Meet Sarah Danielson, Commercial Banker and Cash Management Specialist

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Sarah Danielson, Commercial Banker and Cash Management Specialist

Get to know more about Sarah Danielson and how she approaches working with businesses every day.

When did you start your banking career?
Sarah: I started working as a Teller in 1994. At the time, I worked mostly with commercial customers and really enjoyed learning about that side of banking. When I had the chance to apply for a job in the Loan Review area, I took it. In Loan Review, I spent my time analyzing business financials and while I really enjoyed it, I missed being in front of people. Ultimately, I knew the best path would be to become a Commercial Banker so I could use all of my knowledge and interact with customers again.

What do you like most about your job?
Sarah: I enjoy being there for my customers through the ups and downs of their businesses. Owning a business isn’t always easy – I know first hand – and I can relate to what it’s like for my business customers day in and day out. I have a tremendous amount of respect for them. It’s so encouraging to see people believe in themselves and have the courage to take the next step in establishing or running their business.

Share your top business/commercial banking tip.
Sarah: The secret to success is having a full understanding of what you’re doing. You might wonder how that’s possible. Start by surrounding yourself with a team of trusted experts, like a lawyer, accountant and a banker, just to name a few.

What do you hope your customers say about working with you?
Sarah: I hope they see me as a trusted partner…someone who has knowledge to share, but also looks out for their best interests.

Can you help businesses assess which business banking options would be most beneficial? How does this process work?
Sarah: Definitely. It’s as simple as sitting down and taking the time to listen to a customer. I try to uncover their true needs and pair that with my knowledge from being in such a wide variety of banking positions helps me make the best recommendation(s).

What does community banking mean to you?
Sarah: It’s gratifying to be part of a banking team where employees are so dedicated to improving the community professionally, through their work helping businesses grow, and personally, through volunteer and service work. I believe in community and community banking.

What are some of the biggest benefits to a business to working with a Merchants Bank Commercial Banker?
Sarah: I think we’re different because our team is interested helping businesses with their entire banking experience, from loans to deposits and cash management tools. I’m not just your lender. I want to be your banker and someone who provides the best guidance about your financial picture.

Teresa Fegyak and Tina Bechtel Take on Additional Responsibilities at Merchants Bank in Spring Grove

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Teresa Fegyak, Personal Banker

Teresa Fegyak and Tina Bechtel have taken on additional responsibilities at Merchants Bank in Spring Grove. Fegyak is now a Personal Banker and Bechtel is now Customer Service Representative/Lead Teller, according to Matt Schuldt, President of Merchants Bank in Spring Grove and Caledonia.

“Teresa and Tina have great relationships with our customers in Spring Grove, and those customers will benefit more from the additional skill and service they will provide,”Schuldt said.

As a Personal Banker, Fegyak will now be able to help customers with consumer loans in addition to deposit accounts. She has been with the Merchants organization since 2000, when she started working with Merchants Bank in Caledonia. She moved to the Spring Grove branch in 2010.

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Tina Bechtel, Customer Service Representative/ Lead Teller

“Instead of having to refer customers who may need a loan to another banker, I’ll be able to help them. This will be more convenient for our great customers,”Fegyak said.

Bechtel, who has been serving as Lead Teller in both the Spring Grove and Caledonia locations, will add the Customer Service Representative responsibilities to her duties and focus on the Spring Grove location.

“With my additional responsibilities I look forward to helping people even more when they see us in Spring Grove,”Bechtel said.

Rhonda Merchlewitz Moves to Winona as Mortgage Loan Officer

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Rhonda Merchlewitz, Mortgage Loan Officer

Merchants Bank Mortgage Loan Officer Rhonda Merchlewitz has moved from St. Charles to Winona to meet the expanding need in the Winona market, according to Sue Hovell, Director of Retail Banking Performance.

“We’re excited to have Rhonda join our team in Winona,”Hovell said. “In addition to her skills with conventional mortgage loans, Rhonda is also very knowledgeable with other types of loans, including VA, FHA, Rural Development and Minnesota Housing. She is also an expert in our construction loans, which is perfect for people considering building.”

Merchlewitz has been in banking since 1998 and has been part of the Merchants team since 2004, working with customers in Merchants Bank in St. Charles, as well as serving the mortgage needs for the Merchants Bank locations in Rushford and Lanesboro.

“It’s been a great joy to work with my customers over the years, and meet their needs. I’ve enjoyed working with people several times as repeat customers and then helping their children as well,”Merchlewitz said. “I look forward to building the same sort of relationships with customers in Winona. It’s an exciting time for me.”

Merchlewitz spent time living in Winona before her move to Merchants in St. Charles. She said she is looking forward to a smooth transition, where she will meet the needs of current customers as she establishes her presence in Winona. Tami Krause will be taking on the new role of serving mortgage customers in St. Charles, as will Kari Johnson in Rushford and Lanesboro.

Biebel Joins Merchants Bank as Mortgage Operations Manager

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Dan Biebel, Mortgage Operations Manager

Dan Biebel has joined Merchants Bank as Vice President and Mortgage Operations Manager, according to Cindy Harrison, Senior Vice President for Credit Administration.

“We are excited to have Dan join our team. He has the experience and expertise in both mortgage sales and operations to successfully guide this critical area of our organization,”Harrison said.

As the leader of the mortgage operations area, Biebel will guide the 40 employees who support and process mortgage loans for Merchants’21 locations, as well as the 164 other community banking locations and credit unions across five states that make up Merchants Bank’s correspondent mortgage banking network.

“This is an exciting role with an organization with a well-known and growing reputation for excellence. I am looking forward to helping propel the continued growth of this area through providing exceptional service throughout the mortgage process to both our internal and external customers,”Biebel said.

Biebel has been in the mortgage industry since 1984, including time serving in leadership roles for LenderLive Network and TruHome Solutions, companies with both a regional and national presence. Biebel and his wife, Kathy, have two grown children.

Tammy Johnson Named Cash Management Sales Manager for the Merchants Bank Organization

Tammy Johnson, Cash Management Officer

Tammy Johnson, Cash Management Sales Manager

Tammy Johnson has been promoted to Assistant Vice President and Cash Management Sales Manager, according to Sue Hovell, Director of Retail Banking Performance for Merchants Bank.

Johnson will be the cash management sales and market support for the local teams at all 21 Merchants Bank locations in Minnesota and Wisconsin. She had been the Cash Management officer for the organization’s southern tier of banks since 2011 and has been with Merchants Bank for 17 years.

“Cash management products and services are designed to save businesses time and money, protect against any potential fraudulent activity and create opportunities for those businesses to grow,” Johnson said. “I look forward to working with experts at our locations to present the best options available for our current and future customers.”

The cash management/treasury management area is a focus for the Merchants Bank organization.

“Being able to service relationships locally sets us apart,” Hovell said. “With Tammy working with the local teams the result will be exceptional service for our customers. It is part of the personal relationship our tellers, customer service representatives, personal bankers and commercial bankers offer to all our customers. They look forward to applying their knowledge to develop solutions unique to your business and tailored for success.”

Johnson will support Merchants Bank 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. She will also support Wisconsin locations in Eau Claire and Onalaska. All banks are FDIC members and equal housing lenders. Subject to credit approval. Additionally, Twin Cities-based Merchants Bank Equipment Finance is also a division of Merchants Bank, N.A.

Katie Lund Joins Merchants Bank in Rochester as a Mortgage Lender

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Katie Lund, Mortgage Lender

Katie Lund has joined Merchants Bank in Rochester as a Mortgage Lender, according to John Doyle, President of Merchants Bank in Rochester.

Lund has been part of the Merchants Bank team since 2008, when she joined Merchants Bank Equipment Finance (then known as Merchants Capital Resources). Since 2013, she has worked at Merchants Bank in Rosemount as a Mortgage Loan Coordinator.

“Katie brings a great deal of knowledge and experience with the mortgage origination process, which will be an immediate benefit to our customers,”Doyle said. “She puts the needs of our customers first, and she is dedicated to making sure those needs are met. I know people will enjoy working with her.”

Lund’s office will be at Merchants Bank’s Northwest Plaza location. She is a native of St. Charles, MN, and has recently moved to Rochester with her family.

“I’m familiar with the needs of the individuals and families who are part of the Rochester market,”Lund said. “I’m excited to help people realize their dreams of home ownership with the programs and support we can offer at Merchants. Given the very active Rochester housing market, I’m especially looking forward to helping people get pre-qualified for their loans, so they can be first in line when they make an offer on their next home.”

Best Practices in Risk Management

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Previously we discussed risk assessment and how, while it is both an IT and human undertaking, most risk assessments need to start and end with business processes. After you have conducted a risk assessment, it might seem that you simply need to review the assessment and determine which risks should be reduced or eliminated. While this is true, managing risk goes beyond responding to a risk assessment process. In this article, we’ll take up the topic of risk management, which involves dealing with a continuum of risks.

Categorizing Risk
Before you can begin to manage risk, it can be helpful to segment your potential risks into categories for further definition and review. Typically, risks can be placed in one of three categories:

  1. Known Knowns are risks are a part of our industry, business, or simply part of our lives. For example, almost every business using electronic payments the danger lies in being hacked, losing customer credit or debit card information, or having funds misdirected by a criminal – or even by human error.
  2. Known Unknowns are risks that cannot be foreseen, but can be understood. For example, while the risk of a computer/network system being hacked is a known risk, it is unknown who will do it, where it will come from or the purpose of the hack.
  3. Unknown Unknowns are risks you only see in hindsight only. Recent technology events that fit this class of risks include the “poodle’ and ‘heart bleed’ vulnerabilities. Both of these highly technical vulnerabilities actually existed in thousands of computer systems for decades but were completely innocent until someone discovered they could be exploited for malicious intent. It is quite possible that many more of these unknown unknowns exist in the computer systems we rely on every day.

Risk Management Practices
With these three categories in mind, you can establish risk management practices for your business. When considering the first two categories, your risk assessment can help you rank and rate each risk, its potential to occur and, if it occurs, the magnitude of its impact. From here, risk management policies can help you handle risks effectively and in a reasonable manner. For example, if a very low probability risk would have catastrophic results for your business, it may be a matter of policy that your company would work at reducing or eliminating that risk regardless of the risk assessment score.

Risk management is an active and ongoing process. Once policy is in place, a set of operating standards are needed to set expectations for IT and other staff who deal with risks. Standards may include existing controls or new controls to help reduce or eliminate risks. For example, one operating standard could be to have an out of band authentication (a process of secure verification of your staff member) on any online corporate funds transfer. Beyond existing controls, risk management standards could include requiring risks of a certain magnitude will be handled within a set number of days. If the risk is not resolved within that time frame, management can review and discuss why the risk is not yet reduced, and take additional action or, in some cases, decide to extend the time to cure the risk.

Once risk is reduced, it’s important to complete a review of the ‘residual’ risk, that risk which cannot be eliminated. For example, using out of band authentication reduces the risk of a bad actor transferring funds, but there is still the risk of human error in posting the funds, transferring to the wrong person or entity, and the like. These risks may then be addressed through procedures or processes.

Processes establish the methodology for meeting policy requirements at the level set by standards. In the funds transfer example above, using out of band authentication reduces the technology risk that money will be stolen. However, internal processes still need to be established to reduce the risk of human error. Moreover, and while disturbing to consider, more incidents of employee theft have been cited in recent years. Therefore, separation of duties and normal, traditional human control mechanisms are just as important as technical risk management.

The following six steps briefly summarize the risk management process:

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Risk management needs be an ongoing and integral part of your business management today. Technology risks are often more than purely IT issues and involve humans who conduct every part of your daily business. Especially when processes involve money, it is important to have these processes tied to policies and standards, which creates a measurable and defined set of risk management capabilities. Finally, while all three are tied together, it is important to manage risk dynamically as the risk environment changes