Merchants Financial Group, Inc. Announces Earnings of $19,760,000 for 2019

Greg Evans, President & CEO

Merchants Financial Group, Inc. (MFGI) announced year-end earnings for 2019 with net income of $19,760,000, according to MFGI President & CEO Gregory M. Evans. The earnings exceeded MFGI’s plan for the year by more than $2.6 million and is an increase of 4.7% over 2018 earnings.

“I’m extremely proud of our long track record of repeatable, sustainable earnings growth. Our success resulted from a total team effort, with each of our 480 teammates intensely focused on an extraordinary service orientation and a tremendous spirit of collaboration,” said Evans.

Key contributors to Merchants’core earnings for 2019 included strong business growth in both loans and deposits, mortgage loan volume significantly above plan and a net income contribution from First National Bank of Northfield, which was acquired by MFGI in August. Evans also credits an intense focus on credit quality and Merchants’unique community banking approach for another strong year.

Total year-over-year deposit growth for Merchants Bank from 2018 was 12.13%, and consolidated deposits when factoring in the Northfield acquisition increased 26.49% to just over $1.8 billion. Organic loan growth for Merchants Bank was 7.54% in 2019, and the addition of Northfield’s loan portfolio to the consolidated balance sheet contributed to total loans at year-end being $1.7 billion (growth of 20.6%).

Merchants Bank is a full service community bank with 19 bank locations in southeastern Minnesota, two bank locations in west-central Wisconsin and a leasing division, Merchants Bank Equipment Finance, in Edina. Merchants Financial Group, Inc. (MFGI) also owns the First National Bank of Northfield, with two banking offices in Northfield and a loan production office in Bloomington, Minn. Headquartered in Winona, MN, MFGI has more than $2 billion in assets. Merchants was founded in 1875.

Merchants Financial Group, Inc. is a publicly traded company. Ownership is made up of its more than 480 employees and mostly individuals and families from southeastern Minnesota and west-central Wisconsin.

Jim Allen Reflects on His Time at Merchants before Retirement

Jim Allen with family and coworkers

Jim Allen has been at Merchants Bank for all of 25 Years. He started on March 14, 1994 as the organization’s first specialized Ag banker. He became the St. Charles Market President in 2000. With that much time in the bank, he’s learned some things about business in a small, cozy community. Before his retirement at the beginning of 2020, we asked Jim to reflect on his time with Merchants.

Q: What is one of your fondest memories from working at Merchants?

In banking you make a lot of deals. When you’re able to create a new relationship or help someone buy a farm it’s always a good feeling. Business comes and goes but the friends you make can last forever. My longest memories are from the fair – such a wonderful community event. I’ve also been fortunate to work with a phenomenal team in St. Charles as well as have meaningful relationships with coworkers across the company. Back in the day we were in Winona once a week for loan committee – we didn’t do meetings over the phone or computer. Any success we’ve had has been thanks to this strong team.

Q: Do you have any fun stories you’d like to share?

 Oh, gosh. A good one is when I came back from vacation in Hawaii and the staff had dressed up in Hawaiian shirts and leis. That was a surprise. You know that’s Sandra Pasche that got that together.

Another one that was just a shock was when my wife, Shar, and I were honored as king and queen of the Winona County Fair. No one told us that was happening. I was working in the Lions Club food booth and Cindy Timm with the Fair Board made up some silly excuse to get me into the entertainment tent for the ceremony. They had told my family this was happening, so some of them were in attendance, but I didn’t know why before the event. A friend took our photo after. It was a really touching moment.

Q: What makes Merchants special?

Merchants is truly a unique organization. I had done my research before signing on with the bank and it was clear that it was a pretty good place to work. I had found that employees that work with Merchants stay – which really says something about their satisfaction.

Merchants really appreciates their people – and it shows. They started the Employee Shareholder Ownership Program (ESOP) a couple years after I started at the bank. Providing every employee a ‘buy-in’ where they work is exceptionally valuable. They are also just so appreciative of the hard work everyone puts in. A pat on the back, just that recognition and appreciation, is so important in company culture. 

Q: What wisdom do you want to leave your Merchants family with?

I would say it’s important to appreciate this organization and the ownership stake you have in it. We are fortunate to work with a successful, stable organization – not everyone can say that. The management style and teams, from the board of directors on down, have all of the employees’ best interests at heart – and that level of care really matters.

Q: What are you excited about for Merchants Future?

I think that the Northfield acquisition has been the best acquisition process that I’ve experienced. The bank and community of Northfield is so clearly a great fit for the Merchants’ culture – it’s very exciting progress. It’s great to see that Merchants continues to grow, be progressive and stay in the game. You want to see that from your organization. Merchants applies such care to everything it does – and you can feel that comfort.

Jim and his family have lived in the St. Charles area his whole life – starting in Eyota and moving to St. Charles in 1999. Jim and Shar plan to stay in St. Charles.

Merchants Bank’s Leadership Class Completes Service Project to Benefit Hospitalized Children and Ronald McDonald House

MerchantsLeadershipClass

16 leadership class students along with Training Director, Kristine Valk; Chief Human Resource Officer, Bed Ede and Merchants Bank Equipment Finance President, Rick Barry packed 244 Cheer-Up Boxes.

Merchants Bank staff members partnered with Cheeriodicals to deliver 244 Cheer-Up Boxes to patients at Mayo Clinic Children’s Center and families at the Ronald McDonald House in Rochester, MN on January 14. The boxes were assembled and delivered as part of a service project for Merchants Bank’s I Believe Leadership Series class.

“Servant leadership is a key theme of the I Believe Leadership Series, which was created to help grow and develop leaders at all levels of the Merchants organization. Each class selects a service project and this year’s class selected Cheeriodicals to give back to families in need in the Rochester area,” said Kristine Valk, Training Director and Leadership Series creator.

Leadership class participants raised $18,460.00 to purchase supplies for the 244 Cheer-Up Boxes and partnered with Cheeriodicals to coordinate box assembly and delivery, with the majority of the funds donated by Merchants Bank staff and board members. The Cheer-Up Boxes are made up of age-appropriate magazines, activity books, puzzles, craft projects and games for children to enjoy during their stay at the hospital or Ronald McDonald House. An additional $3,100.00 was donated directly to the Ronald McDonald House.

The I Believe Leadership Series program is a yearlong, homegrown leadership development curriculum for Merchants Bank employees. The program focuses on servant leadership to align with the company focus on making a positive impact in the communities Merchants Bank serves. This year’s class is made up of 16 employees from across the organization’s locations and includes staff from both customer-facing and support departments. As part of the annual curriculum, the class chooses a service initiative. This year the class selected Cheeriodicals.

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Lucas Stangl, Ellen Morehouse, Maralee Berg and Mollie Brink pack Cheer-Up Boxes on January 14.

“Everyone in the leadership class felt privileged to be able to make the Cheer-Up Boxes and spread some joy. The experience of hand-delivering them to patients and families and seeing their smiles was something I won’t forget,” said Ellen Morehouse, Credit Support Manager and Leadership Program Project Co-Chair.

Merchants Bank is a full service community bank with 19 bank locations in southeastern Minnesota, two bank locations in west-central Wisconsin and a leasing division, Merchants Bank Equipment Finance, in Edina. Merchants Financial Group, Inc. (MFGI) also owns the First National Bank of Northfield, with two banking offices in Northfield and a loan production office in Bloomington, Minn. Headquartered in Winona, MN, MFGI has more than $2 billion in assets. Merchants was founded in 1875. Member FDIC.

Larry Bodin Joins Merchants Bank as Vice President/Commercial Banker

Larry Bodin, Commercial Banker

Larry Bodin has joined Merchants Bank as Vice President/Commercial Banker, according to Shawn Sackman, Senior Vice President and Senior Lending Officer, Merchants Bank-Onalaska.

“Larry has extensive experience in and knowledge of the La Crosse market, which means he understands the opportunities and challenges local businesses are facing. His relationship-first approach combined with his banking background will make him a trusted resource for our customers,” said Sackman.

With more than 20 years of experience in business banking, Bodin is knowledgeable in both commercial lending and business deposit solutions. He was previously a Business Banking Relations Manager and Market President for BMO Harris Bank in La Crosse. Bodin is also a veteran of the United States Navy.

“I couldn’t be more pleased to be part of Merchants Bank, which has such a strong character and reputation in the La Crosse market,” said Bodin. “I believe banking should be all about the customers and that’s Merchants’ philosophy too.”

Bodin currently serves on the Board of Directors for Chileda, Inc., the La Crosse Area Family YMCA and the VARC Foundation. He and his wife, Elaine, are active volunteers in the La Crosse community. His hobbies include fishing, golfing and motorcycling.

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 ag banking, SBA loans, floor plan financing and equipment lease financing. As a regional banking leader, Merchants can assist businesses of any size with their business financing needs, including Treasury Management and deposit services.

Merchants Bank is a full service community bank with 19 bank locations in southeastern Minnesota, two bank locations in west-central Wisconsin and a leasing division, Merchants Bank Equipment Finance, in Edina. Merchants Financial Group, Inc. (MFGI) owns the First National Bank of Northfield, with two banking offices in Northfield and a loan production office in Bloomington, Minn. Headquartered in Winona, MN, MFGI has more than $2 billion in assets. Merchants was founded in 1875.

Meet Marcus Krings, Credit Card Manager at Merchants Bank

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Marcus Krings (right), Credit Card Manager at Merchants Bank, pictured with his brother, Adam at a tough mudder competition.

Get to know Marcus Krings from the Credit Card department at Merchants Bank.

When did you start your banking career?

Marcus: I started in 2006 as a Lead Teller at another financial institution. I came to the Electronic Banking department at Merchants in 2012. I moved to the Credit Card department in 2016 and became the Credit Card Manager in 2018. I was promoted to Credit Card Officer at the beginning of 2019.

What is your best credit card tip?

Marcus: It sounds simple, but make your payments on time and don’t spend beyond your means to keep yourself out of trouble. If you’re not sure where you stand, call your credit card company (which is hopefully the friendly, local people at Merchants Bank!).

What’s one thing your mom or dad taught you about money?

Marcus: Money doesn’t grow on trees; you have to earn it to spend it. It’s kind of funny that I’m in credit cards now, but the principle still applies.

If you won $1,875,000 what is one FUN thing you’d do with the money?

Marcus: I would take my family to Disneyland (or maybe build a zombie bunker).

Besides money, what’s your favorite green thing?

Marcus: Sour apple gummies. Those are still delicious.

What are you looking forward to most in your new position as Credit Card Manager?

Marcus: I’m excited to continue to grow our customer base, work with the wonderful team at Merchants Bank and provide an exceptional experience to our customers. Helping our customers understand credit products and use them wisely is very rewarding.

 

Loans are subject to credit approval.

Meet Kathy Simon, Credit Card Specialist

 

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Kathy with some of her co-workers: (l-r) Carol Bell, Kathy Simon, Ashley Wagner, Marcus Krings

When did you start your banking career?

Kathy: I started as a teller when I was 20 years old. I came to Merchants Bank in 2008 as a File Clerk, and then moved to Loan Servicing and Credit Cards.

What is your top banking tip?

Kathy: I would say check your statements for fraud. We see credit card fraud daily. If you pay attention to your statements, either paper or online, you may be able to catch fraud in time. If you suspect fraud on your account, the window to act is within 60 days from the statement’s cut-off date.

Acting as soon as you suspect something is always best. Or better yet, download our SecurLOCK mobile app on your mobile device to monitor your Merchants Credit Card daily. Many other cards have similar apps; take advantage of them to protect yourself.

What’s one thing your mom or dad taught you about money?

Kathy: My mom always said, “Put money away for a rainy day!” That’s such a “mom” thing to say, isn’t it? It was great advice. A little saved goes a long way later.

If you had $1,875,000 what is one fun thing you’d do with the money?

Kathy: I would travel to Europe and give some to family and friends.

Besides money, what’s your favorite green thing?

Kathy: It’s a toss-up between trees and avocados. If I had to pick, I’d say trees.

Click here to learn more about Credit Cards at Merchants Bank. Credit cards are subject to credit approval.

Business Finance Expertise From Our CFO, Sue Savat

Sue Savat

Chief Financial Officer Sue Savat has over 25 years of banking experience. For 20 of those years, she has been assessing our financial health and keeping the business numbers straight. She has a familiarity with business finances like few others. Sue took some time to share with us her financial management essentials.

Q: What financial numbers would you recommend a business owner review to assess the health of their business?

Sue Savat: Every business is different, but the important thing is for each business owner to understand their key performance measures and have efficient ways to review those frequently. For some businesses, the balance sheet drives the earnings and for others it may be the cost of goods sold or cost to service each customer.

I would recommend you reach out to your industry association and compare your numbers to your peers and then work to improve those key drivers of performance.

Q: Which financial experts/advisors are an essential to helping a business thrive?

Sue: Your business will need:

Your commercial banker and treasury management officer can help ensure you’re managing your finances and cash flow efficiently. An attorney, accountant and tax advisor can help you make sure you run a “clean” business and can focus on growing your business rather than addressing litigation or examinations.

If you are an expert in your business but not an expert in taxes or finances, it is key to have good employees with that expertise, if you are at a size to afford those, or key partners if you are small and it doesn’t make sense to have that expertise on staff.

Q: What do you like best about working in finance and why?

Sue: I love numbers and I love people, so working in finance and banking is a perfect fit!

While in my role I don’t work with our customers on a daily basis, it is really fun to hear of the ways we have helped customers grow their business or use technology to help them run the day to day better, faster and less costly.

Q: Who/what are some of your favorite financial resources to follow?

Sue: As CFO for Merchants, the health of the economy and our communities is critical to our success as well as our customers.

I follow a lot of different individual economists (because they all have a different viewpoint!) and also Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal.

Our industry associations also are a great resource and I would recommend to any business owner to get involved with their industry association as a resource and support tool.

Q: What’s your number one tip for business owners who don’t feel managing finances is a personal strength?

Sue: If you’re a large business: If it makes sense for the size of your business, I would advise having an accountant or finance person as an employee.

If you’re a small business: If you have a very small business, maybe just starting out, then I would suggest you use the services of an accountant that also has some tax knowledge so they can help get your systems set up right from the beginning.

How are you with numbers? If you have a good comfort with numbers, there are online courses that can help further educate, but if you are just not a numbers person and still want to run your sales or operations-side of the business, then you should hire someone to help with the numbers.

The important thing is: surround yourself with people that have different skill sets but follow the same vision and you will succeed!

 

Add us to your business’s team. Contact a banker to find out how we can help your business thrive.

Our commitment to community banking starts with our Executive Leadership Team. The Team pursues continued company success by focusing on our foundation of building community through banking and our Merchants Bank mission and core values. Our Executive Team, which includes our Regional Presidents, works with our Market Presidents, Managers and all branch staff every day to ensure our customers come first.

Watch our video series to get to know our Executive Team.

Experts’ Take on New Technology: Commercial Online Banking

Becky Zoellner, Tammy Johnson, Annette Bleninger

Becky Zoellner, Tammy Johnson, Annette Bleninger

You may or may not be aware, but we transitioned our treasury management and commercial customers to a brand new, shiny, beautiful, squeaky clean online banking system, “Commercial Online Banking,” in November. We’re very excited to have this incredibly capable tool for our customers.

Any transition takes time and effort, but this one has been more than worth it. Our Treasury Management Sales Officers share their favorite features of this system and shed some light on what Commercial Online Banking and Treasury Management Services may be able to offer your business.

Q: Do you have a favorite feature of Commercial Online Banking?

Becky Zoellner: This system is so capable, there are so many features that offer enhanced efficiency and clarity to the banking function of a business. The notice options available are one of my favorite features. You can get alerts and notifications for when almost anything happens on your accounts. Most importantly, you can customize the notices you’d like to receive right at your fingertips through the portal. As the needs of your business and office change, so can your notices. It makes it easy to keep an eye on things while you’re out of the office, which is a considerable security enhancement.

Tammy Johnson: I’ve never been so excited about reports before! The reporting options this system offers are great. Being able to generate audit reports and export business banking transactions and activity offers the opportunity to really be able to clearly see what is happening in your bank accounts.

Annette Bleninger: I love how streamlined the system is – you can access your bank accounts as well as your treasury management services, including Positive Pay and ACH Blocks and Filters, all in the same system – that means one set of login credentials, because who needs more of those to remember?

Q: How can using a robust system like this benefit a business?

Tammy: With all the functionality this system offers, you can access everything from one platform; it is such a great time-saver. I also love the dashboards that help you quickly navigate to the functions you use the most.

Q: How can Commercial Online Banking save a business money?

Becky: It’s cliché, but time is money. The efficiencies that this system provides save time and headaches. Routine processes and functions can be automated and records easily accessible. Your team will be able to get back to serving customers and spend less time working on housekeeping processes.

Annette: Of course there’s a learning curve with a new system, but once you get used to where things are, and how to do certain functions, you can do them with ease. Plus, we have an incredible new Treasury Management Support Team to answer any and all questions about how to use the system.

Q: If customers need help or feel anxious about using the new system, what can they do?

Tammy: Customers can contact our Support Department – they’ll be able to assist with any questions.

Annette: We also created a variety of tools for users, including a user guide and a couple of tutorial videos (take a look at the system here*). There is also a “Help” function on each screen in the system.

Q: What are customers saying about the new system?

Tammy: I’ve had customers tell me that once they got logged in and explored, it proved to be very user-friendly. And I know we’ve mentioned them, but our Treasury Management Sales Support department is such an asset. They specialize in this system and have a direct phone number and email. Having their expertise and focus is priceless.

Annette: My clients are really excited about all the features that are now all accessible from one place, especially our fraud management tools!

Becky: Something that leadership teams from our customers say is that the system provides clarity to the banking function of their business: they can see the history, pending and future transactions. They also have the ability to see audit trails to fully understand their employees activity; it provides transparency to their cash flow: what’s going where and who is moving it.

Ready for State of the Art Tech and Superior Service?

If you are interested in how Treasury Management services could help your business run smoother, faster, better, stronger, contact our Treasury Management Sales Team.

If you’re looking for help with Commercial Online Banking, meet our Treasury Management Sales Support Team.

 

*You will be linking to another website not owned or operated by Merchants Bank, NA. Merchants Bank, NA is not responsible for the availability or content of this website and does not represent either the linked website or you, should you enter into a transaction. We encourage you to review their privacy and security policies which may differ from Merchants Bank, NA.