Merchants Bank’s 10 Days of Giving Food Drive Kicks Off 33rd Year

WINONA, Minn. – Merchants Bank kicked off the 33rd annual 10 Days of Giving food drive on Monday morning. The drive runs December 1-10 and benefits the food shelf programs operated by Winona Volunteer Services (WVS). Through the first 32 years, more than 4 million pounds of food have been collected. Co-Chairs Jennifer Welch and Dave Pierret will be leading campaign 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 Scott Sherman and other participants. The drive was kicked off with a ceremonial first gift of food from Everly Wagner and Anastasia Welch, both in second grade, as well as a $500 donation from Engrav’s Decorating Center.

“It’s an honor to lead this effort year after year. We are so grateful to the Winona community for their generosity and hope that you’ll join us again in support of this worthy cause. It is so inspiring to see the involvement from schools and local businesses as well, given the continued need in our community,” said Guzzo.

Last year, the 10 Days of Giving campaign collected 265,529 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.

“As a food shelf, our monetary dollars go farther at the grocery store 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 2020, an average of 597 households were registered for the supplemental food shelf at Winona Volunteer Services and more than 3,000 individuals were served. In total, WVS distributed 524,630 pounds of food.

The drive has also received a $10,000 donation in memory of Gina Craney by the Craney family, Sean, Erin and Steve.

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/donate*. 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 4 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.

*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.

Lucas Stangl of Merchants Bank Earns Accredited ACH Professional Certification

Lucas Stangl, AAP, Treasury Management Sales Support Officer Lead

Lucas Stangl has earned the Accredited Automated Clearing House Professional (AAP) designation according to Kerri Bronk, Vice President/Senior Operations/eChannel Officer for Merchants Bank.

“We strive to be a resource for our customers and Lucas becoming an AAP exemplifies our commitment to being a true financial partner. Automated Clearing House payments can be complicated so having another AAP on staff at Merchants is a huge benefit for our customers who want to implement payment strategies or improve payment efficiency,” said Bronk.

Stangl is the Treasury Management Support Officer for Merchants and has been with the Bank since 2013. To obtain his AAP accreditation, he completed course work and testing on the Automated Clearing House (ACH) payments system through the National Automated Clearing House Association.

“I enjoy working with our customers every day and knew that becoming an AAP would help me better serve them. With this accreditation, I’ll stay up-to-date on ACH best practices and related regulations and be able to share my in-depth knowledge with customers and fellow co-workers,” said Stangl.

Stangl has been in banking since 2011 and led the Merchants Bank Electronic Banking team from 2013-2019. He then transitioned to Treasury Management Support Officer for the company to focus solely on the digital needs of the Bank’s commercial treasury clients.

The Merchants Bank Treasury Management & Commercial Lending team is comprised of more than 40 local experts, available throughout our regional footprint. Merchants’ Treasury Management experts can help with cash flow strategies, custom account protection tools and effective options for collecting and making payments. As a regional banking leader, Merchants Bank can assist businesses of any size with their business financing needs, including traditional commercial loans, leases and special loan program offerings.

Merchants Bank is a full service community bank with 23 branches in southeastern Minnesota and west-central Wisconsin. Headquartered in Winona, MN, the Bank has more than $2.7 billion in assets and was founded in 1875. Member FDIC.

Jordan Frederick Promoted to Assistant Vice President/Commercial & Ag Banker at Merchants Bank

Jordan Frederick, Assistant Vice President/ Commercial & Ag Banker

Jordan Frederick has been promoted to Assistant Vice President/Commercial & Ag Banker at Merchants Bank, according to Steve Christopherson, Senior Vice President & Commercial Banking Manager.

“Jordan puts our customers’ needs first and his hard work deserved to be recognized,” said Christopherson. “He continues to take advantage of every opportunity to learn about our business customers and their industries so he can be the best possible community banker.”

Frederick has been with Merchants as a Commercial & Ag Banker since 2019. He is an expert in Farm Service Agency (FSA) lending and understands farming from first-hand experience as a dairy farmer.

“Our business customers are passionate about what they do and it’s extremely rewarding to help them as a financial partner. I feel fortunate to be able to play a role in their growth and work together toward their future goals,” said Frederick.

The Merchants Bank Commercial Lending team is comprised of more than 40 local experts, available throughout our regional footprint. In addition to traditional commercial loans, Merchants bankers specialize in ag banking, SBA loans, floor plan financing and equipment financing. As a regional banking leader, Merchants can assist businesses of any size with their business financing needs, including Treasury Management and deposit 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 $2.7 billion in assets. Merchants was founded in 1875. Loans are subject to approval.

Celebrating Community Impact Month

In September, Merchants Bank 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 food 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. 

Chris Thrune Promoted to Mortgage Lender at Merchants Bank

Chris Thrune, Mortgage Lender

Chris Thrune has been promoted to Mortgage Lender at Merchants Bank, according to Sue Hovell, Director of Retail Banking Performance. Chris replaces Rhonda Merchlewitz, who retired in November after 23 years serving mortgage customers in St. Charles and Winona.

“It’s a huge benefit to have someone with Chris’s background as your Mortgage Lender,” said Hovell. “He knows all the complex details of the mortgage process and can really break it down for our customers to make things easy to understand.”

Thrune has been with Merchants Bank since 2013 and has spent the majority of his career in the mortgage area. In 2015 he became a Mortgage Lender for Merchants Bank in Cottage Grove before returning to Winona in 2018 as an Underwriter. He grew up in Winona and graduated from Winona State University with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting & Finance.

“Being a Mortgage Lender in Winona is what I’ve always dreamed of doing,” said Thrune. “Working face-to-face with customers is what I truly enjoy and helping them get into their dream home is so rewarding.”

He and his wife, Larissa, live in the Winona area and are happy to have put down roots in their hometown. Chris volunteers annually for Merchants’ 10 Days of Giving food drive and is part of the Southeast Minnesota Realtors (SEMR) Events Committee. He is also looking forward to becoming more active in the community volunteer efforts. His hobbies include being outdoors, hiking and golfing.

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 $2.7 billion in assets. Merchants was founded in 1875. Loans are subject to approval.

Merchants’ Strong Earnings Allows for Dividend Declarations

Greg Evans, President & CEO

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

As a result of strong earnings performance, during its October meeting the MFGI Board of Directors authorized an increase in the semiannual dividend payment from 80 to 85 cents per share and a one-time special dividend payment of $1.00 per share to shareholders. Dividends will be paid in December to shareholders of record as of November 19, 2021. Merchants is a publicly-owned company, with the vast majority of its owners being made up of Winona area families and the Company’s 480 employees.

“The important work we do as community bankers wouldn’t be possible without the loyalty and support of shareholders,” noted Evans. “The backbone of our ownership is local business leaders and families from the communities we serve, as well as our employees. Our ownership structure is truly unique for our industry and we take tremendous pride in being able to make these distributions right in our back yard.”

Earnings through the third quarter were $25,568,747, which is $9.5 million ahead of MFGI’s 2021 plan and $10.85 ahead of 2020 third-quarter performance. The continued strong performance is largely driven by the Company’s strong commitment to residential mortgage lending and its aggressive participation in the Small Business Administration (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) for small business relief loans. Year-to-date mortgage loan origination has been $668 million. The Company’s deposit growth remains strong, with total deposits up to $2.4 billion, an increase of 4.75% compared to 2020. In addition, the Company reversed $1.1 million out of Allowance for Loan/Lease Loss Reserves and back into income at the end of the third quarter.

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 food 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. 

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 $2.7 billion in assets. Merchants was founded in 1875.

Merchants Financial Group, Inc. Announces Earnings of $18.16 Million through Second Quarter of 2021

Greg Evans, President & CEO

Merchants Financial Group, Inc. (MFGI) announced net income of $18,157,527 through the first two quarters of 2021, according to MFGI President & CEO Gregory M. Evans.

Performance was driven by the Bank’s active involvement in the origination of Small Business Administration (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans for small businesses throughout the region and continued strong origination volume of residential mortgage loans.

“Our strong earnings reflect our commitment to continue showing up in our communities as a trusted advisor and resource. As community bankers, it’s our privilege to serve our communities and do our part to help local economies and neighbors recover from the pandemic,” said Evans.

Net income is $9.7 million ahead of mid-year earnings performance for 2020 when the early onset of COVID dramatically impacted MFGI’s performance results. All four Bank regions, Merchants Bank Equipment Finance and the Secondary Market Mortgage division have exceeded earnings plans for the first six months.

Merchants has originated an additional $80 million of PPP loans during a recent round of SBA funding and approximately 65% of Merchants’ total PPP origination volume of $290 million has been forgiven, providing area small business owners a much needed resource to survive the pandemic. Merchants’ residential mortgage loan volume for the first half of the year has been $484 million, and mid-year performance was also bolstered by reversal of excess Allowance for Loan/Lease Loss Reserves.

“We continue to focus on walking our business customers through the forgiveness process for PPP loans, and those proceeds have been a significant lifeline for owners of family-owned businesses that are the backbone of our communities’ economic viability,” noted Evans. “Our market leadership in mortgage lending has afforded many families to take advantage of low interest rates by purchasing a new home or refinancing their current mortgage.”

Merchants Financial Group, Inc. is a publicly-traded Company. Ownership is made up of its more than 440 employees and mostly individuals and families from the communities the Bank serves.

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.

Tirzah Warren Promoted to Assistant Vice President/Teller Administrator

Tirzah Warren, Assistant Vice President/Teller Administrator

Tirzah Warren has been promoted to Assistant Vice President/Teller Administrator at Merchants Bank, according to Sue Hovell, Director of Retail Banking Performance.

“Over her 20-year career, Tirzah has consistently demonstrated her commitment to serving our customers and her leadership ensures they are taken care of professionally and compassionately by our teller team,” said Hovell.

Warren has been with the Merchants Bank since 1999, when she started as a Teller at the Winona-Goodview location. In 2001, she was promoted to Lead Teller in Goodview and served in that position for 10 years. Then in 2011, she moved to the Winona-Lakeside location and was Lead Teller there for three years. She was promoted to Teller Administrator in 2016 and oversees all tellers at the Winona locations in Goodview, Lakeside, Downtown and Downtown Drive-Up.

“I have had the joy of serving some of our customers for the entire time I’ve been with Merchants – 21 years – and it’s been an honor to get to know them and watch our families grow together,” said Warren. “Tellers are one of the Bank’s greatest assets for serving our customers and I feel it’s my privilege to help develop, and hopefully inspire, every teller on our team.”

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. Member FDIC.

Company Update from Greg Evans, CEO: 2nd Quarter, 2021

During the past month, I have had the true privilege of being able to participate in in person gatherings, celebrations and fund-raising events for Winona State University, Winona Health, Winona’s Steamboat Days, Habitat for Humanity, and the Minnesota Bankers Association.

It has never felt so good to have my personal calendar filled up with community engagement activities. It is simply wonderful to be back enjoying the people and organizations who make our service footprint such a special place to live, work and play.

Back to Seeing Smiles in Our Lobbies

In early June, we also celebrated a milestone at Merchants Bank by re-opening all of our physical branch locations to normal activities. After the long and arduous journey of the past 15 months, it is our genuine hope and intent to stay this way.

Thank you for the understanding, patience, and adaptability you have demonstrated with your banking relationship throughout the pandemic. Obviously, all of us faced significant challenges as part of the experience. I’m tremendously proud of the members of the Merchants Bank team for embracing the challenges as opportunities and working unconventionally to meet the needs of our business customers.

Community banking is a people business. When our customers enter one of our branch locations, it’s the people willing to help and serve that they come to visit. While we know our customers now expect the convenient utility of a broad array of digital solutions, the team of bankers at Merchants remains grateful for the opportunity you give us to serve as trusted advisors when you need us. Thank you for favoring us with your loyalty.

Working Through Challenges

One gathering last month that was extra special was my time at the Minnesota Bankers Association annual meeting, when I had the privilege to network with dedicated community bankers across the state. The challenges we faced at Merchants during the past year were the same challenges all banking organizations had to deal with. The industry responded so effectively to those challenges and never wavered in the collective commitment to meeting the emergency needs of our clients and communities throughout the pandemic.

In addition to loan payment deferments and grants that the industry mobilized to provide in support of all customers and communities, the community banks of Minnesota mobilized aggressively and expediently in delivery of Small Business Administration (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans in effort to support our small businesses and stabilize local economies.

At Merchants, we continued to support the PPP program throughout the first half of 2021 as new funding became available. We originated approximately $80 million in additional PPP loans to our local small businesses during the latest round of funding, which was expanded by the SBA and allowed us to focus more aggressively on helping sole proprietors (including farmers) who deservedly qualified for assistance. Our total PPP origination activity over the course of the last year was more than 3,000 loans for a total of nearly $300 million in origination volume. We now are focused on helping our borrowers and small business owners work through the application process necessary to obtain loan forgiveness.

Recent travel for both business and personal reasons has allowed me to interact with proud small business owners and operators in several different parts of the state. The resiliency of these drivers of our local economies has been amazing. The pandemic undoubtedly took a real toll on virtually every business in some manner. The stimulus that business owners benefitted from along the way was a source of modest stability, but everybody I talk to is eager to get back to business as usual while being cautiously optimistic about the future.

Thank You

The best part of being a community banker is the opportunity to work with business owners and community influencers like you. You and your teams are what make our local economies strong and vibrant. Supporting your hopes and dreams with the financial solutions we offer is what makes this profession especially rewarding to me. Thank you for your resiliency. Best wishes for a healthy rebound as we all transition into whatever our “new normal” is destined to be. Have a great summer, and I sincerely hope our paths will cross at an upcoming community event!

Don’t Find Yourself Fumbling – Set Your Business up to Catch Fraud.

Preventing or catching fraud can feel like a huge task – like keeping track of an influx of orders during your busy season. Being a victim of fraud can not only hurt your bank account, but your business’s reputation too. With this much at stake, make sure you know what security measures to take so you can focus on your customers and keep them a top priority.

Here are our 3 best tips for fraud prevention for your business:

1. Report fraud immediately – do you know that businesses only have a 24-hour window of opportunity to report fraudulent or unauthorized transactions? Businesses are not covered under the same protection that personal accounts are, which mens business owners and staff need to be diligent about monitoring their account activity on a daily basis to help reduce risk and potential loss from fraudulent activity. 

If you have the tools mentioned in our third tip below, then you know it’s as easy as clicking into your notification from an ACH debit filter or Positive Pay and either approving the charge or reporting it as fraudulent – no paperwork, no stopping into the bank to sign anything, just returning the item right away.

If you don’t have those tools, then you’ll want to keep a close eye on your business accounts – if you identify fraud on your business account, it is crucial to report it immediately.  If it is reported and disputed within 24-hours of posting to your account, you’ll likely receive your funds back. However, if it is outside 24-hours, this is not guaranteed. Filing a dispute requires paperwork and in some cases, a police report. These steps make the process a little more time consuming.

If you aren’t able to report the fraudulent charge within 24 hours of it occurring, your bank can still put together the paperwork and try to return the item, but there’s no guarantee that you’ll get your money back. 

2. Have dual-control internal processes – that means checks and balances between your employees’ responsibilities.

Nick Benz, our Treasury Management Sales Officer Lead, has 17 years in the Treasury Management field and is a Certified Treasury Professional (CTP), which means he’s proven mastery of essential business finance functions like liquidity, cash flow and risk management. Nick has seen what works, and how satisfied and relieved businesses are when they catch something before it becomes a bigger problem.

“One of the best ways to prevent fraud is to make sure you have secure, dual-control internal processes in place for when your business makes payments – especially large ones.

“‘Dual-control’ means that making a payment (or other action) has to be reviewed and approved by two people before it is completed. Making sure that a transaction is approved by two or more parties increases your chance of catching any fraud attempts,” Nick said. “Many phishing attempts start as a hacked email address asking a coworker to send a payment – it can be invaluable to have a second set of eyes on a transaction to make sure it is a legitimate request.”

If you’d like more details on where and how to build those internal processes, see our guide from Security Officer, Kerri Bronk.

3. Use tools to make catching fraud easier. Would you rather: check on your business’s transactions every day in online banking, or get a notification when a suspicious check, that you haven’t pre-approved, comes through?

We highly recommend that businesses use fraud management services like Positive Pay and ACH Blocks & Filters. Positive Pay services monitor checks, while ACH filters monitor electronic activity. The fraud management system will automatically let you know when something that needs to be reviewed hits your account. If a transactions happens to be fraudulent or unauthorized, you have the ability to return it immediately.

We’re here to do our best to make your life easier. With tools like Positive Pay and ACH Blocks & Filters, you can find some peace of mind that you’re doing the right things for your business. And when you care about your business’s security, it shows that you care about your customers, employees and other stakeholders.

For more information on how the fraud management services work or how to get set up, contact your local Treasury Management Sales Officer – they’re the first step to enhancing your fraud protection. Our team is always ready to discuss ideas, opportunities and options for your business as we work toward your goals together.

Want to learn more about common business fraud and scams? Check out our Scam & Fraud Alerts for businesses.