Meet Larry Bodin: Market President for Onalaska and La Crescent

Larry Bodin, Market President

Larry has been in banking for 31 years, and nearly 20 of those he has spent in the La Crosse area. With extensive experience as both a Commercial Banker and Market President, Larry knows what’s important for the local economy: community-minded leadership.

Q: What drew you to the La Crosse area? How long have you lived there?

My wife Elaine, along with our two sons, Justin and Trenton, moved to the La Crosse area in 2003. Previously I worked in the Madison, WI area, but La Crosse County was in my market territory. It made sense professionally to move up a little farther North and there were interesting opportunities in this region.

Q: What drew you to Merchants Bank?

The reason I chose Merchants Bank had everything to do with the local leadership team, including Steve Christiansen (who is now retired) and Shawn Sackman. At my previous position, I competed against them in banking as well as sat alongside of them on various Boards. I knew if I were to move away from a large bank atmosphere, the community-oriented Merchants Bank would be my employer of choice.

Q: What are you looking forward to in your new role as Market President?

I am excited to get to know more of my coworkers across the region (even if it’s just over the phone or a video call) – we spend a lot of time with each other and it’s always nice to know your teammates.

I firmly believe it is important to continue developing leadership skills within our local team, and of course that includes me. When we work with customers our biggest role is to represent our organization in a positive and professional manner. 

Merchants Bank is also fortunate to have a very talented local Advisory Board of Directors.  I am extremely excited to have the privilege of learning from their successful leadership in our communities.

Q: What do you think is important for all businesses to know?

Whether in your professional or personal life – it is so important to build meaningful relationships. Not all banks can fulfill that “Trusted Advisor” role, but when there is mutual respect and understanding between you and your banker, you know you have someone who truly cares about what’s best for your business and will be a partner in helping you make smart financial decisions.

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

Being a man of faith, I like the advice given in James 1:19 which applies to everyone – “Let every person be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger.” 

In most situations, but especially in a leadership role – this is very good advice.

Q: What organizations are you part of?

Currently, I serve on the Board of Directors for Chileda, Inc. and the VARC Foundation. Previously I’ve held board positions with the Dahl School of Business at Viterbo University, the La Crosse Area Family YMCA, Junior Achievement, and Holmen Area Rotary.

I enjoy volunteering because of course if feels good to serve your community, but it’s also a great opportunity to meet people.

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

When I have free time, it’s about relaxing and having fun. My wife and I enjoy walking, golfing, fishing and flying as a private pilot, often taking trips to explore locations around the region and Midwest. We enjoy watching professional and college sports, especially football.

I am also (for the past 25 years) a WIAA, MSHSL, and NCAA licensed Men’s and Women’s Basketball Official. Between Thanksgiving and March, I officiate over 75 contests as well as weekend tournaments. This is a rewarding professional hobby and I honored to have officiated many local Wisconsin and Minnesota high school athletes that have gone on to college and into the NBA.

Larry Bodin to Lead Merchants Bank Locations in Onalaska and La Crescent

Larry Bodin, Market President

Larry Bodin has been promoted to Market President for Merchants Bank locations in Onalaska and La Crescent, according to Andrew Guzzo, Regional President.

Bodin’s primary responsibilities will be to provide leadership for Merchants Bank’s Onalaska, WI and La Crescent, MN locations; along with meaningful community engagement in the Coulee region. He will also continue serve as a Commercial Banker and trusted financial advisor for business clients. Bodin succeeds Steve Christiansen, who retired as Market President for Merchants on December 1.

“With nearly 20 years of community leadership in the market, Larry is a natural fit to oversee our Onalaska and La Crescent locations,” said Guzzo. “His familiarity with the local economy and dedication to putting the customer first will help us continue to grow Merchants into the future.”

Bodin has been with Merchants since January 2020 and has been a banker in the La Crosse area since 2003, with experience in both business banking and bank market leadership. He is also a veteran of the United States Navy.

“As a community bank, Merchants plays a vital role in the economic health and welfare of our communities. This has never been more important than it is today. I am extremely proud to be a part of the Merchants team and look forward to serving alongside them as we continue to build strong communities together,” said Bodin.

Bodin and his wife, Elaine, have lived in the Holmen area since 2003 and are active community volunteers. For the past 25 years, Bodin has been a licensed WIAA, MSHSL and NCAA basketball official. He also currently serves on the Board of Directors for Chileda, Inc., and the VARC Foundation. Outside of work, he enjoys fishing, golfing, and flying as a private pilot, often taking trips to explore locations around the region and Midwest.

For decades Merchants Bank has been a community partner in both Onalaska and La Crescent, helping individuals and businesses achieve their financial goals. With a focus on mortgage and business financing, Merchants has been fortunate to grow as each community has grown. In addition to traditional banking services, the Bank also offers a full line of business loan, lease and floor plan finance solutions, digital banking, security apps, treasury management tools and wealth management services.

Merchants Bank is a full service community bank with 23 bank locations in southeastern Minnesota and west-central Wisconsin and a leasing division, Merchants Bank Equipment Finance, in Edina. Headquartered in Winona, MN, MFGI has more than $2.5 billion in assets. Merchants was founded in 1875. Loans are subject to credit approval.

Merchants Bank’s 10 Days of Giving Food Drive Kicks Off 32nd Year

Andrew Guzzo, Merchants Bank Regional President presents the ceremonial first donation on behalf of WA Group to Sandra Burke, Winona Volunteer Services Executive Director with Mayor Mark Peterson.

Merchants Bank kicked off the 32nd annual 10 Days of Giving food drive on Tuesday morning. The drive runs December 1-10 and benefits the food shelf programs operated by Winona Volunteer Services (WVS). Through the first 31 years, more than 3.7 million pounds of food have been collected. Chair Jennifer Welch will be leading 10 Days efforts this year.

At the kick-off press conference were Merchants Bank Winona and Southern Regional President Andrew Guzzo, WVS Executive Director Sandra Burke, Winona Mayor Mark Peterson and other participants. The drive was kicked off with a ceremonial first donation from WA Group.

“Despite the challenges of this year we are honored to safely coordinate this campaign and are so grateful to the Winona community for their generosity. It is so inspiring to see the involvement from schools and local businesses, as well as all of our community members, even during these difficult times,” said Guzzo.

Last year, the 10 Days of Giving campaign collected 236,495 pounds of food. Two pounds of food are calculated for each dollar brought in. One area that keeps improving is the amount of monetary donations that are brought in to support the drive, and with this year’s challenges, we ask for primarily monetary donations.

“As a food shelf, our monetary dollars go farther at the grocery story than an individual’s,” said Burke. “What that means is, Winona Volunteer Services can purchase $50.00 worth of food with just $15.00 through resources such as the region’s food bank. Having sufficient funds helps us make sure we have the variety that the community needs.”

Burke said there continues to be a need in the area. Through the end of 2019, an average of 755 households were registered for the supplemental food shelf at Winona Volunteer Services and more than 3,000 individuals were served. Another 972 people were helped at the Emergency food shelf. Last year WVS distributed 492,290 pounds of food. Additionally, 393 elementary students received healthy weekend snacks during the 2018-19 school year.

The drive has also received a $10,000 donation from Steve Craney, in memory of his late wife, Gina Craney.

For questions, please call Mary Gordon at (507) 494-0573. Monetary donations can be made out to 10 Days of Giving and can be mailed to, or dropped off at Merchants Bank, 102 E. 3rd Street, Winona, MN 55987. If you would like to make a donation online, visit the Winona Volunteer Services website: www.winonavs.org. Indicate “10 Days of Giving” after entering your name.

The 10 Days of Giving food drive is an annual community collaboration between Merchants Bank and Winona Volunteer Services to make sure no one in Winona County goes hungry each winter. Since 1989, the drive has collected more than 3.7 million pounds of food and helped thousands of people in Winona County. In addition to the Winona drive, other Merchants Bank locations partner with their respective local food shelf in a similar effort. To learn more about the 10 Days of Giving in your area, visit www.merchantsbank.com/10daysofgiving.

Tim Vukelich Joins Merchants Bank as Mortgage Lender

Tim Vukelich, Mortgage Lender

Tim Vukelich has joined Merchants Bank as a Mortgage Lender, according to Dan Vlasak, President for Merchants Bank in Lakeville.

“Tim’s extensive background in mortgage lending will help him expertly guide our customers through the loan process. We know many people are interested in building, purchasing or mortgage refinancing right now and want to do our part to make the process easy,” said Vlasak.

Vukelich has been in banking for nearly 20 years in the Twin Cities market and was most recently a Senior Loan Officer for PNC Bank. With the majority of his career spent in the mortgage lending area, he is familiar with both traditional and specialized mortgage loan programs.

“I enjoy assisting customers in achieving their mortgage goals and meeting their mortgage needs. I take great pride in providing excellent customer service to create a great experience throughout the mortgage process,” said Vukelich.

Vukelich grew up in Duluth and has lived in Rosemount for nearly 10 years. He enjoys working out, live sports and going to concerts. He is looking forward to becoming more active in the Rosemount community through volunteer and networking efforts.

The Merchants Bank Mortgage team is comprised of nearly 20 local mortgage lenders, available throughout our regional footprint, backed by our in-house mortgage processing, underwriting and loan servicing teams. In addition to traditional mortgage loans, Merchants mortgage lenders can assist with mortgage pre-approval, construction loans, and specialized mortgage programs such as VA, FHA, Rural Development and more available through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. We’re committed to being there for our customers after loan closing and service nearly $2.6 billion in mortgage loans annually.

Merchants Bank is a full service community bank with 23 bank locations in southeastern Minnesota and west-central Wisconsin and a leasing division, Merchants Bank Equipment Finance, in Edina. Headquartered in Winona, MN, MFGI has more than $2.5 billion in assets. Merchants was founded in 1875. Loans are subject to credit approval.

Congratulations, New and Promoted Staff

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

Megan BreithauptMegan Breithaupt, Teller, Hampton
Amy BrinkAmy Brink, Residential Appraisal Specialist, Winona
Beth BrinkBeth Brink, Mortgage Loan Processor, Winona
Neil CourrierNeil Courrier, Accounts Payable Specialist, Winona
Lily CrispLily Crisp, Teller, Hastings
Andrea DolanAndrea Dolan, Teller Administrator & Customer Service Representative, Cannon Falls
Atinaf EjiguAtinaf Ejigu, Lead Teller & Customer Service Representative, Cottage Grove
Alanda GrossAlanda Gross, Underwriter, Winona
Jeff LisowskiJeff Lisowski, Maintenance Specialist, Winona
Tyler MaruskaTyler Maruska, Teller, Winona – Lakeside
Stephanie OverbyStephanie Overby, Mortgage Loan Processor, Northfield
Laurie PriorLaurie Prior, Customer Service Representative, Northfield
Cari RitterCari Ritter, Loan Servicing Representative, Winona
Dominique UbelDominique Ubel, Teller, Rosemount
Jacob ValkJacob Valk, Teller, Onalaska
Tim VukelichTim Vukelich, Mortgage Lender, Lakeville
Kenzie WeimerskirchKenzie Weimerskirch, Teller, Gooodview

Transfers and Promotions

Bridgette HallcockBridgette Hallcock, Personal Banker, Northfield
Juliene HansonJuliene Hanson, Administrative Assistant & Customer Service Representative, Northfield
Gary JohnsonGary Johnson, Audit Compliance Specialist & Officer, Red Wing
Tracy JohnsonTracy Johnson, Teller, Cannon Falls
Amanda KingAmanda King, Assistant Controller, Winona
Chris LivingstonChris Livingston, Assistant Vice President & Retirement Plan Director, Winona
Casey McCarraherCasey McCarraher, Customer Service Representative & Teller, St. Charles
Ashley MichelAshley Michel, Bank Secrecy Act Officer, Northfield
Alyssa RoodAlyssa Rood, Information Security Analyst, Winona
Beverly SeppaBev Seppa, Workstation and Peripherals Technical Manager, Winona

Holiday Message and Company Update from CEO Greg Evans

This is the time of year to pause and give thanks. Given the tumult all of us have experienced throughout 2020, maybe simple words like thank you and have a nice day carry even greater meaning for this upcoming holiday season. Please know that our gratitude for the trust and confidence you continue to place in Merchants Bank has never been more heartfelt.

Lobby Access Restricted for the Safety of All

We made a very difficult decision earlier this month to suspend traditional business activity by again restricting customer access to our Bank lobbies because of the sustained surge and community spread of COVID-19 throughout our service area. As we did between March and June, we will facilitate all routine transactional activity through the drive-up banking facilities in our communities.  Bank lobby activity will be limited to necessary appointments, but our team will continue to be available as trusted advisors to meet your needs.

The only driver of this decision was our concern for the collective health and safety of our employees, customers and communities. In many of our communities, the level of spread is significant. Because we have close relationships with many local health and long-term care providers, we are aware of very real capacity and staffing concerns that many of them are dealing with because of surge impact of the virus. Our response to the pandemic has been governed throughout by our servant leadership commitment to all stakeholders. At this time, we felt this was the responsible action to take in support of the well-being of our communities.

We’re Here to Help With Your Hopes and Dreams

At Merchants Bank, our team members relish the opportunities we are given to serve. We do this in many ways, inspired by our mission to help our customers and communities fulfill hopes and dreams. Helping you realize financial hopes and dreams for yourself, your family and/or your business is why we exist, and we will continue to pursue the mission with zeal even while our traditional service delivery model is disrupted at this time.

As we embark on the last few weeks of 2020, please know how much we value your business and, more importantly, your friendship. We all have been impacted by challenges and uncertainties throughout the course of the year. Through it all, though, I have been constantly reminded by tremendous goodness that continues to show up all around me when I take the time to see it. I sincerely believe that if you make the time to find it, you will see that goodness, too. 

Wishing You All The Best

My personal list of hopes and dreams includes a genuine wish that you and your family, friends and neighbors remain safe and healthy. Thank you for your business and the tremendous opportunity you have given Merchants Bank to serve you. We will continue to do our best to serve you in an exceptional manner while also working hard to try and keep our communities healthy and safe, because we are community members too.

Please accept my genuine wish for a blessed holiday season. And, as we close out 2020, know that we will look ahead to a new year with tremendous excitement and optimism.  

Stay safe, be well and Happy Holidays!

Flying South, Snowbird? Make sure your finances stay secure!

Older Couple Biking

Are you still planning to head south for the winter? If so, you may have even more on your mind than usual this year as you prepare to travel. Keep in mind these three tips to ensure smooth sailing while you’re somewhere warm.

1. Communicate your change of address

There are several businesses that should be aware of your change of address for the winter season, including Merchants Bank. To ensure you continue to receive important financial, medical or family information or to discontinue specific subscription services, you should contact the following regarding your address change:

  • Your bank
  • The Post Office
  • Your local newspaper (if you have it delivered)
  • Other delivery services

To alert Merchants Bank of your address change, stop in or call your local branch, or even submit a secure message in Online Banking to let us know of the change. Please include dates of departure and return as well as the names of other account holders living at your address.

2. Know how to access your bank account information.

Managing your money across a few states or a country is critical to helping you feel at ease during your trip. Make sure you are comfortable with getting information about your accounts and managing your money through with the following options:

  • Merchants Online Banking – Access on desktop and mobile. (TIP: set up account alerts, so you are notified of any activity).
  • Merchants Bank Credit Card App – To control your Merchants Bank credit card.
  • CardValet – To control your Merchants Bank debit card.
  • Give your local branch a call – Make sure you know your privacy code. If you’ve forgotten, stop in to your local branch to be reminded or set one up. That way we can verify your identity.

3. Be diligent in protecting your identity.

In the course of your travels, there are a number of circumstances that could impact the chance of identity theft. You could lose track of a card, leave financial statements in the mailbox, or post publicly on a social media site that you’re out of town, which lets criminals know that your house is empty. Review our security tips to ensure that your personal information is safe.

During your travels stay safe, and be well!

Retiring Market President Steve Christiansen Reflects on Nearly 30 Years with Merchants

Steve Christiansen started his financial career in 1979 before coming to Merchants Bank in 1990. Steve spent time as a Commercial Banker, a Business Development Officer and most recently the Market President for our Onalaska and La Crescent branches. He also served as a Board Member for four years. After nearly 30 years of service to Merchants, Steve will retire on December 1, 2020 and before his last day reflected on his career.

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

I vividly remember opening our Onalaska branch in 2003…just the energy, the people that came to celebrate it and knowing how much hard work was put into it. It was a very exciting time.

Another wonderful memory is from one of the earliest 10 Days of Giving campaigns when my daughters presented the ceremonial first gift of food. It’s so neat to see that campaign grow over the last 30+ years.

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

I’ve been here many years, so it’s hard to identify a single story. But really what makes this job fun is the people: the customers you get to work with, learning about their business and what they do day-to-day. There are so many unique businesses out there and it’s a privilege to learn about their expertise and help them thrive.

Q: What makes Merchants special?

It really comes down to the people. You need people to make things happen, and it’s the employees, the board members and of course the customers that really make the Merchants culture so special. I don’t know that many places feel as much like a family as Merchants does.

Q: Why did you decide to spend most of your career with Merchants?

There are many reasons, but the biggest one is that I had opportunities. I was able to grow, to move to different areas, to learn, adjust, meet more people. Over 20 years, I’ve kept having great experiences and getting out into our community and making a positive difference in people’s lives was always supported. That’s an important piece for me.

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

Simply: focus on people. Your customers, your team, those in your community. All we can do is genuinely care about each other. The extent to which we do that – care – is a big piece of our Merchants culture and part of what makes us unique.

It really all comes down to practicing the Golden Rule: treat others as you would like to be treated.

Q: What are you excited about for Merchants Future?

When I started at Merchants, it was a $250 million organization. Today, our assets are over $2 billion. The growth we’ve been able to see is tremendous, and I’m excited to see where and how Merchants continues to grow and adapt to our changing world.

Jennifer Welch Named 10 Days of Giving Chair

Jennifer Welch, 10 Days of Giving Chair

Jennifer Welch has again been named the Chair for Merchants Bank’s 2020 10 Days of Giving food drive, which runs December 1-10. The effort, which benefits food shelf programs operated by Winona Volunteer Services (WVS), will be celebrating its 32nd year. To date, more than 3.7 million pounds of food have been collected.

“We are dedicated to serving our Winona community, no matter the current conditions. We are thankful for the generosity of the Winona community over the last 31 years in supporting this annual campaign to help those who have needs in our community,” said Regional President Andrew Guzzo.

This year there will still be a variety of special events that can be conducted safely, including a Pack the Bus to Drive Out Hunger event on December 5 in the Merchants Bank – Downtown parking lot. The Friday Night Fish Fry will be held on December 4 by offering exclusively takeout orders from Eagles Club #1243. Last year’s campaign raised 236,495 pounds of food for WVS.

“While we had to re-think how we were going to do this campaign this year, there is still a very real need that our friends and neighbors in this community have for the support that WVS provides. It is an honor to be the Chair for this campaign and a privilege to work with our incredible team and community that makes this event a success,” Welch said. Welch is a Customer Service Representative as well as the Bank’s Events and Adventures Coordinator. This is her seventh year leading the coordination of the campaign.

There continues to be a need in the area. So far in 2020, Winona Volunteer Services helped over 700 households through their food shelf or emergency food services.

More than ever this year, monetary donations will be the safest and most efficient way to support WVS. Monetary donations can be made out to 10 Days of Giving and mailed to, or dropped off at Merchants Bank, 102 E. 3rd Street, Winona, MN 55987. If you would like to make a donation online, visit the Winona Volunteer Services website: http://www.winonavs.org. Indicate “10 Days of Giving” after entering your name. For questions, please call Jennifer Welch at (507) 457-1108.

The 10 Days of Giving food drive is an annual community collaboration between Merchants Bank and Winona Volunteer Services to make sure no one in Winona County goes hungry each winter. Since 1989, the drive has collected more than 3.7 million pounds of food and helped thousands of people in Winona County. In addition to the Winona drive, other Merchants Bank locations partner with their respective local food shelf in a similar effort. To learn more about the 10 Days of Giving in your area, visit www.merchantsbank.com/10daysofgiving.

Merchants’ Solid Earnings Report Allows for Dividend Declaration

Greg Evans, President & CEO

Merchants Financial Group, Inc. (MFGI) has announced financial results for the third quarter and a forthcoming dividend payment to shareholders, according to MFGI President & CEO Gregory M. Evans.

As a result of solid earnings performance, the MFGI Board of Directors authorized retention of a semiannual dividend of 75 cents per share to shareholders during its October meeting. Dividends will be paid in December to shareholders of record as of November 20, 2020.

“Despite economic challenges, Merchants’ reputation as a trusted advisor for families, businesses and community partners has resulted in steady earnings for the third quarter. Our top priority remains working with customers and in our communities to be a resource of assistance and support during these difficult times,” said Evans.

Earnings through the third quarter were $14,717,981, which were $821,640 ahead of MFGI’s 2020 plan and $250,000 ahead of 2019 third-quarter performance. Quarterly earnings were profitable for MFGI even though the Company reversed $3.2 million out of income in the form of additional Allowance for Loan/Lease Loss Reserves as a precautionary measure due to possible future economic uncertainties.

MFGI’s residential mortgage lending operation continues to be the main driver of positive earnings results, with origination volume of $713.6 million and a net income contribution $6.97 million ahead of plan through the first three quarters. In addition, deposit growth continues to be strong, with year-over-year growth of 28% for total deposits of $2.3 billion.

In September, Merchants also participated in the Minnesota Bankers Association’s Community Impact Month initiative with more than half of the Company’s Minnesota locations coordinating community support events. From highway clean ups and free document shredding to a clothing drive, locations selected the efforts that had specific benefits to their local communities. While community support is a Merchants’ focus year-round, it was a privilege to highlight these specific events during the month.

The ownership of Merchants Financial Group, Inc. is made up of its more than 440 employees and its shareholders, mostly individuals and families from southeastern Minnesota and west-central Wisconsin.

Merchants Bank is a full service community bank with 21 bank locations in southeastern Minnesota, two bank locations in west-central Wisconsin and a leasing division, Merchants Bank Equipment Finance, in Edina. Headquartered in Winona, MN, MFGI has more than $2.5 billion in assets. Merchants was founded in 1875. Member FDIC.