Health Advice And Banking Tools To Help During The Coronavirus Pandemic

Woman using smartphone

The worldwide spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus has prompted health officials to strongly advise us all to minimize our exposure to possible infection.

These advisories range from avoiding large gatherings to simple steps we can take to protect ourselves and others on a daily basis, such as how we go about our normal activities and how we meet our financial needs.

Important general health steps from the Centers for Disease Control include:

  • Avoid public areas and large gatherings.
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
  • Regularly clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces.
  • Stay at home if you are ill and call your medical provider for advice about testing or treatment.

When it comes to meeting many of your money needs, your financial institution offers a variety of digital services through online and mobile banking. These steps can reduce your visits to a branch and the need to handle money or checks when out of your home.

Online, mobile and other banking services include:

  • Online banking to manage your accounts, transfer funds, monitor transactions and more.
  • A mobile banking app that can be downloaded for use on your smartphone or tablet.
  • Mobile deposit from the app so you can deposit paper checks from anywhere at any time.
  • Paying bills with online bill pay.
  • Using person-to-person services such as Zelle to send money to family or friends.
  • Using your debit or credit card for payments instead of cash.
  • ATMs so you can get cash if necessary and to complete other banking needs.
  • Using a drive-thru at branches to promote social distancing.
  • Merchant Source Capture for depositing business checks from your office.

For other banking needs or questions about services and steps being taken to protect you, visit your financial institution’s website or call their customer service number.

The steps you take to protect yourself and others both at home and in public can minimize your exposure to COVID-19.

Merchants Bank Donates $5,000 to Winona Community Foundation’s COVID-19 Relief Fund

Andrew Guzzo, Merchants Bank Regional President

Merchants Bank has donated $5,000 to the COVID-19 Relief Fund established by the Winona Community Foundation according to Andrew Guzzo, Regional President for Merchant Bank. The fund provides emergency relief to community members in Fillmore, Houston and Winona counties affected by the pandemic.

“We know our fellow community members need support at this time and we’re proud to be able to contribute to the efforts coordinated by the Winona Community Foundation,” said Guzzo.

The Winona Community Foundation COVID-19 Relief Fund is positioned to provide more than $120,000 in assistance through nonprofit partners around the region and every dollar will be donated directly back into the communities. Community members interested in donating can visit winonacf.org to make a contribution. Those seeking assistance can contact the Foundation directly at (507) 454-6511.

“The people and businesses in the Winona area amaze me. Time and again when crisis hits, they step up. Even before we formalized the COVID-19 Relief Fund, we were receiving calls asking how to contribute,” said Nancy Brown, President/CEO for the Winona Community Foundation. “We hope these initial gifts will serve as a catalyst for more people and businesses to give. The Winona Community Foundation is pleased to be the conduit to get these funds out to our nonprofit organizations that in turn can get them to those who are dealing with financial hardships related to this pandemic.”

For additional information on financial relief options available through the CARES Act, other assistance programs and updates regarding contribution deadlines and distribution requirements from retirement accounts, visit www.merchantsbank.com/personalresources.

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. As the parent company for Merchants Bank, 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, MN. Headquartered in Winona, MN, MFGI has more than $2.1 billion in assets. Merchants was founded in 1875.

Be Aware, Be Skeptical About Mortgage Offers

Couple confused about finances

Financing your home is an important event. It opens the door to many new experiences, including unsolicited offers. Unfortunately, this is unavoidable, but you need to be aware and be skeptical so you can make the best decisions.

Where do these offers come from?

During the mortgage process, your information:

  • Is available to companies that buy or purchase lists from a credit bureau
  • Becomes part of the public record once it is recorded and can be accessed by companies searching for information

What type of information could you receive from outside sources?

Some of the information you receive by call, mail or email will likely be legitimate, and some will not.

You may receive offers for things like life insurance, offers to provide the financing or refinancing, or offers to provide copies of your records. Whatever it is, we ask that you look at the offer closely.

If you have any questions about any information or solicitations that you receive, please feel free to contact us by calling your local Merchants Bank branch. We will help you understand the information so you can make your best decision.

Please know that we would never sell your information. So, if you receive something saying the contact is sanctioned by Merchants Bank, it isn’t. Be skeptical.

*Loans are subject to credit approval.

Merchants Financial Group, Inc Reports Year to Shareholders and Appoints Directors to Its Board

Greg Evans, President & CEO

During its annual meeting, which was held virtually with participation of shareholders by phone on Thursday, April 2, Merchants Financial Group, Inc. (MFGI), reported strong 2019 financial results and shareholders re-elected two Directors and elected one new Director to the MFGI Board.

MFGI formally reported net income of $19,767,215 for 2019, a 4.7% increase over 2018 earnings. There was business growth on both sides of the Company’s balance sheet with year-end 2019 total deposits of $1.8 billion and total loans/leases of $1.7 billion. MFGI ended 2019 with $2.1 billion in consolidated assets, making Merchants the fifth largest banking organization chartered in the state of Minnesota.

“Given current events impacting all of us, last year seems like a very, very long time ago,” said Gregory M. Evans, MFGI President & Chief Executive Officer. “We certainly are proud of our continued business growth and performance of record last year, but our entire focus right now is placed on taking care of our friends and neighbors, and being here as a trusted advisor for our customers and communities.”

Re-elected to three-year terms as Directors were: Gregory M. Evans, President & CEO for MFGI and Merchants Bank and Richard T. Lommen, Owner/Operator & President for Courtesy Corporation. Elected as a new member of the Board of Directors to a three-year term was Bradley J. Peterson, Chairman & Chief Acquisition Officer for Mississippi Welders Supply. Peterson has served on the Merchants Bank, N.A., Charter Board since April of 2019.

At the meeting retiring Directors Ken Mogren and Mike Cunningham were recognized. Mogren, retired President of Winona Agency (now WA Group), has provided Board leadership for the MFGI and Merchants Bank Charter Boards for more than 15 years. Mike Cunningham, Partner of La Crescent Property Ventures, LLC and former CEO/Owner of The Board Store Furniture and Home Improvements, served on the Merchants Bank Charter Board for five years and retired in 2019 from the MFGI Board after 15 years of service.

The ownership of Merchants Financial Group is made up of it’s more than 480 employees and shareholders, mostly individuals and families from southeastern Minnesota and west-central Wisconsin.

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. As the parent company for Merchants Bank, 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, MN. Headquartered in Winona, MN, MFGI has more than $2.1 billion in assets. Merchants was founded in 1875.

Be On The Lookout For Coronavirus Scams

With people nervous about the COVID-19 coronavirus, scammers already are swooping in to take advantage of those fears.

While it’s normal to want to learn more about the coronavirus and information surrounding it, experts are warning people to be cautious of scammers who are trying to infect your devices with malware, get personal information from you, or who are trying to get you to send them money for worthless or non-existent products. There have even been reports of crooks threatening people over late or missed payments.

According to the Federal Trade Commission and other experts, here are some of the scams to watch out for:

Email phishing has already begun. Scammers are sending out emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control or other health agencies, claiming to contain updates about the coronavirus. Consumers are being warned to be wary of these emails and not to click on any links or download any attachments unless they are absolutely sure of the source. Clicking on links or downloading attachments could install malware on your computer or take you to counterfeit sites where you might be asked to provide vital personal information.

Some scammers claim to be selling products that can prevent the disease, treat it or maybe even make it go away. Don’t believe the claims. The FTC says there are currently no “vaccines, pills, potions, lotions, lozenges or other prescription or over-the-counter products available to treat or cure Coronavirus … online or in stores.” Don’t fall for these claims and don’t send any money. You’ll either be mailed a worthless product or receive nothing at all.

As more people suffer financial hardship due to reduced hours or loss of jobs, scammers are likely to be contacting them threatening to disconnect vital services such as utilities or communications unless you pay them immediately. Legitimate businesses won’t threaten you, won’t demand payment in cash, gift cards or wire transfers, and they won’t ask for financial account numbers, your Social Security number, or account passwords.

Some people are even posing as charities, hoping to rely on the kindness of others to steal your money.

To guard against these scams, experts say to:

  • Delete unsolicited email and to not click on links in them or download files.
  • Don’t fall for online claims of remedies or vaccinations.
  • Don’t react to threats by making payments with gift cards or wires.
  • If you have any concern that an email or call could be legitimate, type in a company’s official website address by hand or call an official number listed on a bill, statement or payment card. Tell them why you are contacting them.
  • Get information only from trusted sites, such as the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization or from trusted news sources.

While it’s natural to want to learn more about the coronavirus pandemic and to do what you can to protect yourself and others, it’s important to be cautious in order to protect yourself from scammers.

Merchants Bank Establishes Northfield Advisory Board of Directors

Greg Evans, President & CEO

As the First National Bank and Merchants Bank prepare for their official merger and systems conversion in May, Merchants has announced the establishment of its Local Advisory Board of Directors for the Northfield community, according to Merchants Financial Group, Inc. President & CEO Gregory M. Evans.

“Our community banking philosophy includes an intense commitment to local leadership and local decision-making,” explained Evans. “Creating a local Advisory Board in Northfield is consistent with our go-to-market approach in our various communities. Our Board members have strong ties to the local community and will provide key insights about how we can best serve the families and businesses of Northfield and the surrounding area.”

The Northfield Advisory Board is made up of six members including Cheryl Buck, Director of Business Development at Professional Risk Managers’International Association; Matt Christensen, Commercial Risk Advisor at WA Group; Richard Falck, Owner of Falck Financial Services and RJF, Inc; Chris Kennelly, President of Northfield Construction Company and Bluewater Properties; Jennifer Sawyer, Founder and Principal for Rebound Enterprises and BoardBOS; and Kevin Wright, Managing Partner at Red Pine Communities.

“The First National and Merchants Bank teams have been doing a wonderful job of working together since September. We knew there would be an excellent fit of each organization’s culture and the mutual commitment to customers and community,” said Richard Falck, Advisory Board member. “Now, with establishing the Northfield Advisory Board, we are taking the next step in serving Northfield and surrounding areas. I’m very excited to be part of a Board with such high quality people who are dedicated to helping Merchants make a growing impact in the community.”

The Board and Advisory Board leadership structure is well established in the Merchants culture and has contributed to the growth of the organization. Advisory Boards across Merchants’ footprint ensure the Bank is connected with the communities served and provides key insights into the local population and economies. Advisory Board members contribute meaningful feedback about what is important to community members and business owners and how Merchants Bank can collaborate on a local level to create thriving communities.

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. As the parent company for Merchants Bank, 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 $2.1 billion in assets. Merchants was founded in 1875.

Meet Jon Dahl: Ag/Commercial Banker, Market President in Cannon Falls

Jon Dahl

Q: What is your banking background?

I’ve been in banking for 35 years. I’ve got a lot of experience in the ag lending and management areas. I’m hoping to leverage those experiences and skills to help serve the Cannon Falls community.

Q: What drew you to Cannon Falls?

Cannon Falls had a lot of appeal to me because of its beautiful scenery and it’s proximity to the Twin Cities. It’s a great balance between a cozy, picturesque town and close to the energy and convenience of a larger city. Cannon Falls has a great business and ag community and I’m looking forward to getting involved.

Q: What drew you to Merchants Bank?

It’s very evident to me that Merchants is a great organization. It shows in the tenured employees and the culture of customer and community service. The values here really align with my own. Those things taken together, it was a no brainer.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

One of my early mentors shared a quote from Shakespeare that resonated with me and has stayed with me: “This above all: to thine own self be true.”

Though there are different interpretations of this, to me it means being honest with yourself and others, doing the right thing, and demonstrating commitment to principles.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time? 

I like a little bit of everything, actually. I like to read; I’m a self-proclaimed history buff. My wife and I both play instruments: I play guitar, Becky plays piano. We love outdoor activities like boating and fishing, and we’re also avid Minnesota sports fans – especially the Minnesota Gophers. Becky and I went to the University of Minnesota, and we’ve had season tickets for over 20 years.

Jon was hired in March of 2020 as an Ag/Commercial Banker and Market President. Jon has over 30 years of experience in the financial industry and will do commercial lending as well as oversee the Cannon Falls branch.

Loans are subject to approval.