From the President’s Desk: First Quarter 2017 Edition

GregEvansNewCEO-Blog

By Greg Evans, President and CEO

In today’s commoditized banking arena, we know we must continue to find value-added ways to differentiate Merchants from a myriad of traditional bank and non-bank competitors. Our primary differentiators are aligned with the community banking business model we deploy.

Our community banking model includes our commitment to deliver an unparalleled level of personalized service and care to our customers. We choose to staff our local market branches in a manner that allows us to deliver on our brand promise to be the Bank that Service Built. The staffing model also includes our commitment to having Market Presidents who are empowered and required to deliver on an expectation of community engagement and leadership.

Another aspect of our Brand that I believe is a differentiator is our ownership structure. One thing that I’ve come to realize is that many of our customers are not aware that Merchants is a publicly-traded Company. That might seem somewhat irrelevant, but the ownership structure of the Merchants organization is unique, and has absolutely contributed to our business success over our history of more than 140 years.

Our employees own approximately 18% of the organization through an Employee Stock Ownership plan. Pride of ownership on the part of our employees helps drive the commitment we make to serving you in a manner that results in customer loyalty and business growth.

In addition to being an employee-owned Company, the balance of the ownership structure for Merchants is loosely held by approximately 600 individuals and organizations, mostly in the form of friends, neighbors and business leaders throughout our service area footprint. Our stock is available to anybody who might be motivated to take an ownership interest. Merchants Financial Group, Inc., shares are traded over the counter (OTC) under the symbol MFGI. If you would personally have an interest in acquiring Merchants stock, contact Merchants Bank for more information.

I personally take a great deal of pride in having an ownership interest in our Company, but value even more greatly the fact that ownership is comprised of my teammates and business leaders in our communities that I have a tremendous amount of respect for. I do believe this ownership structure has been critical to our long-term success.

The long-time loyalty of our shareholders has allowed us stay the course with an intense focus on slow, steady growth. In addition to holding management accountable for meeting financial performance expectations, our shareholders also have high expectations for us to deliver on community leadership responsibilities. As customers, they also demand a high level of personalized service and attention to their many banking needs.

This ownership structure really is a differentiator for Merchants. It allows management to take a disciplined approach to strategic thinking, one that allows a long-term focus. Local ownership is a strength of the Merchants Brand. If you have an interest in becoming another of our local Shareholders, contact Merchants Bank for more information.

Jerad Brown Has Joined Merchants Bank in Rushford and Lanesboro as a Commercial and Ag Banker

BrownJerad

Jerad Brown, Commercial & Ag Banker

Area native Jerad Brown has joined Merchants Bank in Rushford and Lanesboro as a Commercial and Ag Banker, according to Ken Graner, President for Merchants Bank in Rushford and Lanesboro.

“Jerad has the right mix of experience, interest and personality to be successful as a banker and, more importantly, to help our customers grow,” Graner said. “His work in credit analysis and his interest and experience in business and ag will be a benefit to the people he serves.”

For the past two years, Brown has worked with Rushford State Bank as a credit analyst, looking at agriculture and commercial loans, including an emphasis on the Farm Service Agency (FSA) guaranty program. A graduate of Rushford-Peterson High School and South Dakota State University, he served as a member of the South Dakota State University Livestock Judging Team. At SDSU, Brown majored in Agriculture Science and had minors in Animal Science and Agriculture Business.

“The people who live here are my neighbors. I know what’s important to them, and I know how important it is for our local economy for our farms and businesses to succeed,” Brown said. “I look forward to putting my knowledge and energy to work for Merchants Bank and our customers.”

Merchants Financial Group, Inc. Reports Record Year to Shareholders and Appoints Directors

EvansGreg

Greg Evans, President & CEO

During its annual meeting Thursday, the shareholders of Merchants Financial Group, Inc. (MFGI) heard about the organization’s second consecutive record year, re-elected two Directors and elected a new Director to the MFGI Board of Directors.

Re-elected to three-year terms as Directors were: Kenneth J. Mogren, Retired President Winona Agency, Inc., and Richard T. Lommen, Jr., President/Owner Courtesy Corporation. Elected to a three-year term was Gregory M. Evans, President & Chief Executive Officer, Merchants Financial Group. Also recognized was Rodney R. Nelson, who retired as MFGI President & CEO and the MFGI Board at the end of January, 2017. Evans succeeded Nelson. Also recognized for his long service was MFGI Director David H. Keller, Retired President Lucas Body Systems, NA. Keller retired in 2016 after 31 years of service to the MFGI Board, including more than 15 as Board Chairman.

“One of the reasons we were able to experience a second consecutive record year has been the leadership of the MFGI Board of Directors and the leadership Rod exhibited as MFGI President and CEO,” Evans said. “With the support of our customers, shareholders and employees, we look forward to meeting our responsibility to continue to grow this exceptional community banking organization.”

During the meeting, Evans formally reported MFGI’s 2016 record year of $14,154,891 in net income, surpassing 2015’s record year if $13,454,698. Other high points reported were a loan growth increase of 6.8% over 2015. Deposits increased by 9.1% and MFGI’s share price grew 27.25% in 2016, ending 2016 at $54.50 per share. Total assets ended 2016 at $1.623 billion.

“Our shareholders provide all of us with exceptional support,” Evans said. “We are fortunate to be able to formally celebrate our achievements with them and look forward to the year ahead.”

Evans, Chief Financial Officer Sue Savat, and Chief Credit Officer Mark McGrory were featured speakers during the meeting.

MFGI owns 21 Merchants Bank locations, including Minnesota locations in Winona, St. Charles, Goodview, Rochester, Rushford, Lanesboro, Caledonia, La Crescent, Spring Grove, Cannon Falls, Red Wing, Hampton, and the southern Twin Cities metropolitan suburbs of Apple Valley, Cottage Grove, Hastings, Lakeville and Rosemount. Merchants has Wisconsin locations in Eau Claire and Onalaska. All banks are FDIC members and equal housing lenders. Additionally, MFGI also owns Twin Cities-based Merchants Bank Equipment Finance, a division of Merchants Bank, N.A.

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

ICS: 5 Frequently Asked Questions

ICSAccount-Blog

An Insured Cash Sweep (ICS) account is an easy way to protect your business deposits over $250,000. But how does it work? Learn this and more with these five frequently asked questions.

How does an Insured Cash Sweep account work?
If you want to protect deposits of more than $250,000 (the standard FDIC insurance coverage amount), you can use an ICS account to deposit your money automatically through a network of pre-selected, highly rated banks. Just open your ICS account with Merchants Bank and we do the rest.

An ICS account can be structured as a checking account with our ICS Demand Checking or as a savings account with our ICS Money Market Savings. Both accounts earn interest, allow for unlimited deposits and have no minimum balance requirements.

Why would an ICS account be better than using multiple banks?
Skip the running around and paperwork. With an ICS, you only have to open one account at Merchants to take advantage of the automatic, additional FDIC insurance coverage through the ICS network of banks. Plus, you’ll only have one statement to review.

Who has custody of my funds?
Funds placed through an Insured Cash Sweep are deposited only in FDIC-insured banks. Merchants Bank acts as custodian for your ICS deposits.

How safe is my information and the ICS service?
As always, Merchants Bank takes protecting your information seriously. Your confidential information is not shared with the ICS bank network.

The ICS program has been designed to comply with all FDIC requirements. You can be confident that your deposits are safe and sound.

Are there other account options similar to ICS?
Merchants Bank also offers a CDARS account through the Certificate of Deposit Account Registry Service. This account provides additional FDIC insurance protection through a Certificate of Deposit account – instead of checking or savings. You can choose from a variety of terms to fit your needs.

Protect your large deposits and enjoy the convenience of having them insured with one bank through ICS. Want to learn more about how your business can benefit from an Insured Cash Sweep account?

References:
*http://www.insuredcashsweep.com/home/faqs/

Placement of your funds through the ICS service is subject to terms, conditions, and disclosures set forth in the agreements you enter into with us, including the ICS Deposit Placement Agreement. Limits and customer eligibility criteria apply. Program withdrawals are limited to six per month when using the ICS savings option. If you are subject to restrictions with respect to the placement of funds in depository institutions, it is your responsibility to determine whether the placement of your funds through ICS, or a particular ICS transaction, satisfies those restrictions. ICS and Insured Cash Sweep are registered service marks of Promontory Interfinancial Network, LLC. Public Fund 0414

Meet John Piscitiello, Commercial Banker

Piscitiello, Johncrop

John Piscitiello, Commercial Banker

Get to know John’s commercial banking philosophy and how he helps businesses in the Twin Cities.

Share a little about your background and banking career.

John: I grew up in Winona and went to St. Mary’s University. After graduation, I moved to the Twin Cities, where I currently live with my wife and four boys in Lakeville.

I have been in the lending business my whole career. During the real estate boom years of the 2000s, I was a business owner in the construction lending industry. It was a challenging environment leading up to the economic meltdown. I was fortunate to exit the business before the Great Recession hit, and I learned many great lessons about both the successes and failures of running a business.

What do you like most about your job?

John: When I am able to make a difference helping a client succeed and reach their goals.

What kinds of businesses do you typically work with and how do you help them?

John: My clients are typically family-owned companies located in the Twin Cities market. I help them by providing financing and other banking services where needed, along with ideas and guidance when appropriate.

What is something not many businesses know about work with Merchants Bank?

John: That Merchants is an employee-owned ESOP bank! Being employee-owned has a positive effect on our company culture, and is a nice contrast to the big banks.

How would you describe your partnership with your business customers?

John: It is very much a business partnership. For me to be a good banker for my clients, I need to have a deep understanding of their business and business goals. This helps me to not only provide the services and advice needed, but also allows me to be an advocate for my clients internally within the bank.

What do you hope your customers say about working with you?

John: I hope my customers say that I understand them and that they have a banker they can trust to take care of their needs.

What does community banking mean to you?

John: To me, community banking means strong relationships with our clients and with the local markets we serve. Community banking also means local decision-making, which for many business owners can be the difference between feeling understood and getting the service they need versus feeling like your bank doesn’t get you.

Loans are subject to approval.

Julie Augedahl Joins Merchants Bank in Caledonia and Spring Grove as a Mortgage Lender

AugedahlJulie

Julie Augedahl, Mortgage Lender

Julie Augedahl has joined Merchants Bank in Caledonia and Spring Grove as a mortgage lender, according to Matt Schuldt, Market President for Merchants Bank in Caledonia and Spring Grove.

“Julie is coming back to work in her hometown, and I think that’s something we’re all excited about,” Schuldt said. “Her knowledge as a Caledonia native, and her passion for building community will help make her an outstanding mortgage lender.”

With nearly 10 years of experience in personal banking and lending in Wisconsin and Minnesota, Augedahl said she’s looking forward to helping area residents through the mortgage process from start to finish.

“I think it’s important for my customers that I know them, and if I don’t know them, I may know their families. It’s a great place to start a long-term banking relationship,” Augedahl said. “I’m very excited to put my service-first attitude to work for everyone who calls this area home.”

Augedahl volunteers for the Caledonia Founders Day Committee and in the past has volunteered as a volleyball coach for the Caledonia High School varsity and junior varsity teams. Augedahl has a General Education degree from Rochester Community College and Business Management Degree from Winona Technical College.

Augedahl lives in Caledonia with her husband, Kyle, their 3-year-old son, Grayson, and 1-year-old daughter, Vienna.

Tirzah Warren Promoted to Teller Administrator Officer at Merchants Bank

WarrenTirzah

Tirzah Warren, Teller Administrator Officer

Teller Administrator Tirzah Warren has been promoted to a Bank officer, according to Sue Hovell, Merchants Bank’s Director of Retail Banking Performance.

Warren took over Teller Administrator duties last summer and since that time has been supervising the Winona teller team at the Winona downtown, drive-up, Goodview and Lakeside locations.

“The promotion recognizes Tirzah’s contribution to the overall strategies of the Bank and success in leading her team to achieve or exceed key performance measures,” Hovell said.

Warren has been with the Merchants organization since 1999, when she started as a teller in Goodview. She was later promoted to Lead Teller in Goodview and served in that position for 10 years. She moved to the Lakeside location and was Lead Teller there for three years. At the beginning of 2016 she was named Assistant Teller Administrator until her promotion to Teller Administrator. She said she is focused on service.

“I come to work every day with a ‘servant leadership’mentality. I am here to serve my customers, to serve my tellers and to serve the Bank. I have spent all 18 of my years at Merchants in the teller department because I care deeply about how our customers are served and about the tellers,” Warren said. “I am excited about the growth I know this teller department can achieve!”