Merchants Homegrown Approach to Leadership Development

IBelieveLeadershipSeries-Blog

L-R: Alberta Rosburg, Heidi Viestenz, Alissa Gibson, Mike Swanson, Andrew Althoff, Libbie Longfield, Marcus Krings, Vicky Kamrowski, Sarah Danielson, Dawn Stenberg, Sue Blagsvedt, Kim Kubis, Jim Vrchota, Wendy Cagle, Rachel Larson, Ken Graner and Kristine Valk.

We all want a team of talented staff. A business with skilled employees who care deeply about their customers is on the road to success. The people who work for your business can make a big difference. At Merchants, we feel this combination – our talented team coupled with personalized service – is what sets us apart from other financial institutions.

Attracting and retaining difference-makers as part of the Merchants team has always been important to us. We also feel it’s one of the reasons we’ve celebrated so many successes. That’s why we’re proud to have launched the I Believe Leadership Series, Discovering the Leader In You! in 2018. The program was designed by Merchants’ staff Kristine Valk, Training Director and Alberta Rosburg, Chief Human Resource Officer and is based on the philosophy of servant leadership.

“After recognizing that Merchants needed a leadership program, Kristine and I tried to find one that we could send our employees to,” said Alberta. “However, we quickly realized that if we wanted a program to reflect the Merchants’ culture, we needed to develop it ourselves. I’m so proud of Kristine, all of her hard work and the end result. The 15 students currently attending are growing in new ways to help them be servant leaders for our co-workers and customers.”

Students in the I Believe Leadership Series are from several areas of the Bank, including customer-facing departments such as Credit Cards, Mortgage and Commercial Banking as well as support departments like Compliance & Risk, Human Resources, Marketing and Mortgage/Loan Operations. The program curriculum covers a wide range of topics, relevant for those working with customers face-to-face or behind the scenes:

  • Temperament assessment and working with different personalities
  • Effective coaching skills
  • Understanding and applying strengths
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Communication and conflict resolution
  • Leading through change
  • Employee motivation and accountability
  • Team building

At this time, students are approximately halfway through the series. Many are already seeing a positive impact in their day-to-day interactions with customers and co-workers.

“The I Believe Leadership Series has been such a valuable and positive experience thus far. Fifteen of us have learned about servant leadership and how to focus on traits that lead to good, productive interactions on both a professional and personal level. The section on Finding your Strengths has been one of my favorites to date. A test identified five of our strengths as well as ideas on how to use them to strengthen communication. It’s exciting to think about how each of us will benefit from these new skills and knowledge. “– Wendy Cagle, Loan Review Officer in Winona.

“The information from the program has helped me be more focused on my conversations with customers and associates during my daily interaction,” – Ken Graner, Market President for Lanesboro and Rushford.

In addition, Training Director Kristine Valk has witnessed the impact of the series firsthand: “Before the program began, some of our participants didn’t really know one another. As we continued through the program, attendees have learned more about one another and are embracing each other’s talents. It’s really become an environment of trust and openness that’s resulted in more collaborative work.”

The program will run on an annual basis with current students graduating in April 2019 and a maximum of 20 new students beginning the series shortly after that. As part of one of five strategic priorities for the bank, talent management and leadership development will continue to be a key focus for Merchants in the years to come. Our I Believe in Leadership Series graduates will help all of us strive to serve each other and you better.

To learn more about working at Merchants Bank:

A Guide to Getting More: ScoreCard Rewards

ScoreCard Rewards Points Merchandise

Are you getting the most out of the scorecard rewards you earn with a Merchants Bank Visa ScoreCard Credit Card? If you’re earning points, this guide will help you understand:

  • The basics about your rewards points
  • How to view and redeem points
  • Some of our favorite suggestions for redeeming your points

The Basics

How Points are Earned

You automatically earn points with each purchase. Typically for every dollar you spend, you earn one reward point.

However, if you take advantage of our ScoreMore program, you can earn 2x, 3x, 4x or more points. All you have to do is shop at participating retailers, which change throughout the year. You can always find current retailers by visiting the ScoreMore section on the ScoreCard Rewards website.

Your Current Points Balance

Your points balance is available through your account at scorecardrewards.com, mycardstatement.com, or at the top of your monthly credit card statement.

Keep in mind that unredeemed points expire after five years on March 31. For example, points you accumulated in 2014, will expire on March 31, 2019.

Who to Contact

We’re always here to answer your credit card and ScoreCard rewards questions. If you would like help with:

  • Your credit card account: call (800) 944-6285 or email cc@merchantsbank.com (for your safety, please do not send personal information such as account numbers via email).
  • ScoreCard rewards, including questions about your balance or help redeeming points: (800) 854-0790
  • Travel Services, such as booking a flight or car rental with points: (855) 843-5005

Bonus Tip: If you have more than one Merchants Bank Visa ScoreCard, you can have points earned from multiple cards accumulate to one card, making your rewards build up faster. Just contact the Credit Card department for help setting this up.

How to View and Redeem Your Rewards Points

To view your points and redeem, just visit the ScoreCard Rewards website and login. You can also click the View Rewards button when accessing your credit card account through the mycardstatement.com website. Your points balance will then show up at the top of your screen.

From here, follow the steps in this video to redeem your points:

ScoreCard Rewards Video

Redemption Suggestions

When you want to redeem your points, Scorecard Rewards offers a wide variety of items and experiences to choose from. Some of our favorites include:

  • Gift cards. From department stores to movie theaters, you can turn your points into cash at your favorite retailers.
  • Points can also be redeemed for airline tickets, hotel stays, car rentals and more. Plus, if you need help booking your trip, just contact our Travel Rewards experts at the phone number listed above.
  • Had your hopes on a new iPad? Accumulate enough points and it can be yours. ScoreCard Rewards has a great selection of handheld devices for you to choose from.

Using your ScoreCard rewards points efficiently can help make your money go further. Visit our website to learn more about the Merchants Bank Visa ScoreCard Credit Card and our other credit card options. And if you’re ready to start earning rewards, apply now.

Questions About Your Loan?

 

Loan Servicing Team

Merchants Loan Servicing is Here to Help

As soon as you’ve closed your loan with Merchants Bank, you’re able to chat with one of our most knowledgeable and useful resources: the Loan Servicing department.

Consisting for 16 employees, the Loan Servicing department is prepared to assist you with practically any question related to your loan. Really. Keep reading to learn how Loan Servicing can help you and the top questions department experts are asked.

How to Contact Loan Servicing

Before we dive in, here is how you can reach our Loan Servicing department to ask your loan questions.

To help keep your personal information safe, the department verifies each caller’s identity and uses encrypted email services.

Meet the Team & How They Help

The department is made up of 15 full-time employees and one part-time employee. Loan Servicing has many seasoned employees; the average banking experience of the staff is 13 years and average loan servicing experience is nine years. When you call us, you’re truly talking to a loan expert.

By the numbers, Loan Servicing:

  • Receives approximately 5,000 calls per month from customers and staff who have loan questions.
  • Sends out 12,000 loan payment books every year.
  • Sends out more than 9,800 mortgage statements each month.

In addition to more FAQ questions below, the department can also help you:

  • With any questions regarding your loan payments, how payments are applied to your loan, loan payment books or billing statements.
  • Estimate an early loan pay off date if you’d like to pay extra on your loan.
  • Calculate principal payments to meet an early payoff goal.
  • Setup or change an automatic loan payment.
  • Keep track of your escrow information, from bill payments to helping distribute funds to complete repairs on the damaged property covered by insurance.

Frequently Asked Questions

Our Loan Servicing department is asked thousands of questions each month, but here are some of the most popular. Is your question not on the list? If your loan has closed, they are here to help at the email or phone number listed above.

Questions Covering All Loans (Personal, Mortgage and Business)

Q: Can I change my payment due date?
A: Only for certain types of loans:

  • Personal loans (excluding mortgages) – Contact your Lender to request changing your payment due date.
  • Mortgage loans – Due to Secondary Market requirements (of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac), mortgage payments must be scheduled on the 1st of the month.

Q: Can you help me figure out how to pay off my loan early?
A: Yes, just call or email Loan Servicing. Make sure to include the date (either today’s date or one in the near future) and you’ll receive payoff information verbally or in statement form based on your preference.

If you plan to pay off your loan early and have automatic payments set up, please contact Loan Servicing a few days before your final loan payment. This will provide enough time to cancel your automatic payment and minimize the chances of a duplicate payment.

Q: During tax season, what kind of information can you provide about my loan?
A: Each year Loan Servicing will send you a 1098 statement, which includes much of the tax information you’ll need:

  • Interest paid on your loan for the year
  • Year-end principal balance
  • If applicable, information on the property securing the loan

If you have questions anytime throughout the year – not just at tax time – the department is always able to provide you with your current loan balance.

Q: I think my loan payment was late. When will I be assessed a late fee?
A: Mortgage loans have a 15-day grace period before late fees are assessed. Other personal loans and business loans have a 10-day grace period.

Q: My loan payment is scheduled to pull electronically after the due date each month, so why am I receiving a past due reminder?
A: When a loan payment is unpaid for at least seven days past the payment due date a payment reminder is sent as a courtesy. If you would like to avoid receiving this reminder, Loan Servicing suggests changing your automated payment to no later than five days after the payment due date.

Questions Specific to Mortgage Loans

Q: What happens to the extra money I send to the bank when I round up my mortgage payment?
A: Any additional money on top of your monthly payment is automatically applied to the principal of your loan. By applying extra money to the principal, a borrower can reduce the amount of overall interest paid on their loan.

Q: Can I make partial payments on my mortgage by making a payment twice per month?
A: Unfortunately, no. Because our mortgage loans follow Secondary Market guidelines (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac), if we receive a partial mortgage payment, we are not allowed to keep that payment and must return it to the borrower.

Q: My monthly mortgage payment is set up for electronic payment. Can I opt out of receiving the monthly billing statement or choose to receive the statement electronically?
A: Merchants Bank is required by law to mail out monthly mortgage statements for loans with electronic payments. At this time, we do not offer mortgage statements online.

Remember, if you have any questions about your loan after it’s closed our Loan Servicing team is here to help.

To learn more about our loan options, click one of the links below:

Related Article: Why, What and How: Merchants Bank Mortgage Underwriting

Congratulate New and Promoted Staff

NewPromotedStaff-Blog

New Staff

Nicole Alleva-Dickey Nicole Alleva-Dickey, Teller, Rosemount
Jodi Butler Jodi Butler, Lead Computer Operator, Winona – Downtown
Paul Butze Paul Butze, VP/Senior Regional Vendor Finance Manager, Merchants Bank Equipment Finance
Jenna Carducci Jenna Carducci, Credit Administration Representative, Winona – Downtown
DillingerCindy Cindy Dillinger, Electronic Banking Specialist, Winona – Downtown
DodsonKristin Kristin Dodson, Teller, Lakeville
FlynnOlivia Olivia Flynn, Credit Administration Representative, Winona
FossumCathy Cathy Fossum, Teller, Winona – Downtown
Victoria Fox Victoria Fox, Teller, Cannon Falls
Chris Haldorson Chris Haldorson, Document Transaction Coordinator, Merchants Bank Equipment Finance
HallTaylor Taylor Hall, Teller, Winona – Lakeside
HundtTrudy Trudy Hundt, Custodian, Winona
JeffriesAustin Austin Jeffries, Teller, Winona – Downtown
Amanda Kauphusman Amanda Kauphusman, Credit Administration Representative, Winona
KiefferLinda Linda Kieffer, Teller, St. Charles
Kaitlin Knott Kaitlin Knott, Teller, Winona – Downtown
LewandowskiRenee Renee Lewandowski, Teller, Onalaska
Conray Ligon Conray Ligon, Electronic Banking Specialist, Winona – Downtown
Chris Livingston Chris Livingston, Trust Associate, Winona – Downtown
Connor Murray Connor Murray, Teller, Cottage Grove
Linh Nguyen Linh Nguyen, Database Applications Developer, Winona – Downtown
PierretDave Dave Pierret, Commercial Banker/VP, Winona – Downtown
Adrian Quilling Adrian Quilling, Customer Service Representative/Lending Assistant, Rosemount
Keela Renswick Keela Renswick, Mortgage Loan Processor, Winona
Whitney Rud Whitney Rud, Item Processor, Winona
Leeandra Schultz Leeandra Schultz, Custodian, Winona
Megan Schultz Megan Schultz, Teller, Cannon Falls
Hope Thilmany Hope Thilmany, Teller, Winona – Downtown
Sue Thilmany Sue Thilmany, Loan Servicing Representative, Winona – Downtown
ThompsonLisa Lisa Thompson, Teller, St. Charles
WesterbergBrittany Brittany Westerberg, Teller, Hastings
Stephanie Wolowicz Stephanie Wolowicz, Customer Service Representative, La Crescent

Transfers and Promotions

AhlmanJoe Joe Ahlman, Electronic Banking Specialist, Winona – Downtown
Penny Beyers Penny Beyers, Credit Administration Representative, Winona
Nancy Brommerich Nancy Brommerich, Director of Customer Assistance, Winona – Downtown
DeckerCory Cory Decker, Electronic Banking Specialist, Winona – Downtown
FernholzJennifer Jennifer Fernholz, Junior Credit Analyst, Winona
GlodowskiBecky Becky Glodowski, Credit Administration Representative, Winona
Laura Greseth Laura Greseth, Credit Analyst Manager/AVP, Winona
Sarah Kiekhoefer Sarah Kiekhoefer, Credit Administration Systems Officer, Winona
Josie Montgomery Josie Montgomery, Lending Assistant, Winona – Downtown
ThruneChris Chris Thrune, Underwriter, Winona
Molli Vodak Molli Vodak, Lending Assistant, Winona – Downtown
warnkenshelby Shelby Warnken, Teller/Vault Attendant, Winona – Downtown
Larissa Verbeke Larissa Verbeke, Junior Credit Analyst, Winona
Kaitlyn Ziebell Kaitlyn Ziebell, Residential Appraisal Specialist, Winona

From the President’s Desk: Fall 2018

From the President

By Greg Evans, President & CEO

As I’m writing this the day after Labor Day, the youngest of our four grandchildren is starting her first day of pre-school. It was a big day for Avery… about as big as it can get for a 3-year-old girl and hopefully the start of a discipline of life-long learning. A bit surprisingly, she wasn’t nervous or afraid; she was dressed, ready and wanting to go to school almost two hours before it was time for her to start. I doubt it will always be that way.

Aside from making me feel old, this gave me pause and made me think of the tremendous opportunities and challenges that all children heading back to school will encounter as they navigate through life in this day and age. Many of the challenges today are vastly different from when I was in school. Some… like the basic fundamentals associated with fiscal fitness and financial literacy… are quite the same.

As new freshmen reported to Winona State University for orientation two weeks ago, one of our Personal Banking Managers in Winona, Chad Woyczik, was asked to conduct one of the orientation sessions and provide an important tutorial on the important components of sound money management. Helping people of all ages in that regard is what makes the profession of community banking so rewarding.

Being fully committed to assisting all of our clients in realizing their financial hopes and dreams in a disciplined manner is a critical component of our brand promise to be The Bank that Service Built. Like all banking organizations, Merchants offers a wide variety of financial products and services designed to meet the needs of both local businesses and different generations of personal customers.

What we hope is different about our delivery of those products and services is our commitment to trust-based servicing of our client relationships — matching service recommendations with clearly identified needs of our customers. This method of listening to our clients, thinking about the solutions we have that can solve financial objectives and recommending the appropriate solutions when it makes absolute sense is the approach we expect all members of our banking team to follow.

So, what are some of the key ingredients to strong fiscal fitness?

Have Advisors You Can Trust

Whether it be with professional members of the Merchants team or elsewhere, develop a strong sense of confidence that the people advising you on financial matters have your best interests in mind.

Pay Yourself First

A critical foundation of any strong approach to financial management is making a savings strategy a priority. At Merchants, we can assist in numerous ways based on your personal needs with banking and wealth management products and services.

Borrow Wisely

When it comes to financing options that may be appropriate for achieving some hopes and dreams (a new house, starting a business, a dream vacation, as examples), borrowing money in a disciplined manner is critically important.

Working again with a trusted advisor who is willing to challenge you and be transparent about the challenges that come with taking on too much debt is the type of approach that will allow you to make well-informed decisions as it relates to credit.

Protect Your Information

In today’s age of e-commerce and the continued digitization of banking solutions, we have unbelievable convenience in accessing financial services and solutions. With this convenience comes increased risk associated with the protection of your private personal information.

Be diligent in following important security protocols advised by your providers. If something seems strange about a request for private personal information, assume that it probably is. Be cautious and diligent in verification anytime you are asked for information related to your private identity or your financial affairs.

In alignment with our community service commitment, we encourage our bankers to be a resource for building strong fiscal literacy throughout our entire service footprint. If you have a group or school that would benefit from having a Merchants team member provide some instruction on topics associated with personal financial management, simply reach out to your local branch. We welcome any opportunity to serve as a resource for something as important as this.

Working Hard to Make it Work

DairyIndustry-Blog

Burfeind Dairy employees (l-r): Alfredo Figueroa, Grace Figueroa, Bo Dankers, David Burfeind, Sheila Burfeind, Peter Burfeind holding Brooks Burfeind and Patti Robertson of Merchants Bank.

Those who have paid attention to the dairy industry know it’s been a roller coaster for farmers, with the ride hitting some lows over the past several years, and continuing to be challenging for many farmers.

In 2014, milk prices were at record highs, and things were relatively good for dairy farmers. In September of 2014, prices peaked at $25.70 per hundredweight (100 pounds) for milk, on the average nationally. Over the past three years, prices have been lower and they have bottomed out at $15.30 per hundredweight in February of this year.

Another indicator of challenging times was at the monthly dairy sale in early May in Pipestone, Minnesota, where the going price of “springers” – cows about to give birth – averaged $1,332, the lowest price since November of 2011. The overall size of the dairy herd was also down by 4,000 cows in Minnesota, according to the Milk Producers Council newsletter.

This has made every move count for dairy farmers.

“Unless you are in a niche market, it can be challenging,” said Goodhue dairy farmer Peter Burfeind.

Making a Go of It In Organics

One person who is in a niche market is Merchants Bank Commercial Banker, Kim O’Reilly, who with her husband, Casey, operates an organic dairy farm where they milk about 100 cows.

She said that back in 2014 and 2015 the cooperative they were working with needed more milk, so they were asked to produce more milk.

“But, it takes time to increase production as it doesn’t occur overnight,” Kim said. “So we have worked to get our production up, and now they have placed a quota limiting the milk the cooperative will take at the current price and are paying less than cost for the amount over quota.”

The Future is Brighter

Overall milk production is starting to slow down lessening the supply in the marketplace, and that means that the prices have started to tick up, Peter said. That sentiment was echoed by dairy expert Dr. Bob Cropp, of the University of Wisconsin-Extension, as noted in the May 25, 2018, Wisconsin Ag Connection newsletter. Cropp said that milk production needs to slow down if prices are going to gain traction again.

Peter, who milks 300 cows at the family operation which started in 1965, said the slowing of production should mean better prices six months from now, and he is hopeful that the smaller producers can stay around to enjoy that benefit, “but we really don’t know for sure where the industry is going.”

Cropp was in agreement in his May 25 column, saying: “Milk prices are expected to strengthen and possibly top out in October or November.”

It’s Nothing New

For many farmers, farming is part of their family history and it gets in their blood. Over the years, they have been through the ups and downs of the economic cycles. They remain resilient and optimistic.

“Farmers work hard day in and day out, but I truly believe it is a great life and a true blessing to be a farmer,” Kim said.

A Part of Merchants Bank Too

O’Reilly pointed out that experience with farming is something that she thinks sets Merchants apart from the other financial institutions working in the Ag sector.

In addition to O’Reilly, who is based in Cannon Falls and Red Wing, Senior Lender Brian Hokanson is also a farmer and also based in Cannon Falls and Red Wing. Lenders like Patti Robertson, who is based in Red Wing and works with the Burfeinds, has decades of experience in Ag, as does Jim Peterson in Cannon Falls.

Jim Allen, Tim Gossman and Blake Koebke help farmers in St. Charles. Matt Schuldt in Caledonia and Spring Grove and Ken Graner in Rushford and Lanesboro have years of experience working with farmers. Dustin Hundt and Senior Lender Shawn Sackman work with farmers out of the Onalaska location. Our Winona location includes Jim Vrchota and Senior Lender Randy Domeyer. Recent additions, like Jerad Brown in Rushford and Kaleb Storm in Winona, who grew up on the family farm and also has experience with helping vineyards, make up our Ag team.

Here’s more on what Merchants Bank’s ag financing and the lenders who may be able to help.