Better, Safer and Faster Movement of Your Money


Effective September 15, 2017, a new rule went into effect allowing for faster processing of debits from your financial accounts. Virtually all types of electronic payments will now be eligible to be processed on the same day they are authorized.

For example, types of affected payments could include:

  • A paper check you write, which is then scanned at the business for electronic processing
  • Online payments
  • Payments made via the telephone

This means that payments could clear your checking (or savings) account on the same day you write the check or authorize the payment. What does this mean to you? We encourage you to make sure funds are available in your account before you authorize transactions to avoid unnecessary insufficient funds fees.

Please note: This new electronic payment processing rule does not affect how debit card payments are authorized or processed.


Behind the Scenes with Our Credit Team


Startup Stock Photos

If you’ve worked with Merchants on a loan for your business, you know our Commercial Bankers have a team of people assisting them in the loan process. You may have even heard them mention a Credit Analyst, who would review your financial information.

Our Credit Analyst team plays an important part in the loan approval process. So we’re giving you a behind the scenes look at their role and what kind of expertise they bring to our commercial banking team.

How is a Credit Analyst involved in my application for a business loan?
Our team of 11 Credit Analysts assist in determining your credit worthiness and ability to pay back a loan. Upon application, your financial information is given to a Credit Analyst, who reviews all the details and provides a credit presentation to your Commercial Banker.

“Our job is to assess repayment ability of credit obligations and determine overall financial risk. This information helps the Commercial Banker decide on next steps,” said Chris Duellman, SBA Lending and Credit Underwriting Manager. “Our ultimate goal is to help the borrower gain loan approval, but we also need to identify potential risks – that’s why we review so many details about the business and business owners. We look at the full picture to create our report to the Commercial Banker.”

In some instances, you may also meet with one of our Credit Analysts and a Commercial Banker to collect your financial information. A face-to-face conversation is sometimes the best approach to obtaining all the details needed to gain a full understanding of your business.

What expertise does a Credit Analyst bring to the business banking team?
Most of our Credit Analysts have an accounting or finance degree and/or related job experience. In addition, they are well-trained on all different types of credit to be able to fully assess your business’s situation. Day in and day out, they work with the financial details of businesses of every size and industry – their incredible depth of knowledge is an asset to you, your Banker and the entire commercial banking team.

Because Merchants Bank provides many loans for agricultural businesses and farms, three of our Credit Analysts specifically concentrate on ag requests. Having grown up on farms or worked on farms, these Credit Analysts provide an additional level of expertise and insight when reviewing an ag loan.

How do I benefit from a Credit Analyst reviewing my loan application?
Talking with your Commercial Banker and Credit Analysts can give you more insight into the financial side of your business.

While gathering your financial information, the Credit Analysts may ask questions your business might not have ever considered. Or, the Analysts might even pinpoint some financial areas where your business could make improvements by working with your accountant or in-house finance department. In addition, tapping into the Credit Analyst industry-specific knowledge can be a bonus for your business.

“We’re here to provide an additional level of financial understanding and support to both the business and the Commercial Banker,” said Duellman. “It’s our job as part of the commercial banking team to help our business customers thrive.”

To learn more about business financing options at Merchants Bank, visit our website:

Amy Gutierrez Completes Training at School of Trust and Financial Services

Amy Gutierrez, Trust Administrative Specialist

Merchants Bank Trust Administrative Specialist Amy Gutierrez, J.D., recently completed the Schools of Banking School of Trust and Financial Services class. The class was held August 21-25 in Manhattan, KS.

“Most valuable to our clients here at Merchants Bank was what I learned about estate administration and retirement planning, especially as it relates to looking at the big picture and what is best for those clients over a long period,” Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez completed training in Trust Administration, Fiduciary Income Tax, Estate Planning, Retirement Planning, Investments, Conservatorships and Special Needs Trusts, Probate, Compliance and Trust Accounting and Securities Processing.

She said what she learned will assist clients in their wealth management planning for their children, grandchildren and for supporting the philanthropic needs of their community.

The Schools of Banking is located in Lincoln, Neb., and is a jointly owned subsidiary of the Kansas and Nebraska Banking Associations. The School of Trust and Financial Services was held in partnership with a number of state bankers associations, including the Minnesota Bankers Association.

“It was great to be in a class where everyone was going through approximately the same experience and same timing in the Trust departments where they worked. We had the same types of questions, and that enhanced the learning for all of us,” Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez has been working in the Merchants Bank Trust Department since late Spring and has been with the Merchants Bank organization for nearly three years. She has a law degree from Northern Illinois University, a master’s degree from Eastern Michigan University, and an undergraduate degree from Winona State University. She is from Witoka and is a graduate of Winona Senior High School.

The Merchants Bank Trust Department helps individuals and families establish comprehensive wealth plans that identify their needs, goals, and resources for retirement. Trust services may include portfolio management and estate planning, as well as acting as an agent under power of attorney or as personal representative for estates.

Annette Bleninger, CTP, Joins Merchants Bank as a Cash Management Officer

Annette Bleninger, Cash Management Officer

Annette Bleninger, a Certified Treasury Professional (CTP), has joined Merchants Bank as a Cash Management Officer for Merchants’Twin Cities locations, according to Lawrence Stovern, Twin Cities Regional President.

“Annette’s knowledge, relationships and ability to connect with both our customers and our employees serving those customers will be a tremendous benefit to everyone involved. As we continue to grow and focus on Cash Management, this important aspect of our business will be a significant contributor to our overall growth in the Twin Cities,”Stovern said.

Bleninger has more than 15 years of banking experience in sales, customer service and operations in Cash Management. She has worked with customers of varying sizes to help them determine the products and services that will help them most effectively manage their short term funds. She said she is looking forward to working with customers and bankers across Merchants Bank’s Twin Cities locations.

“This is an excellent opportunity for businesses across the Twin Cities. Merchants’Cash Management offerings are comprehensive and more than competitive with larger banks,” Bleninger said. “The additional benefit Merchants offers is it is a community bank that is truly focused on the needs of its customers in the particular markets those businesses may call home.”

Ashley Harrison is Merchants Bank’s New Mortgage Lender in La Crescent

Ashley Harrison, Mortgage Lender

Ashley Harrison has joined the team at Merchants Bank in La Crescent as a mortgage lender, according to Steve Christiansen, Market President for Merchants Bank in La Crescent and Onalaska.

“We know Ashley will be a great addition to the team in La Crescent,” Christiansen said. “She is passionate about helping people, very approachable and she knows our mortgage process extremely well.”

Harrison has been with Merchants Bank for five years, and she has worked in the mortgage operations area for the past three years, specifically in mortgage underwriting and mortgage purchasing.

“I believe my experience in working in the mortgage area will help my customers. I know what is needed for a successful application and successful mortgage,” Harrison said. “I’m very excited to work as a mortgage lender. It has been my goal since I started working at Merchants because I know how well our customers are treated before, during and after they get their mortgage. It’s such a benefit for our customers that Merchants services our loans, so if they have questions after the mortgage, we’re there to answer them.”

In addition, to her experience at Merchants, Harrison has a degree from Winona State University in Business and Marketing.

Attend our September and October Events


Join our staff at these great events. Be sure to follow us on our Facebook page for information on these events or pictures from other events you may have missed. 

9/7 Southern Minnesota Economic Summit
8:00 a.m. -12:00 p.m.
Rochester International Event Center, 7333 Airport View Dr. SW, Rochester, MN

Economic experts and industry executives will share their economic expectations, specifically regarding the manufacturing industry, for 2018.

9/10 Hesper-Mabel Steam Engine Days Parade
12:00 p.m.
Main Street in Mabel, MN 
9/12 Finding the Balance Retirement Planning Event
5:00 -7:30 p.m
Merchants Bank in Winona-DowntownFeatured sessions with expert speakers:

  • The basics of social security
  • Estate planning
  • Income for life

Plus, 10-15 minute ongoing round table discussions:

  • Benefits of Having a Will
  • Financial and Medical Power of Attorney
  • Health Savings accounts
  • Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs)
  • Banking on your gadgets
  • Bridging the Healthcare Gap
  • Long-Term Care
9/14-9/15 Applefest Open House
During Regular Business Hours
Merchants Bank in La CrescentMerchants Bank staff will be serving locally-grown apples, apple cookies and coffee in the bank lobby.
9/15 Cannon Falls Customer Appreciation
Merchants Bank in Cannon FallsPlease join us for grilled hot dogs, served with all the fixings, and refreshments in our parking lot.
9/17 Applefest Parade & Food Explosion
1:00 p.m.
Elm & Main Streets in La Crescent, MNMerchant Bank staff will be collecting food and cash donations during the parade. Please consider supporting the La Crescent Food Share Program with a donation.
9/21 Hampton Community Appreciation
4:30 – 6:30 p.m.
Hampton City Hall Community Room
5265 238th Street East, Hampton, MNPlease join us for dinner – featuring a pull pork sandwich, potato salad and refreshments.
9/26 Winona Economic Summit – “Building a Better Business Climate”
8:00 -12:00 p.m.
Tau Center in WinonaSeveral speakers, including Senator Jeremy Miller, and panel of experts will discuss new solutions for workforce issues in our area, the Minnesota economy, local housing issues and more.

Admission is $40 for Winona Area Chamber of Commerce members and $60 for non-members.


Andrew Guzzo Joins Merchants Bank as Regional President

Andrew Guzzo, Merchants Bank Regional President

Andrew Guzzo has joined Merchants Bank as Regional President, according to Merchants Financial Group, Inc. (MFGI) President & CEO Greg Evans.

Evans said Guzzo’s primary responsibility will be to provide leadership for Merchants Bank’s Winona locations, along with meaningful community engagement for the Winona area. Additionally, Guzzo will have supervisory responsibility for the strong team of Market Presidents in Onalaska and Eau Claire, WI, and Minnesota locations in La Crescent, Caledonia, Spring Grove, St. Charles, Rushford and Lanesboro. He will have a presence in all of the markets for the southern tier of Merchants’ service footprint.

“We are excited to have Andrew leading our team in the region,”Evans said.  “Andrew brings an intense passion for customer service and community leadership. He also has had significant sales and management experience, both outside and inside the banking industry. We believe his skill set is the right mix to help facilitate our continued growth for our community banking organization.”

Guzzo has spent the past 11 years in the banking industry, working for American Bank & Trust in the Quad Cities (Iowa/Illinois) area, and most recently leading NXT Bank in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Prior to that, he had more than 15 years of sales and sales management experience for US Foods.

“I look forward to helping to establish, build and grow long-term customer relationships around our region,” Guzzo said. “By every measure, Merchants Bank’s enviable culture and customer-centric commitment to the communities it serves continues to raise the bar among community banks across the region. I am humbled by the responsibility to customers and shareholders and excited at the possibilities that come from working with this team.”

Guzzo and his wife, Dawn, have four children, two boys and two girls.

The Merchants organization has reached record earnings each of the past two years and is tracking for another significant year in 2017.

Since the retirement of former MFGI President & CEO Rod Nelson in January, Evans has been serving as the Winona Bank President, as well as overseeing the banking operations for all of Merchants Bank’s 21 locations, in addition to his role as MFGI President and CEO.

With the addition of Guzzo, Merchants will have three regional presidents reporting to Evans – Guzzo for the Winona and Southern region, Dan Massett for the Central Region and Lawrence Stovern for the Twin Cities Region. Evans points out that all are supported by local presidents who have decision making responsibilities in their markets.

“Real local decision making is one way we stand apart from others in our industry. It allows our local leaders to positively influence the people and the communities they serve,” Evans said. “We recognize it is a unique model, but it best serves our customers.”

Leading Merchants’ locations in the region are: Steve Christiansen in Onalaska and La Crescent, Matt Schuldt in Caledonia and Spring Grove, Larry Accola in Eau Claire, Ken Graner in Lanesboro and Rushford, and Jim Allen in St. Charles.

MFGI owns 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. Additionally, MFGI also owns Twin Cities-based Merchants Bank Equipment Finance, a division of Merchants Bank, N.A.