Ben Franko Joins Merchants Bank in Eau Claire as a Mortgage Lender

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Ben Franko, Mortgage Lender

Ben Franko has joined Merchants Bank in Eau Claire as a Mortgage Lender and Assistant Vice President, according to Larry Accola, President for Merchants Bank in Eau Claire.

“We’re excited to add Ben to our team. His knowledge and passion for our community, the Chippewa Valley and mortgage lending will make the experience easy for customers as he guides them through the mortgage loan process from start to finish and helps get them into the right home,” Accola said.

Franko has been serving customers throughout the area in a number of roles over the past 13 years, including more than nine years in mortgage lending, most recently with Wells Fargo.

“I believe the most important part of banking is the relationship between a banker and customer,” Franko said. “And the best place for a customer to develop that sort of relationship is in a true community bank like Merchants, where it’s clear the Bank puts its customers’ best interests at the forefront of what it does each and every day.”

One of Merchants Bank’s strengths is that it services its loans, which means that questions are answered by a Merchants Bank employee who lives in the area. Currently, Merchants Bank services more than $2.5 billion in mortgage loans.

A graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Franko has been involved in the community and currently serves as President for the Community Table Board of Directors. Franko and his wife, Sonja, have a son, George, and a daughter, Madeline.

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

Chris Thrune Joins Merchants Bank in Cottage Grove as a Mortgage Lender

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Chris Thrune has joined Merchants Bank in Cottage Grove as a Mortgage Lender and Customer Service Representative, according to Randy Bachman, Branch Manager and Personal Banking Officer for Merchants Bank in Cottage Grove.

“We’re excited to have Chris with us in Cottage Grove. He has a great deal of experience with the Merchants Bank organization,” Bachman said. “He loves working with customers, and it shows in everything he does.”

Before joining the team in Cottage Grove, Thrune spent three years working for Merchants as a Teller and another year as an Electronic Banking Specialist, helping customers with a variety of needs, including Online and Mobile Banking questions. He said he’s looking forward to working with customers in his new roles, especially as a mortgage lender.

“Buying a new home is exciting, and every customer has different needs,” Thrune said. “What I enjoy most about mortgage lending is using my knowledge to satisfy those needs and help make the loan process easy for my customers from start to finish.”

Thrune, who has a Finance degree from Winona State University, encourages mortgage customers to get a head start on others looking for homes in this competitive housing market.

“My top advice for home buyers is to get pre-approved before starting home shopping,” Thrune said. “This will give you a good sense of your budget and put you in a strong position when it’s time to make an offer.”

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

Merchants Financial Group, Inc. Posts Earnings of Nearly $6 million Through the Second Quarter of 2017

GregEvansPresidentCEOMerchants Financial Group, Inc. (MFGI) announced net income of $5,970,031 through the second quarter of 2017, according to MFGI President & CEO Gregory M. Evans.

“Our core business is performing extremely well,” Evans said. “Our year has been one of significant strategic progress, and our earnings have been solid.”

Evans noted that there has been year-over-year growth in both deposits and loans. He said mortgage volume continues to be strong and well ahead of MFGI’s plan through the first six months of 2017.

Net income is slightly behind MFGI’s plan for two quarters and is behind 2016’s pace, when MFGI celebrated record earnings. Earnings were impacted by $900,000 set aside as addition to loan loss reserves in the second quarter. Merchants made a similar adjustment at the end of the first quarter. The money is a cushion against possible future loan stress. Evans said putting the money aside is consistent with MFGI’s conservative principles, and that actual loan charge-off activity is well below industry averages.

“We believe we are well-positioned for continued strong earnings during the second half of the year,”Evans said. “I am optimistic about the remainder of the year and beyond.”

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 440 employees and its shareholders, mostly individuals and families from southeastern Minnesota and west-central Wisconsin.

Merchants Bank Looks to “Swipe Out Hunger” for Area Food Shelves

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Merchants Bank will be donating five cents each time a Merchants Bank credit card or debit card is used between August 1-8, up to a total of $10,000, to area food shelves during “Swipe Out Hunger,”the Bank’s fifth annual Facebook Giveaway.

The “Swipe Out Hunger”giveaway will work like this:

  • Supporters of area food shelves will be able to vote once per day between August 1-8 for their chosen food shelves on the Merchants Bank Facebook page (www.facebook.com/merchantsbank).
  • At the end of the giveaway, the food shelves with the top three vote totals will receive donations of $2,500 for first place, $1,500 for second place and $1,000 for third place. All other food shelves will evenly split the remaining $5,000.

Participating food shelves were nominated by Merchants Bank locations (Bank locations making the nomination are noted in parentheses). A number of locations nominated the same food shelf based on which organization serves the needs of their community. Participating this year are:

  • 360 Communities (Lakeville)
  • Cannon Falls Food Shelf (Cannon Falls)
  • Channel 1 (Rochester)
  • Feed My People (Eau Claire)
  • Friends in Need Food Shelf (Cottage Grove)
  • Hastings Family Service (Hastings)
  • The Hunger Task Force (Onalaska)
  • La Crescent Food Share (La Crescent)
  • The Open Door Pantry (Apple Valley and Rosemount)
  • Randolph Food Shelf (Hampton)
  • SEMCAC (Caledonia, Lanesboro, Rushford, Spring Grove)
  • Hometown Resource Center (St. Charles)
  • Winona Volunteer Services (Winona, Lakeside, Goodview)

Last year, Merchants Bank donated $10,146.67 to local food shelves through Swipe Out Hunger and 5,841 votes were cast. Everyone is invited to vote for your favorite food shelf by visiting the Merchants Bank Facebook page during the campaign (August 1-8).

Merchants Bank has 21 locations, including Minnesota locations in Rushford, Lanesboro, Caledonia, Spring Grove, Winona, St. Charles, Goodview, Rochester, La Crescent, 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. Twin Cities-based Merchants Bank Equipment Finance is also a division of Merchants Bank, N.A.

Design a Simple Wellness Program

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Do you wish your business could encourage healthy habits for your employees? Creating a wellness program might sound like an overwhelming task, but it helps to start small.

Each year, Merchants Bank provides a simple walking program to all employees and we’re sharing our tips to help you start your own.

1. Determine Logistics

There are several pieces you need to have in place before kicking off your walking program. Answer these questions:

  • How long will the program last? Typically, we’ve run our wellness competition for six to eight weeks.
  • What walking goals are realistic? You can set step goals by day or week, depending on how you’d like to run your program. We like to have tiers to encourage employees at every fitness level to have an attainable goal. For example, in our last challenge we had goal options of 8,000; 11,000; 14,000 and 17,000 steps per day, per person.
  • How will results be tracked? It works best if your employees can track their steps and report it to a central place, which for us is the Human Resources department. The HR department then records the data in an Excel spreadsheet for the duration of the program and tallies the total steps to determine program winners.
  • What is my budget? Running a walking program takes staff time, but it also takes dollars. You’ll want to budget for incentives/prizes (ideas below) and determine if requiring a registration fee makes sense to help you offset costs. In our most recent walking program, we had 102 participates and spent about $6 per person on prizes. In addition, we asked participants to pay $5 to register for the program.

2. Make Participating Easy

Once you have the above details in place, you want to make participating as simple as possible for your employees. For example, how can they sign up for the program? At Merchants, we email all staff about the program and provide a Word document that they can fill out and return to our HR department.

You’ll also want to make tracking steps easy and inexpensive. We ask our employees to have a pedometer or step-tracking device or use a step-tracking app and then email their weekly steps to HR. Pedometers are a reimbursable item through our wellness program, so employees who don’t own one can purchase a pedometer for the program and be reimbursed up to a certain dollar amount.

3. Create Incentive

It’s easier to encourage employee participation if you can provide them with an incentive, even if it’s small.

Merchants has always given out prizes for our walking programs, from grand prizes at the end of the competition to smaller weekly prizes. Some examples include gift cards, fitbits or healthy snacks. Plus, each participant also receives a walking program t-shirt, partially covered by our registration fee.

It also helps to have the camaraderie and encouragement of co-workers. Our Human Resources department has found that the walking program is more successful when employees sign up with a partner or team instead of competing as individuals. Typically for group challenges, we have participation from between 25-35% of all employees.

So why is all of this important? Having a wellness program can benefit your business and your employees in many ways, including:

  • Lowering health care costs
  • Build a sense of community and team atmosphere
  • Improve productivity
  • Reduce employee injuries

Ready to get started? For ideas and helpful resources on starting a wellness program for your business, we recommend the following resources.

Please note through these resources 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.

 

Source: *http://www.healthfitnessrevolution.com/top-10-benefits-of-a-workplace-wellness-program/

Save the Date for Economic Summits

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Are you interested in learning more about the economic development outlook and innovative projects in Southeast Minnesota? Merchants Bank invites you to save the date for two upcoming events.

Southeast Minnesota Economic Summit – Rochester, MN
The third annual Southeast Minnesota Economic Summit will be held on Thursday, September 7 as economic experts and industry executives share their economic expectations, specifically regarding the manufacturing industry, for 2018.

As a banking leader in the region, Merchants is proud to partner with the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce as the pinnacle sponsor of the Southeast Minnesota Economic Summit.

Mark your calendars and contact the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce for more information at (507) 288-1122 or visit their website.

  • Date/Time: Thursday, September 7 from 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
  • Location: Rochester International Event Center, 7333 Airport View Dr. SW, Rochester, MN 55902
  • Price: $30 for Chamber members, $40 for Non-members, $300 for a table of six

Winona Economic Summit – Winona, MN
This year’s Winona Economic Summit will focus on the theme “Building a Better Business Climate.” Join us on Tuesday, September 26 for several speakers, including Senator Jeremy Miller, and panel of experts who will discuss new solutions for workforce issues in our area, the Minnesota economy, local housing issues and more.

Merchants Bank is also proud to partner with the Winona Area Chamber of Commerce as the main event sponsor of the Winona Economic Forum.

Mark your calendars and contact the Winona Area Chamber of Commerce for more information at (507) 452-2272 or visit their website.

  • Date/Time: Tuesday, September 26 from 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
  • Location: Tau Center, 511 Hilbert St., Winona, MN 55987
  • Price: $40 for Chamber members, $60 for Non-members

The 3 Online Banking Alerts You Should Have Set Up

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Security Awareness Week: June 5-9, 2017

If you’re not using the FREE alerts feature of Merchants Bank Online Banking, you’re missing out on tools that could protect you from identity theft and fraud.

To set up automatic alerts, sign in to your Online Banking account and click the Other Services tab. From here, select the type of alert you’d like to enable and follow the steps to configure. Alerts can be sent to an email address, via text message or both…it’s up to you!

Here’s the list of the top three alerts our Electronic Banking Specialists recommend all customers put in place.

My Profile Changed – Get an alert if there are any changes to your Merchants Bank Online Banking profile. For example, a change to the email address associated with your account. This alert may help you detect if someone else has accessed your account and is trying to make changes to your profile.

Internet Banking Login Error – Get an alert if your password is entered incorrectly when attempting to log in to Online Banking. This alert may help you detect if someone else is trying to access your Online Banking account.

Balance Alerts – Get an alert based on balances above or below a certain dollar amount. Simply select the account you’d like an alert for, then choose an option from the drop down and type in an amount. This alert may help you detect large withdrawals or purchases you did not initiate.

To learn more about all of our Merchants Bank Online Banking alert options, watch this video featuring Lucas Stangl, Electronic Banking Specialist.

To get started with alerts, sign in to your Online Banking account now.