Better, Safer and Faster Movement of Your Money

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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

 

CreditAnalysts-Blog

Merchants Bank Credit Analysts. Back row from left to right: Chris Harrison, Dani Gorder, Ellen Morehouse, Jim Soltesz, Grace Johnson, Joe Young. Front row from left to right: Chris Duellman, Robin Barth, Leah Myhro, Laura Greseth, Jared Iverson

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:

Congratulate New and Promoted Staff

New Staff

Kayla Beckjorden, Part Time Teller, Rochester – Green Meadows
Kayla previously worked at Kohl’s as a Sales Associate. During the summer she enjoys attending as many car shows as she can and she is also a huge animal lover.

 

 

Claudia Bergaus, Electronic Banking Specialist, Winona – Downtown
Claudia previously worked at HyVee as an Assistant Manager and at Midtown Foods in Customer Service and as a Cashier. 

 

 

 

Sam Bowen, Part Time Teller, Lakeville
Sam attends Lakeville North High School and previously worked at Chart House Restaurant. Sam is extremely excited to be here working at Merchants.

 

 

Jackson Dorma, Part Time Teller, Cottage Grove
Jackson was previously at District 833 Service Center at a Tech Intern and is very excited to join Merchants.

 

 

 

April Duncan, Teller & Vault Attendant, Winona – Lakeside
April previously worked as a Teller at Wells Fargo in La Crosse and as a Customer Service Representative at Directtv/Att in Huntville, AL.

 

 

 

EricsonTaylorTaylor Ericson, Teller, Lakeville
Taylor previously worked at River Valley Church as a Connections Coordinator. Taylor and her husband, Paul have been happily married for almost 4 years. Taylor is a photographer and enjoys being creative in her free time. She loves meeting new people and is excited to join the Merchants team.

 

 

FrankoBenBen Franko, Mortgage Lender, Eau Claire
Ben previously worked at Wells Fargo at a Mortgage Banker. He is actively involved in the community and serves on the Community Table Board of Directors as the Co-President. Ben and his wife have two children. He enjoys the outdoors, fishing and hunting. 

 

 

GernesCalebCaleb Gernes, Trust Assistant, Winona-Downtown
Caleb previously worked at Winona National Bank as a Teller and at Mugby Junction as a Barista. Caleb is currently attending Winona State University majoring in Marketing. He is a ballroom dancer, speaks French and has a pet bearded dragon.

 

 

GuzzoAndrewAndrew Guzzo, Regional President, Winona-Downtown
Andrew 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. Andrew and his wife, Dawn, have four children, two boys and two girls. Learn more about Andrew here.

 

Alyssa Melbostad, Teller, Caledonia
Alyssa previously worked at Winneshiek Medical Center as a Rehabilitation Technician. Alyssa and her husband reside in Spring Grove with their son. She enjoys spending time with her family and getting outside as much as possible.

 

 

Melisa Miklya, Teller, Cottage Grove
Melisa previously worked at Microtel Inn & Suites. She is a single mother of a kind heart, spunky seven-year-old. In her free time, Melisa enjoys spending time with family, playing the piano for her grandma, crocheting and enjoying the fresh air.

 

 

Eryn Orth, Teller & Customer Service Representative, Winona – Goodview
Eryn previously worked at White Rose Bridal as a Bridal Consultant. She grew up on a dairy farm near Lewiston and recently graduated from UW-River Falls with her BS Degree in Agriculture Business. She is excited to be getting married in September.

 

 

MillerGina

Gina Miller, Commercial Banker, Onalaska
Gina previously worked at Wells Fargo Bank as a Business Relationship Manager for 17 years. She was raised in La Crosse, has been married for four years and has a daughter. She is active in the community as a member of the Coulee Region Young Professionals, a member of the Women’s Alliance of La Crosse, and a participant in the Chamber of Commerce’s La Crosse Area Community Leadership Program. In her free time, Gina likes to downhill ski, hike and spend summer days on the river. She also enjoys spending time with her family and friends.

 

ReardonRoseRose Reardon, Teller, Cannon Falls
Rose also currently works at Spartan Nash as a Guest Associate. 

 

 

 

 

Matthew Rodenburg, Teller, Winona – Downtown
Matthew previously worked at Destiny Life Church as an Associate/Youth Pastor and at Tri-County Record as a Journalist/Staff Writer. Matt is a father of four and is originally from Omaha, NE. He loves movies, the 80’s, and the Chicago Bears (which means he is especially fond of 1985).

 

 

ScalzoTonyTony Scalzo, Mortgage Lender, Eau Claire
Tony owns Scalzo Properties, LLC and previously worked at US Bank as a Mortgage Loan Originator and at Johnson Bank as a Mortgage Loan Officer.

 

 

Tammy Strand, Part Time Teller, St. Charles
Tammy previously worked at Mike’s Food Center as a Cashier. She also previously owned her own business, Abby’s Locker Room, which was located in St Charles. Tammy is married and has four children and two cats. Her hobbies include reading, crafting, working in the yard & garden and home renovations.

 

 

Larissa Verbeke, Customer Service Representative & Back Up Teller, Rosemount
Larissa previously worked at Merchants as a Teller. She graduated in May from Winona State University majoring in Finance and Human Resources with a minor in Management and after graduation relocated to Hastings. In her free time she likes to play volleyball, run, hike and be with her family and friends.

 

 

Molli Vodak, Electronic Banking Specialist
Molli previously worked at Benton State Bank as a Consumer Loan Officer and Customer Service Representative. She and her husband recently moved to Winona, so her husband could help his parents with their family business. They are looking forward to their new adventure and they are excited to see what their future holds.

 

 

Rachel Wyttenbach, Administrative Assistant & Customer Service Representative, Onalaska
Rachel previously worked at Citizens State Bank as a Customer Service Representative. She is recently engaged and is planning a June 2018 wedding. Rachel has two fur babies, Leo and Aspen.

 

 

Nou Xiong, Lending Assistant & Customer Service Representative, Apple Valley
Nou previously worked at Wells Fargo as a Loan Processor for 15 years. She is married and has three daughters and one son. As a family, they love to take small walks and she enjoys watching her son fish.

 

Promotions and Transfers

BauerJennaJenna Bauer, Mortgage Lender, Hastings
Jenna has been with Merchants since 2011. She was previously a Customer Service Representative in Hastings.

 

 

 

Alyssa Connolly, Lead Teller, Cottage Grove
Alyssa has been with Merchants since 2015. She was previously a Teller in Cottage Grove. 

 

 

 

Corey Decker, Electronic Banking Specialist, Winona – Downtown
Corey has been with Merchants since 2017. He is also currently the Director of Customer Assistance in Winona. 

 

 

 

Amy Gutierrez, Trust Administrative Specialist, Winona – Downtown
Amy has been with Merchants since 2014. She was previously a Credit Operations Representative and also has a law degree from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, IL.

 

 

HarrisonAshley copyAshley Harrison, Mortgage Lender, La Crescent
Ashley has been with Merchants Bank since 2011. She was previously a Teller, Marketing Coordinator, Mortgage Purchasing Specialist, Underwriter and most recently a Mortgage Underwriting Specialist.

 

 

WagnerAshleyAshley Wagner, Retail Lending Assistant, Winona – Downtown
Ashley has been with Merchants since 2014. She was previously an Electronic Banking Representative in Winona.

 

 

 

Kally Whalen, Customer Service Representative, St. Charles
Kally has been with Merchants since 2016. She was previously an Electronic Banking Representative in Winona.

 

From the President’s Desk: Fall 2017

Greg Evans, Merchants Bank President & CEO

By Greg Evans, President & CEO

A few weeks ago, Merchants Bank was featured prominently in a Sunday news feature in the Business section of the Star Tribune newspaper. I sincerely appreciate the response I have personally received from so many friends and Bank customers about the exposure for the Merchants organization.

It’s gratifying to be associated with a company that is recognized throughout the state of Minnesota as a leader in our industry. The extraordinary business growth that Merchants has enjoyed over a period of many years was one of the reasons the Star Tribune reached out to us for purpose of doing the story.

The story focused on two primary things:

  • What has been the formula for our sustained track record of success
  • What perspective does our organization have in regards to the regulatory environment we operate in and what, if any, reform is appropriate for the banking industry

Addressing the first topic of the interview was the easy part. As I’ve already shared with you in previous submissions to our E-newsletter, our success is driven 100% by our people. At Merchants, we have made talent acquisition, retention and development a critical strategic priority. Nobody on our Merchants team is perfect, but we are purposeful in filling our team with difference-makers, people capable of providing great customer service and demonstrating community leadership.

Everybody on our team understands the importance of living up to our brand promise of being the Bank that Service Built. When we fall short of meeting our customers’ expectations, as we at times do, our goal is to learn from our mistakes and take the opportunity to get better.

Something that does create conflict at times with our intense desire to be customer-centric in all that we do is regulatory requirements. As I shared in the Star Tribune article, I do believe strongly that the banking industry – particularly the community banking sector – is over-regulated.

There is no question that there was a need for reform coming out of the Great Recession, and that increased regulation was enacted with the hope of protecting consumers. Unfortunately, corrective action resulted in unintended consequences associated with intense regulatory burden. As you may have experienced yourself, getting loans is more cumbersome, more costly and more onerous in terms of documentation today than prior to these regulations.

I believe strongly there needs to be some regulatory burden normalization. The reality is that for Merchants Bank we are fortunate to be of adequate size to absorb the additional burden and stay the course in being a major contributor to the economic vitality of our communities and this region. We have been able to put processes and best practices in place to help our customers work through documentation requirements. We rely on our team members to understand the impact of regulations and guide customers step-by-step through borrowing transactions.

In the community bank space, I believe we are driven to be as customer-centric as we can be in light of regulatory requirements. Banks like Merchants… with significant presence in outstate markets… are tremendous drivers of the economic vitality of the communities we serve. Playing that important role is one of the most rewarding things about this profession. The work we get to do each day allows us to have a powerful impact in changing people’s lives in positive ways.

Fraud Alerts and Security Reminders

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Please review our most recent fraud alerts and security reminders to help keep your personal information secure.

Check Cashing Fraud

Merchants has again seen an increase in fraudulent checks. Customers have fallen for some “too good to be true” scenarios including being asked to be a secret shopper for a fake business or receiving a winnings check in the mail from a drawing they did not enter. When you receive a check, make sure to consider where it came from.

Some questions to ask yourself:

  • Did I recently enter any contests or drawings where I could win money?
  • Can I verify the information on the check through a third-party? For example, can you confirm a person’s contact information through the phone book? Or confirm a business’s information through an online directory like the Yellow Pages?
  • Does it sound too good to be true?

Be a skeptic. If the situation doesn’t sound right, it’s time to do some more investigating before depositing that check. We encourage you to bring the check in and discuss where it came from with your local Tellers and Customer Service Representatives. We’re here to help.

Updating Your Contact Information with Merchants

Have you moved recently? Change your cell phone or email address? It’s important we have your most current information in case we need to contact you in the event of fraud.

Call the Customer Service Representative at your local Merchants Bank to update your information: (800) 944-6285. If you don’t have a privacy code on file with us, now is the time to get one in place too. Here’s why.

Next Steps If You’ve Experienced Fraud

If you think your bank account information has been compromised or you are a victim of identity theft, contact your local Merchants Bank and ask to speak to a Customer Service Representative.

The Best Home Projects to Finish Now

Backyard Deck

If you’ve been considering an outdoor house project, now’s the time to get it done. From decks, to driveways and roof replacements, it’s important to finish up these popular projects before the snow falls.

personal loans

Connie Fort, Vice President of Consumer Loans

“Many local homeowners come in at this time of the year to get financing to wrap up a project or two,” said Connie Fort, Vice President of Consumer Loans. “I truly enjoy finding affordable financing options for their home projects.”

To help you decide where to focus your dollars, here are cost estimates and what to consider for four projects that can be impacted by cold weather.

  1. Building or Repairing a Deck
    Average Cost to Build – $6,973*
    Average Cost to Repair – $1,490

A new deck adds value to your home – plus who doesn’t love another way to enjoy Minnesota and Wisconsin summers?

The cost of building or repairing a deck depends on several factors: size, materials, and extras such as stairs, railings or staining. To help you make an accurate estimate, consider that the average deck size is 10×12 feet and most deck builders charge an average of $35 per square foot. 

  1. Replacing a Roof
    Average Cost – $7,092*

Maintaining the quality of your roof is critical to keep your home protected and dry. Winter weather especially can aggravate small leaks and other problems, so take the time to assess your roof now.

If replacing your roof is necessary, there are several factors that impact the overall cost including size, pitch, materials, code requirements and special features like skylights or chimneys.

Make sure to get quotes from several different roofers so you have a solid price range for your potential cost. Be cautious of any business that bids extremely low – it’s most likely too good to be true.

  1. Installing Landscaping
    Average Cost – $3,328*

Whether you’ve moved into a new home or want to upgrade the look of your existing lawn and outdoor area, landscaping can be a great way to give your house a facelift.

When it comes to your landscaping projects, costs range based on how big your project will be and the size of your property. For example, are you simply looking to add some color with flowers or are you removing trees? Each piece of your project may involve hiring one or more professionals, so consider if you’ll need help with designing a garden, installing a patio, or even adding a water and irrigation system.

  1. Replacing or Adding a Driveway
    Average Cost – $3,916*

Having a driveway can be a huge convenience for you as a homeowner and can also add value to your house.

Durability is the biggest and most important factor when making decisions about your new driveway. Make sure you pay attention to which materials make sense for your landscape, climate and the amount of work you’re willing to put in to maintain the driveway. A professional can help steer you in the right direction based on your situation.

So now that you’ve settled on which home improvement project you’ll tackle this fall, how can you pay for it? At Merchants Bank, our Home Equity Line of Credit can help qualified applicants pay for fall home improvements or repairs. If you have equity in your home, now is the time to take advantage of our great introductory rate of as low as 2.9% APR for the first six months and 4.00% APR after that.**

Contact your local Merchants Bank Personal Banker to get started, or apply online now.

*http://www.homeadvisor.com/cost

**Subject to credit approval. As of June 15, 2017, the Annual Percentage Rate on a home equity line of credit with an 80% or less loan-to-value and a credit score greater than or equal to 700 was 4.00%. This special offer has fixed-rate pricing as low as 2.9% APR for the first six months, based on relationship reward discounts. Following that six-month period, the rate will become variable, subject to change, based on U.S. Bank, N.A., prime rate plus a margin that is determined based on the loan-to-value in your home and your credit score at the time of application. Current rates vary from 4.00% to 6.75% APR. Maximum possible APR is 18%. Minimum possible APR is 4.00% An origination fee may apply, in addition, you are responsible for certain fees to third parties, such as appraisers, credit reporting firms and government agencies, which are generally from $100–$1,000. Following the first year, there will be an annual fee of $25. Offer available on new home equity lines of $10,000 or more only or on existing lines of credit with an increase of at least $10,000. Consult your tax advisor regarding the deductibility of interest expense. Property insurance will be required. Limited time offer.

Attend our September and October Events

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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.