staff Writer. Matt is a father of four and is originally from Omaha, NE. He loves movies, the 80’s, and the Chicago Bears (which means he is especially fond of 1985).

 

 

ScalzoTonyTony Scalzo, Mortgage Lender, Eau Claire
Tony owns Scalzo Properties, LLC and previously worked at US Bank as a Mortgage Loan Originator and at Johnson Bank as a Mortgage Loan Officer.

 

 

Tammy Strand, Part Time Teller, St. Charles
Tammy previously worked at Mike’s Food Center as a Cashier. She also previously owned her own business, Abby’s Locker Room, which was located in St Charles. Tammy is married and has four children and two cats. Her hobbies include reading, crafting, working in the yard & garden and home renovations.

 

 

Larissa Verbeke, Customer Service Representative & Back Up Teller, Rosemount
Larissa previously worked at Merchants as a Teller. She graduated in May from Winona State University majoring in Finance and Human Resources with a minor in Management and after graduation relocated to Hastings. In her free time she likes to play volleyball, run, hike and be with her family and friends.

 

 

Molli Vodak, Electronic Banking Specialist
Molli previously worked at Benton State Bank as a Consumer Loan Officer and Customer Service Representative. She and her husband recently moved to Winona, so her husband could help his parents with their family business. They are looking forward to their new adventure and they are excited to see what their future holds.

 

 

Rachel Wyttenbach, Administrative Assistant & Customer Service Representative, Onalaska
Rachel previously worked at Citizens State Bank as a Customer Service Representative. She is recently engaged and is planning a June 2018 wedding. Rachel has two fur babies, Leo and Aspen.

 

 

Nou Xiong, Lending Assistant & Customer Service Representative, Apple Valley
Nou previously worked at Wells Fargo as a Loan Processor for 15 years. She is married and has three daughters and one son. As a family, they love to take small walks and she enjoys watching her son fish.

 

Promotions and Transfers

BauerJennaJenna Bauer, Mortgage Lender, Hastings
Jenna has been with Merchants since 2011. She was previously a Customer Service Representative in Hastings.

 

 

 

Alyssa Connolly, Lead Teller, Cottage Grove
Alyssa has been with Merchants since 2015. She was previously a Teller in Cottage Grove. 

 

 

 

Corey Decker, Electronic Banking Specialist, Winona – Downtown
Corey has been with Merchants since 2017. He is also currently the Director of Customer Assistance in Winona. 

 

 

 

Amy Gutierrez, Trust Administrative Specialist, Winona – Downtown
Amy has been with Merchants since 2014. She was previously a Credit Operations Representative and also has a law degree from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, IL.

 

 

HarrisonAshley copyAshley Harrison, Mortgage Lender, La Crescent
Ashley has been with Merchants Bank since 2011. She was previously a Teller, Marketing Coordinator, Mortgage Purchasing Specialist, Underwriter and most recently a Mortgage Underwriting Specialist.

 

 

WagnerAshleyAshley Wagner, Retail Lending Assistant, Winona – Downtown
Ashley has been with Merchants since 2014. She was previously an Electronic Banking Representative in Winona.

 

 

 

Kally Whalen, Customer Service Representative, St. Charles
Kally has been with Merchants since 2016. She was previously an Electronic Banking Representative in Winona.

 

From the President’s Desk: Fall 2017

Greg Evans, Merchants Bank President & CEO

By Greg Evans, President & CEO

A few weeks ago, Merchants Bank was featured prominently in a Sunday news feature in the Business section of the Star Tribune newspaper. I sincerely appreciate the response I have personally received from so many friends and Bank customers about the exposure for the Merchants organization.

It’s gratifying to be associated with a company that is recognized throughout the state of Minnesota as a leader in our industry. The extraordinary business growth that Merchants has enjoyed over a period of many years was one of the reasons the Star Tribune reached out to us for purpose of doing the story.

The story focused on two primary things:

  • What has been the formula for our sustained track record of success
  • What perspective does our organization have in regards to the regulatory environment we operate in and what, if any, reform is appropriate for the banking industry

Addressing the first topic of the interview was the easy part. As I’ve already shared with you in previous submissions to our E-newsletter, our success is driven 100% by our people. At Merchants, we have made talent acquisition, retention and development a critical strategic priority. Nobody on our Merchants team is perfect, but we are purposeful in filling our team with difference-makers, people capable of providing great customer service and demonstrating community leadership.

Everybody on our team understands the importance of living up to our brand promise of being the Bank that Service Built. When we fall short of meeting our customers’ expectations, as we at times do, our goal is to learn from our mistakes and take the opportunity to get better.

Something that does create conflict at times with our intense desire to be customer-centric in all that we do is regulatory requirements. As I shared in the Star Tribune article, I do believe strongly that the banking industry – particularly the community banking sector – is over-regulated.

There is no question that there was a need for reform coming out of the Great Recession, and that increased regulation was enacted with the hope of protecting consumers. Unfortunately, corrective action resulted in unintended consequences associated with intense regulatory burden. As you may have experienced yourself, getting loans is more cumbersome, more costly and more onerous in terms of documentation today than prior to these regulations.

I believe strongly there needs to be some regulatory burden normalization. The reality is that for Merchants Bank we are fortunate to be of adequate size to absorb the additional burden and stay the course in being a major contributor to the economic vitality of our communities and this region. We have been able to put processes and best practices in place to help our customers work through documentation requirements. We rely on our team members to understand the impact of regulations and guide customers step-by-step through borrowing transactions.

In the community bank space, I believe we are driven to be as customer-centric as we can be in light of regulatory requirements. Banks like Merchants… with significant presence in outstate markets… are tremendous drivers of the economic vitality of the communities we serve. Playing that important role is one of the most rewarding things about this profession. The work we get to do each day allows us to have a powerful impact in changing people’s lives in positive ways.

Fraud Alerts and Security Reminders

Explaining contract details

Please review our most recent fraud alerts and security reminders to help keep your personal information secure.

Check Cashing Fraud

Merchants has again seen an increase in fraudulent checks. Customers have fallen for some “too good to be true” scenarios including being asked to be a secret shopper for a fake business or receiving a winnings check in the mail from a drawing they did not enter. When you receive a check, make sure to consider where it came from.

Some questions to ask yourself:

  • Did I recently enter any contests or drawings where I could win money?
  • Can I verify the information on the check through a third-party? For example, can you confirm a person’s contact information through the phone book? Or confirm a business’s information through an online directory like the Yellow Pages?
  • Does it sound too good to be true?

Be a skeptic. If the situation doesn’t sound right, it’s time to do some more investigating before depositing that check. We encourage you to bring the check in and discuss where it came from with your local Tellers and Customer Service Representatives. We’re here to help.

Updating Your Contact Information with Merchants

Have you moved recently? Change your cell phone or email address? It’s important we have your most current information in case we need to contact you in the event of fraud.

Call the Customer Service Representative at your local Merchants Bank to update your information: (800) 944-6285. If you don’t have a privacy code on file with us, now is the time to get one in place too. Here’s why.

Next Steps If You’ve Experienced Fraud

If you think your bank account information has been compromised or you are a victim of identity theft, contact your local Merchants Bank and ask to speak to a Customer Service Representative.