It’s a Journey: Leadership Insight from Our Regional Presidents

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The three Regional Presidents on our Executive Leadership Team, Dan Massett, Andrew Guzzo and Lawrence “Skip” Stovern, have nearly 100 combined years of experience in business, banking and leadership. Dan guides the Central Region, Andrew leads our Winona and Southern Regions, and Skip takes care of the Twin Cities Region.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

Dan: When I was a little kid I wanted to play in the NBA. I loved basketball, I loved the team aspect and camaraderie of it. Once I got to college, I realized that probably wasn’t realistic, and neither was my other dream of being a general manager of a basketball team.

But I liked putting pieces of a larger entity together, I liked motivating people. After touring a community bank in college I realized that banking and business required a lot of the things I liked: working with a variety of people to create teams and put pieces together to achieve a greater goal.

Andrew: I always gravitated toward business. When I was young I’d shovel snow, deliver papers, mow lawns. I’ve always been passionate and curious about business.

Skip: I wanted to be a kid! I liked being a kid. But actually, I wanted to be a hockey player. I looked up to the players and the coaches that worked together as a cohesive unit. I loved the environment: I could see the passion everyone had for the game and it motivated us all to work hard.

Tell us about your time before Merchants.

Dan: I’ve been with Merchants since 2014, but I have almost 30 years of business banking experience, which include years as a community bank president before I became the President of the Central Region for Merchants.

Andrew: I started at Merchants in 2017, but before that, I had been in the banking industry for 11 years. Prior to my time in banking, I spent 15 years in sales management with US Foods.

Skip: I started at Merchants in December of 2006. Before that, I worked in the banking industry in Duluth, Minnesota for almost 30 years where I held a variety of positions. While I was a commercial banker I worked with businesses of all shapes and sizes.

Do you have a favorite quote?

Dan: I have a couple:

“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” – John F. Kennedy

“Only those who dare to fail greatly are those that will achieve greatly.” – Robert Kennedy

At the executive level, we make decisions that have the potential to fail. But we need to be comfortable making decisions that will help us continue to grow and get to the next level.

Andrew: “Overachievers hate mediocre people, and mediocre people hate overachievers.”  –  Nick Saban

I do believe in having a balanced approach to perfection: don’t settle, we can always improve, but it’s also necessary to take a moment to celebrate the successes.

Skip: “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” – John Wooden

For me, preparation is one of my strengths and one of the aspects I focus on in my leadership style.

What does “leadership” mean to you?

Dan: A leader is someone who has patience, listens, is kind and humble, motivates their team to work hard toward a common goal and puts their needs before his or her own.

I’ve found that one of the most important things a leader does is listen. Truly listen and understand your employees, your customers. That empathy is what builds trust, and trust is one of the most important things in any relationship.

Andrew: Leadership is complex, it’s more advanced than being a manager. It’s someone who is fair, encouraging and supportive of their team. It’s someone that others gravitate toward.

The true mark of a strong leader is someone who maintains these qualities even when times are tough. It’s easy to be at the top of your game when everything is smooth-sailing, but when it’s time to navigate rough waters, a leader will remain calm, kind and make fair, educated decisions.

Skip: There are many different styles of leadership, and no one could ever know everything about leadership.

To be a leader, find out what your strengths are and how they help others, play to those, and never stop learning and evolving.

 

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.

Congratulate New and Promoted Staff

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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

Ian Bentley Ian Bentley, Teller, Rosemount
Kathryn Connolly Kathryn Connolly, Mortgage Closing Specialist, Winona
Beth Ede Beth Ede, Chief Human Resource Officer, Winona
Amelia Hernandez Amelia Hernandez, Electronic Banking Specialist, Winona
Heidi Hoover Heidi Hoover, Teller, Lakeville
Karin Jones Karin Jones, Teller, Spring Grove
Taylor Kessler Taylor Kessler, Teller, Winona
Tyler Kramer Tyler Kramer, Credit Analyst, Winona
Samantha Millard Samantha Millard, Teller, Winona
ParmaGadyIzaac Izaac Parma-Gady, Electronic Banking Specialist, Winona
Shelby Wild Shelby Wild, Teller, Caledonia

Transfers and Promotions

Ericka Austad Ericka Austad, Credit Administration Representative, Winona
Helen Carlson Helen Carlson, Teller, Apple Valley
Alyssa Frascht Alyssa Frascht, Personal Banker, Cottage Grove
Shelby Hilke Shelby Hilke, Electronic Banking Specialist, Winona
HornbergEryn Eryn Hornberg, Lead Teller, Goodview
Chris Livingston Chris Livingston, Benefit Plan & Trust Specialist, Winona
Ellen Morehouse Ellen Morehouse, Credit Support Manager, Winona

Securing Your Identity in the Online Age

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By Rodney Nelsestuen, Chief Information Officer

We all know the threats to online security are constantly changing. The challenges of being an active online and social media user while protecting our identity highlight the important role we all have in keeping our business and personal finances safe.

So, what are some of the current strategies used by hackers and what should we do about them?

Today’s online thief is patient and persistent. Thieves are taking their time in collecting data about us from many sources. Even the most mundane aspects of our lives may be important when added to other data taken from our personal lives, from social media (both our posts and those of friends and family,) and from our workplace. Eventually, all this information is applied in a manner that mimics our personality and behaviors in a convincing way.

How is this possible?

Once a “bad actor,” an online thief or fraudster, has some of your information and your online lifestyle, getting more becomes easy as automated intelligence (AI) serves up a large plate of your preferences, enabling the thief to fully take your place – at least in a virtual sense.

Thus, it’s entirely possible we have a virtual clone navigating the internet, posing as us, and preparing to wreak havoc on our lives by, essentially, taking it for their own.

So, how do we minimize the risk of this happening to us?

Steps to Minimize Risk

Drop out of social media

There are people who have already done this. But dropping out is probably not realistic for most of us. We rely on social media to keep up with friends and family, share joy, sorrow, important information, and we generally find social media a good force in our lives.

Limit what we share on social media

It could be worth our time to more closely manage what is posted and left on social media. Exposing too much about ourselves just makes it easier for thieves to enrich the already valuable data sources available to them.

Talk with family and friends about what you will and will not share on social media and encourage them to do the same. For some of us, posting is done almost willy-nilly, without thought and often reveals deep details that may later be used to compromise our financial or personal lives. Maybe it’s time to pick up the phone to discuss certain aspects of our lives instead of posting them.

Choose our connections in a more deliberate manner

It may be best to limit the number of friends we have online. Most of us have connections that may not be critical to a good social media experience but were set up out of curiosity or recommendations from friends. Examine the controls available on the social media site and narrow what others can see, keeping those closest to you fully engaged, but limiting others.

But Nothing is Fool-Proof. What’s the Next Step?

Because there’s no fool-proof methodology to protecting our identity or our money, we might leverage the tools provided by our most trusted businesses – including banks. Spending the time to fully understand the options and controls that we can employ will allow us to be active participants in managing online threats and help us move from a purely defensive posture to playing offense against the bad guys.

How can we do this?

Actively manage credit and debit cards through apps

Today most of these products have a number of controls that we can actively implement. These include:

  • Turning our credit or debit cards on and off when suspicious activity takes place
  • Setting alerts to notify us via text messages of certain types of transactions or amounts
  • Establishing an out-of-band authentication process when accessing any private financial site to verify your identity through two sources, like your password and a code texted to your phone

These three options will keep us informed on what’s happening to our financial accounts and provide additional assurance that we are, in fact, interacting with our bank and not a fake site.

We have apps for Merchants Bank Debit and Credit Cards that allow you to control your security preferences and set up alerts for when the cards are used.

Have security systems on your computer

It’s fundamental, and a best practice, to have strong antivirus systems on all of our computers. Most of us have these types of subscriptions given they were bundled with the purchase the last time we bought a computer. Make sure, however, that the software also has:

  • anti-malware
  • anti-spyware
  • anti-adware
  • anti-phishing capabilities that can be deployed (or not) at will.

There are additional options we might employ: we can download software that provides an additional layer of security on the computer itself. These tools may harden our computer, keyboard, or mouse against exploitation by hackers. Most of these technologies do not interfere with online speed or performance.

The Solution: Marry Technology and Cautious Online Practices

No technology alone can completely protect us from financial loss or ID theft. Technology needs to be coupled with smart interactions when online. Combining conservative practices, knowing who we are interacting with, using the technologies available through banks and on our own devices bring a holistic approach to securing our online selves and reducing the risks associated with today’s virtual world.

Merchants Bank CEO Greg Evans Honored with Community Service Award

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Greg was presented the award this year by David Miller.

Congratulations to our President & CEO, Greg Evans, for being named the Winona Health Foundation’s Ben & Adith Miller Community Service Tribute honoree for 2019.

Greg was recognized for his volunteer efforts in Winona over the past 30 years, including starting Merchants’ own 10 Days of Giving Food Drive in 1989, which has since collected over 3.5 million pounds of food.

Being a community leader is part of Merchants Bank’s community banking philosophy. Our employees are committed, like Greg, to showing up in the communities we serve by volunteering our time and talents. We believe that when our communities thrive, we will too. That’s why in 2018 we volunteered 14,953 hours to 286 organizations across our footprint.

In its 31st year, the Ben & and Adith Miller Community Service Tribute seeks to spotlight individuals in the community who have made a lasting impact through their volunteer efforts. Read more about the Tribute and Greg’s nomination on the Winona Health websitehttps://direc.to/bvmy*

*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.

Meet Brian Wester: Home Loan Expert at Merchants Bank

Brian Wester, Mortgage Lender

What does community banking mean to you?

Brian: Being part of a banking group that’s a smaller entity compared to a larger big box bank. I think Merchants has a more customer-centric focus. We provide more opportunities for one-on-one interaction with customers. I like to think of it as being involved in your community and more personalized.

What is your top tip to home buyers?

Brian: I would recommend that home buyers engage with their lender 90 days before they want to start actively looking for a home.

There are a variety of topics to discuss regarding qualifying for a loan and it’s best to start talking about them early: including analysis of your credit, employment, income & assets. It’s also beneficial to review loan scenarios so you are aware of your options and what your estimated monthly payment and required cash to close will look like. This knowledge will help you look at homes with a price point that fits your qualifications.

What one thing on your bucket list?

Brian: To go to Europe.

What is one of your proudest accomplishments?

Brian: Raising two daughters, getting them through college and out on their own.

What do you enjoy about coming to work every day?

Brian: I enjoy the interaction with customers, who have a number of different needs from loans to checking accounts. I get to wear all these different hats. I really like coming to work because I know there are a lot of people that I can get involved with because of the variety of areas I’m involved in at the Bank. Since I became Personal Banking Manager, I’m not just focused on mortgage any longer and it’s opened up more opportunities to meet and greet all of our customers. My job keeps me challenged, busy and time goes by quickly.

 

Whether you’re looking for your cozy first home, something bigger for your growing family or the peaceful lake cabin you’ve dreamed about, you can find your local Merchants Bank Mortgage Lender here: http://bit.ly/2zmcYC1

 

Loans are subject to approval.

Meet Jenna DeBaere: Mortgage Lender and Home Loan Expert

Jenna DeBaere, Mortgage Lender

What do you like best about being a mortgage lender?

Jenna: Getting to know my customers and providing the best customer service. Buying a home is exciting and I like that I can be involved in the process.

What is your top tip for home buyers?

Jenna: My top tip for home buyers is to get pre-approved. Once we know the total loan amount they’re pre-approved for, we can discuss down payment options and what kind of monthly mortgage payment would work with their budget.

What’s the best trip you ever took?

Jenna: I went to Playa Del Carmen, Mexico with my family. One of the highlights of the trip was when we rented scooters in Cozumel and explored the island.

Who is your mentor and why?

Jenna: My mom. Over the years she has given me the help, advice, and tools to succeed and be successful in my personal and professional life.

What do you hope your customers say about you?

Jenna: That I am easy to work with and go above and beyond to help get them into their home.

 

Whether you’re looking for your cozy first home, something bigger for your growing family or the peaceful lake cabin you’ve dreamed about, you can find your local Merchants Bank Mortgage Lender here: http://bit.ly/2zmcYC1

 

Loans are subject to approval.

Get to Know Paula Hogan, Merchants Bank Mortgage Lender

Paula Hogan, Mortgage Lender

What is your top advice for home buyers?

Paula: Get pre-approved for a mortgage loan before you begin your home search.

What do you like best about being a mortgage lender?

Paula: I enjoy being able to help home buyers achieve their dreams of home-ownership.

How do you stay busy?

Paula: Reading, biking, fishing, attending my daughter’s sporting events and going up north.

Who is your mentor and why?

Paula: My dad. He is a very kind and generous person.

How are you involved in the community?

Paula: I attend and help with Chamber of Commerce events and am a board member of the Cannon Falls Bomber Dance Team Parent Association. I also volunteer throughout the community through my church.

 

Whether you’re looking for your cozy first home, something bigger for your growing family or the peaceful lake cabin you’ve dreamed about, you can find your local Merchants Bank Mortgage Lender here: http://bit.ly/2zmcYC1

 

Loans are subject to approval.