Happy New Year! I want to thank those of you who favored Merchants Bank with your business in 2017. We remain committed to meeting your financial services needs in the year ahead with a high degree of personalized service and attention that we believe sets Merchants apart from other banking organizations.
Over the course of the next few weeks, you will likely read/hear about another record year of earnings performance for Merchants Bank. As a publicly-traded Company which is owned primarily by Winona area families and our employees, we do take great pride in our financial performance and delivering a return on investment to the local owners of Merchants, many of which have placed confidence in our organization for decades.
We also know that our customers are the reasons for our success. We sincerely appreciate the loyalty of all of our customers. They are the reason Merchants continues to grow in providing financial services to an expanding service area throughout southeastern Minnesota and west-central Wisconsin.
It’s also important to share with you why I feel so strongly that our continued financial strength is a tremendous advantage to all of our customers and communities. Our performance is the driver of our ability to make meaningful investments back into our business and in our communities. Direct ways our customers and communities benefit from the financial performance include:
- The safety of our customers’ deposits – stewardship of the deposits we are favored with is the foundation for the trusted relationships we have with our clients and for us goes well beyond the security provided in the form of FDIC insurance.
- Direct contributions to the economic vitality of this region – the commitment we make to the stewardship of our customers’ deposits include prudent deployment of those dollars in the form of loans that help families and business-owners in our communities. In 2017, we made $389 million of new residential mortgage loans, helping hundreds of families buy new homes. We made $250 million in new business loans, helping business-owners throughout the region expand, add jobs and contribute to economic growth.
- In 2017, Merchants Bank made $584,000 of direct financial contributions (2.74% of pre-tax earnings, well in excess of our minimum standard of 2%) to organizations in our communities. Priorities of support include education, health/social services and the arts.
- Investment in technology – while we will always be an organization committed to personalized service, we know we need to continue to up our game in the delivery of digital banking solutions as the needs of our customers evolve. In 2017, we increased our technology spending by more than 33%, with priority emphasis on protecting the information security of our customers’ accounts and enhancing our strategic digital banking roadmap for future solution enhancements
- Investment in our people – at Merchants, we will continue to staff our branches with local decision-makers and customer-focused people with a passion for taking care of clients. That’s why we continue to add jobs, while many in our industry are making personnel reductions and closing branches.
Everything we accomplish at Merchants is a total team effort. And that starts with the loyalty of our customers. We appreciate our customers’ loyalty and do not take it for granted. And, as we continue to enjoy financial stability and performance success, please know that we will continue to reinvest in significant ways that are good for customers and our communities.