Becky Zoellner Promoted To Treasury Management Officer

Becky Zoellner - Treasury Management Officer

Becky Zoellner has been promoted to Treasury Management Officer at Merchants Bank, according to Shawn Sackman, SVP/Senior Lending Officer.

“Becky consistently provides excellent customer service to our business clients, demonstrates a strong work ethic and continues to be a valuable team member. She has also played a critical role in improving our Treasury Management processes and offerings,” said Sackman.

Zoellner has been in banking for nearly 10 years and joined Merchants in 2012. She has previous experience as a Credit Manager and Personal Banker and began working in the Treasury Management area in 2016. Zoellner is dedicated to partnering with commercial clients across the Southern Region of Merchants’ footprint in the markets of La Crosse, La Crescent, Caledonia, Spring Grove, Rushford and Lanesboro.

“Merchants Bank is a regional leader in Commercial Banking and continues to make technology investments in Treasury Management services,” said Zoellner. “Our customers have access to premium efficiency and security options. Being at the table to develop and design our updated Treasury Management suite has given me the opportunity to be a real advocate for our business customers.”

Zoellner will be graduating with a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse in May 2019.

The Merchants Bank Treasury Management & Commercial Lending team is comprised of more than 40 local experts, available throughout our regional footprint. Merchants’ Treasury Management Specialists help with cash flow strategies, custom account protection tools and effective options for collecting and making payments. As a regional banking leader, Merchants Bank can assist businesses of any size with their business financing needs, including traditional commercial loans, leases and special loan program offerings.

Merchants Bank is a full-service community bank with 21 branches in southeastern Minnesota and west-central Wisconsin. Headquartered in Winona, MN, the Bank has more than $1.75 billion in assets and was founded in 1875. Member FDIC.

Congratulate New and Promoted Staff

NewPromotedStaff-Blog

We are happy to have these new employees on our team! If you’re interested in working with these local experts, find your branch.

New Staff

Katelyn Anderson Katelynn Anderson, IT Operations Coordinator, Winona
Brandy Anderson Brandy Anderson, Lead Teller, Cottage Grove
Elena Beck Elena Beck, Teller, Onalaska
Kyle Brodt Kyle Brodt, Credit Analyst, Winona
John Fitzgerald John Fitzgerald, Custodian, Winona
Cindy Grable Cindy Grable, Credit Admin, Winona
Teresa Holland Teresa Holland, Teller, Caledonia
Mark Jangula Mark Jangula, VP/Senior Regional Vendor Finance Manager, Merchants Bank Equipment Finance
Andrew Millis Andrew Millis, Teller, Onalaska
Melissa Peterson Melissa Peterson, VP/Commercial Banker, Eau Claire
Maria Skradde Maria Skradde, Teller, Eau Claire
Kayla Wegman Kayla Wegman, Credit Analyst, Winona

Transfers and Promotions

Amy Gutierrez Amy Gutierrez, Trust and Estate Specialist, Winona
Alejandra Hernandez Alejandra Hernandez, Customer Service Representative, Lakeville
KringsMarcus Marcus Krings, Credit Card Officer, Winona
ZoellnerBecky Becky Zoellner, Treasury Management Officer, Onalaska

Retirement Account Options: IRA Savings or CDs

Save Money - IRAs

It’s no secret that saving for retirement is important. Whether you’ve been saving for years or aren’t sure where to start, it’s helpful to evaluate your long-term savings strategy.

With so many retirement savings options, just getting started can feel overwhelming. And if you have a savings plan already, it never hurts to consider potentially more profitable or flexible options. Some retirement saving methods to consider:

  • Individual Retirement Account (IRA) Savings
  • IRA Certificate of Deposit (CD)

These accounts are similar to standard savings or CD accounts, but the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) determines maximum contribution and minimum withdrawal guidelines, which are designed to enhance the benefit of your retirement saving efforts. For comprehensive details on contribution and withdrawal guidelines, visit the IRS website.

The First Step: Traditional or Roth?

There are two options for IRA accounts: Traditional or Roth. There are benefits to each kind of account – consult your tax advisor regarding which account would be best for your situation.

At the most basic level:

  • For a Roth IRA you pay taxes on the money you contribute now. The main benefit is tax-free investment earnings. Since you already paid tax on your contribution, the money is not taxed when you withdraw it.
  • For a Traditional IRA you pay taxes when you withdraw money in retirement. You will not pay tax on your contributions, however, the money will be taxed when it is withdrawn.

IRA Savings for More Flexibility

An IRA Savings account functions essentially the same as a regular savings account: you can continue to make contributions as you see fit within the IRS guidelines and you can make withdrawals penalty-free if over the age of 59 ½. It is often used as a “parking lot” for funds until you’ve decided how you’d like to invest them.

You may benefit from an IRA Savings if you:

  • Are just starting to work on your retirement savings plan. This is a good holding place for your funds as you develop a more complex plan.
  • Have had a recent career adjustment – a job change or retirement – to roll accounts from your previous employer into, so you can continue to contribute or withdraw, depending on your situation.

The Pros of an IRA Savings Account:

  • More flexibility to make contributions and withdrawals as you see fit, within IRS guidelines.
  • Penalties for withdrawing before age 59 ½ are generally less compared to withdrawing from a CD.

The Cons:

  • Generally, interest rates on a savings account are lower than a CD.

IRA Certificate of Deposit for More Earnings Potential

An IRA Certificate of Deposit generally offers higher interest rates on your money for a designated period of time – that designated period of time is called the “term”. You are guaranteed to make that fixed rate on your money during the CD term.

A CD is started with one lump sum of money. That lump sum of money will sit in the CD, earning interest for the term of the account, for example, 24 months. If you are 59 ½ or more, you may make withdrawals penalty-free.

You may benefit from an IRA CD if you:

  • Have a larger sum of money that they can leave untouched for a longer period of time.
  • Are 59 ½ or more, as you may have the option to make penalty-free withdrawals.

The Pros of IRA CDs:

  • CD terms make earning interest very clear; it is guaranteed to make that interest rate when left to grow.
  • Generally, higher interest rates are paid on CDs, which could increase your earnings potential.

The Cons:

  • Withdrawing any portion of your deposit before age 59 ½ would most likely result in a large fee.

Other Retirement Options

If you’re interested in learning more or opening an IRA Savings or CD, contact your local Customer Service Representative.

If you’re looking for help creating a complete retirement strategy, visit with one of our Wealth Management experts.

Saving for Fun! The Benefits of a Winter FUNd Account

Winter FUNd

Left Photo: Sandra Pasche, CSR at Merchants Bank – St. Charles with her husband, Mike. Middle Photo: Dana Christensen, CSR at Merchants Bank – Winona with her husband, Mike. Right Photo: Kally Whalen, CSR at Merchants Bank – St. Charles with her husband, Jesse.

How relaxed would you feel if the holidays came around and you were confident you had enough money for gifts and family travel? How excited would you be before a trip if a large sum of money dropped into your account? How proud would you be if you could gift your child with a generous wedding or housewarming present?

Automated savings accounts, like the Merchants Bank Winter FUNd, can make achieving your savings goals easy.

For the months of January through October, you automate deposits into your Winter FUNd account – and that money grows. Then, the first week of November, you collect the total amount you deposited throughout the year – with interest!

Monthly Calendar

The automated process makes it so seamless, you forget you’re saving. Dana Christensen, a Customer Service Representative in Winona said, “I love the idea that the money goes right into the account from my payroll, so I don’t even miss the money. It is a great way to save money without having to think about it or remember to make the transfer.”

The Winter FUNd account has quite a few fans at Merchants Bank – some employees have had theirs for over 15 years. After all, who doesn’t want a gift you give yourself?

Travel

Want to take a family vacation this year? The Winter FUNd is great for saving for trips. Dana uses hers to escape the chill of winter:

“I really love this account! We take a cruise each year in the winter and I use this money as our final payment for our vacation since the timing works out perfectly.”

Sandra Pasche, a Customer Service Representative in St. Charles, also flies south in the winter, but her FUNd account serves to fund a different vacation expense:

“When my husband and I travel this gives me my spending money for our trip. When the money is directly deposited into the account from my paycheck, I don’t even miss it, so when the money paid out I always think ‘Wow! Here’s a chunk of change for us!’”

Holidays 

Maybe the holidays were a bit stressful last year – budgeting for gifts and sticking to it is easier said than done. But the Winter FUNd makes saving holiday money and setting that budget early a little more manageable.

Corene Richards, a Mortgage Closing Specialist in Winona, knows that being prepared makes the holidays that much more enjoyable: “I use my Winter FUNd for Christmas. It puts me at ease knowing that I will always have a set amount set aside and not have to worry about it. I’ve used this account for more than 15 years.”

The Possibilities Are Endless

Other customers have used FUNd accounts to save for projects like home remodel or family events like a wedding. Maybe you want to practice having a mortgage, so you “make payments” to a FUNd account. Then, when that money is paid out, you are that much closer to a down payment on a home. Any goal you have could benefit from a FUNd account.

Merchants Bank Winter FUNd accounts start in January – but it’s not too late to open one now! There’s only one extra month to pay your monthly contribution to catch up. If you know the total amount you’d like to save, we can help you come up with your automatic monthly deposit amount (minimum $25). To open an account or for more information, contact your local Customer Service Representative.

Marcus Krings Promoted To Credit Card Officer

kringsmarcus

Marcus Krings has been promoted to Credit Card Officer at Merchants Bank, according to Sue Hovell, Director of Retail Banking Performance.

“Marcus’s leadership in our credit card area has resulted in several improvements to Merchants’ credit card program and processes over the last year, all while keeping customer program benefits at the forefront,” said Hovell.

Krings oversees Merchants Bank’s credit card department, which includes personal and business credit card programs, card processing solutions for businesses and provides customer service for more than 17,000 credit card customers throughout the Bank’s 21 locations.

Since becoming Credit Card Manager in 2018, Krings has grown the department through rewards points and balance transfer promotions and added a rewards option for customers to pay their card balance with points. He has also ensured Merchants Bank credit cards meet the changing expectations in the payments world by connecting the card program with Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and a security alert app called SecurLOCK Equip.

 “Our credit card rate and rewards make us one of the more competitive options in our footprint and I’m excited to share the benefits of responsibly managed credit with new and potential customers,” said Krings. “I also enjoy working with hundreds of commercial customers on card processing solutions, from home-based businesses to large commercial clients. It’s rewarding to customize solutions to fit their needs.”

Krings has been in banking for more than 12 years and with Merchants since 2012. He joined the Credit Card department in 2016. Marcus is from Winona and is a graduate of Winona Senior High School and Winona State University.

Merchants Bank has 21 locations, including Minnesota locations in Winona, Goodview, St. Charles, Goodview, Rochester, Caledonia, La Crescent, Spring Grove, Rushford, Lanesboro, Red Wing, Cannon Falls, Hampton as well as Twin Cities locations in Lakeville, Apple Valley, Cottage Grove, Hastings and Rosemount. Merchants has Wisconsin locations in Eau Claire and Onalaska. Merchants Bank was founded in 1875. Merchants Bank Equipment Finance, the company’s leasing arm, is based in the Twin Cities.

Melissa Peterson Joins Merchants Bank as Vice President & Commercial Banker

Melissa Peterson, Commercial Banker

Melissa Peterson has joined Merchants Bank as Vice President/Commercial Banker, according to Larry Accola, Market President for Merchants Bank in Eau Claire.

“Melissa’s unique background in both banking and accounting will provide a beneficial perspective for our business clients,” said Accola. “She’s committed to working with businesses and understands the many unique financial challenges they face.”

Peterson has more than 20 years experience in the financial industry, including 10 years in banking. She was most recently the President for First Security Bank in Detroit Lakes. Peterson is a Certified Public Accountant and also a former Chief Financial Officer.

“My background enables me to bring a lot of value to my business customers and truly be a partner in meeting their financial needs. Part of the reason I chose to join Merchants is their unique community banking philosophy and the importance they place on building relationships with customers,” said Peterson.

Peterson has a Master of Business Administration in Accounting. She and her husband, Paul, and their son will be relocating to the Eau Claire area.

The Merchants Bank Commercial Lending team is comprised of more than 40 local experts, available throughout our regional footprint. In addition to traditional commercial loans, Merchants bankers specialize in SBA loans, floor plan financing and equipment lease financing and ag banking. As a regional banking leader, Merchants can assist businesses of any size with their business financing needs, including Cash Management services.

Merchants Bank has 21 locations, including Wisconsin locations in Eau Claire and Onalaska and Minnesota locations in Winona, Goodview, St. Charles, Rochester, Caledonia, La Crescent, Spring Grove, Rushford, Lanesboro, Red Wing, Cannon Falls, Hampton as well as Twin Cities locations in Lakeville, Apple Valley, Cottage Grove, Hastings and Rosemount. Merchants Bank was founded in 1875. Merchants Bank Equipment Finance, the company’s leasing arm, is based in the Twin Cities.

3 Big Benefits to Buying a House Off-Season

Buyingintheoffseason

Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you should put off searching for the perfect house. In fact, now may be one of the best times to buy. Really. Here are three reasons why buying your house in the off-season (November-March) may bring you big benefits.

House Sellers are Motivated

Many homeowners are eager to finalize a house sale now, saving them from the work of winter home maintenance – think shoveling, heat bills for house showings and more. The burden of keeping a house on the market can be even more pressing for sellers who have relocated or retired.

If you’ve found a home you’d like to put an offer on, dealing with a motivated seller can work to your advantage. In the off-season, sellers may be more willing to negotiate:

  • The price of the home
  • Closing costs or closing date
  • Terms of the sale, including things like household appliances or other items

Fewer Buyers in Competition

Generally, when the housing market slows down each winter fewer houses are for sale and buyers become less interested in shopping. Use this to your benefit.

Less competition from fellow buyers means:

  • Fewer competing offers when you find a house you’re interested in.
  • More leverage during negotiations with sellers since they aren’t picking from a slew of buyers.

Potential Savings

The first two benefits on our list can add up to potential savings. Motivated sellers who aren’t juggling multiple offers may lower the asking price or throw in other perks for a qualified buyer.

Take for example the median home prices for Minnesota and Wisconsin, according to their respective Realtor Associations:

  • Minnesota – Median home price for homes sold in January 2018 was $219,000 compared to $244,745 for July, which is a cost difference of more than $25,000. For the past three years, the difference in median home price between these two months falls between $25,000-$30,000.
  • Wisconsin – Median home price for homes sold in January 2018 was $169,000 compared to $195,000 for July, which is a cost difference of more than $25,000. For the past three years, the difference in median home price between these two months falls between $25,000-$28,000.

Bonus Benefit: This time of the year is slower for many businesses, including moving companies. If you’re looking to hire movers, it should be easier to coordinate compared to the busy summer months.

Give sellers no reason to hesitate when you place your offer by being pre-approved for a mortgage. It’s an easy step to take to show sellers you’re serious and get an accurate picture of what you can afford.

To learn more about pre-approval, contact a local Merchants Bank Mortgage Lender today to get your questions answered and schedule an appointment.

Sources: Minnesota Realtor Association and Wisconsin Realtor Association

Loans are subject to approval.