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 on January 31, 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.