Flying South, Snowbird? Make sure your finances stay secure!

Older Couple Biking

Are you still planning to head south for the winter? If so, you may have even more on your mind than usual this year as you prepare to travel. Keep in mind these three tips to ensure smooth sailing while you’re somewhere warm.

1. Communicate your change of address

There are several businesses that should be aware of your change of address for the winter season, including Merchants Bank. To ensure you continue to receive important financial, medical or family information or to discontinue specific subscription services, you should contact the following regarding your address change:

  • Your bank
  • The Post Office
  • Your local newspaper (if you have it delivered)
  • Other delivery services

To alert Merchants Bank of your address change, stop in or call your local branch, or even submit a secure message in Online Banking to let us know of the change. Please include dates of departure and return as well as the names of other account holders living at your address.

2. Know how to access your bank account information.

Managing your money across a few states or a country is critical to helping you feel at ease during your trip. Make sure you are comfortable with getting information about your accounts and managing your money through with the following options:

  • Merchants Online Banking – Access on desktop and mobile. (TIP: set up account alerts, so you are notified of any activity).
  • Merchants Bank Credit Card App – To control your Merchants Bank credit card.
  • CardValet – To control your Merchants Bank debit card.
  • Give your local branch a call – Make sure you know your privacy code. If you’ve forgotten, stop in to your local branch to be reminded or set one up. That way we can verify your identity.

3. Be diligent in protecting your identity.

In the course of your travels, there are a number of circumstances that could impact the chance of identity theft. You could lose track of a card, leave financial statements in the mailbox, or post publicly on a social media site that you’re out of town, which lets criminals know that your house is empty. Review our security tips to ensure that your personal information is safe.

During your travels stay safe, and be well!

Retiring Market President Steve Christiansen Reflects on Nearly 30 Years with Merchants

Steve Christiansen started his financial career in 1979 before coming to Merchants Bank in 1990. Steve spent time as a Commercial Banker, a Business Development Officer and most recently the Market President for our Onalaska and La Crescent branches. He also served as a Board Member for four years. After nearly 30 years of service to Merchants, Steve will retire on December 1, 2020 and before his last day reflected on his career.

Q: What is one of your fondest memories of working at Merchants?

I vividly remember opening our Onalaska branch in 2003…just the energy, the people that came to celebrate it and knowing how much hard work was put into it. It was a very exciting time.

Another wonderful memory is from one of the earliest 10 Days of Giving campaigns when my daughters presented the ceremonial first gift of food. It’s so neat to see that campaign grow over the last 30+ years.

Q: Do you have any fun stories you’d like to share?

I’ve been here many years, so it’s hard to identify a single story. But really what makes this job fun is the people: the customers you get to work with, learning about their business and what they do day-to-day. There are so many unique businesses out there and it’s a privilege to learn about their expertise and help them thrive.

Q: What makes Merchants special?

It really comes down to the people. You need people to make things happen, and it’s the employees, the board members and of course the customers that really make the Merchants culture so special. I don’t know that many places feel as much like a family as Merchants does.

Q: Why did you decide to spend most of your career with Merchants?

There are many reasons, but the biggest one is that I had opportunities. I was able to grow, to move to different areas, to learn, adjust, meet more people. Over 20 years, I’ve kept having great experiences and getting out into our community and making a positive difference in people’s lives was always supported. That’s an important piece for me.

Q: What wisdom do you want to leave your Merchants family with? 

Simply: focus on people. Your customers, your team, those in your community. All we can do is genuinely care about each other. The extent to which we do that – care – is a big piece of our Merchants culture and part of what makes us unique.

It really all comes down to practicing the Golden Rule: treat others as you would like to be treated.

Q: What are you excited about for Merchants Future?

When I started at Merchants, it was a $250 million organization. Today, our assets are over $2 billion. The growth we’ve been able to see is tremendous, and I’m excited to see where and how Merchants continues to grow and adapt to our changing world.

Jennifer Welch Named 10 Days of Giving Chair

Jennifer Welch, 10 Days of Giving Chair

Jennifer Welch has again been named the Chair for Merchants Bank’s 2020 10 Days of Giving food drive, which runs December 1-10. The effort, which benefits food shelf programs operated by Winona Volunteer Services (WVS), will be celebrating its 32nd year. To date, more than 3.7 million pounds of food have been collected.

“We are dedicated to serving our Winona community, no matter the current conditions. We are thankful for the generosity of the Winona community over the last 31 years in supporting this annual campaign to help those who have needs in our community,” said Regional President Andrew Guzzo.

This year there will still be a variety of special events that can be conducted safely, including a Pack the Bus to Drive Out Hunger event on December 5 in the Merchants Bank – Downtown parking lot. The Friday Night Fish Fry will be held on December 4 by offering exclusively takeout orders from Eagles Club #1243. Last year’s campaign raised 236,495 pounds of food for WVS.

“While we had to re-think how we were going to do this campaign this year, there is still a very real need that our friends and neighbors in this community have for the support that WVS provides. It is an honor to be the Chair for this campaign and a privilege to work with our incredible team and community that makes this event a success,” Welch said. Welch is a Customer Service Representative as well as the Bank’s Events and Adventures Coordinator. This is her seventh year leading the coordination of the campaign.

There continues to be a need in the area. So far in 2020, Winona Volunteer Services helped over 700 households through their food shelf or emergency food services.

More than ever this year, monetary donations will be the safest and most efficient way to support WVS. Monetary donations can be made out to 10 Days of Giving and 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: http://www.winonavs.org. Indicate “10 Days of Giving” after entering your name. For questions, please call Jennifer Welch at (507) 457-1108.

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 3.7 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.

Merchants’ Solid Earnings Report Allows for Dividend Declaration

Greg Evans, President & CEO

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

As a result of solid earnings performance, the MFGI Board of Directors authorized retention of a semiannual dividend of 75 cents per share to shareholders during its October meeting. Dividends will be paid in December to shareholders of record as of November 20, 2020.

“Despite economic challenges, Merchants’ reputation as a trusted advisor for families, businesses and community partners has resulted in steady earnings for the third quarter. Our top priority remains working with customers and in our communities to be a resource of assistance and support during these difficult times,” said Evans.

Earnings through the third quarter were $14,717,981, which were $821,640 ahead of MFGI’s 2020 plan and $250,000 ahead of 2019 third-quarter performance. Quarterly earnings were profitable for MFGI even though the Company reversed $3.2 million out of income in the form of additional Allowance for Loan/Lease Loss Reserves as a precautionary measure due to possible future economic uncertainties.

MFGI’s residential mortgage lending operation continues to be the main driver of positive earnings results, with origination volume of $713.6 million and a net income contribution $6.97 million ahead of plan through the first three quarters. In addition, deposit growth continues to be strong, with year-over-year growth of 28% for total deposits of $2.3 billion.

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 clothing 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.

The ownership of Merchants Financial Group, Inc. is made up of its more than 440 employees and its shareholders, mostly individuals and families from southeastern Minnesota and west-central Wisconsin.

Merchants Bank is a full service community bank with 21 bank locations in southeastern Minnesota, two bank locations in 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. Member FDIC.

Kaleb Storm Promoted to Assistant Vice President/Commercial & Ag Banker at Merchants Bank

Kaleb Storm, AVP/Commercial & Ag Banker

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

“Kaleb has really earned this position. He has shown strong leadership skills, an understanding of our community and has been instrumental in our customers’ success as they grow,” said Christopherson.

Storm has been with Merchants as a Commercial & Ag Banker since April 2018. Since coming to Merchants, Storm has served Winona in more ways than financing local businesses. He also contributes his time to the Winona Area Chamber of Commerce both as an Ambassador as well as serving on the Agri-Business Committee, teaching Junior Achievement classes for area schools and with community-focused causes like 10 Days of Giving.

“It has been a privilege to serve the Winona community. I’m very fortunate to work with our wonderful customers and this incredible team. I look forward to continuing to be a trusted advisor and resource for businesses as we all work toward economic recovery,” said Storm.

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 lease 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 21 bank locations in southeastern Minnesota, two bank locations in 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.

Amanda King Promoted to Assistant Controller at Merchants Bank

Amanda King, Assistant Controller

Amanda King has been promoted to Assistant Controller at Merchants Bank, according to Sue Savat, Chief Financial Officer.

“Amanda is a cornerstone of the Finance team and continues to grow in her role as our company grows. This promotion is a reflection of her expertise and dedication to serving our staff just as we would a Merchants Bank customer,” said Savat.

King has been with Merchants Bank for more than two decades, beginning her career as a Teller in 1998. She joined the Finance Department in 2002 as a Reports Specialist and over the last 18 years she has been promoted to Accounting Specialist and most recently Senior Accounting Specialist.

“I’ve really appreciated the opportunity to grow in my career over last 20 years at Merchants. We have a wonderful team and I enjoy supporting them, so they can support our customers,” King.

Amanda lives in Caledonia on a farm with her husband, Luke, and their four daughters, Jovial, Regan, Kensey and Bayla.

Merchants Bank is a full service community bank with 21 bank locations in southeastern Minnesota, two bank locations in 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.

Rachel Larson Promoted to Manager of Collections at Merchants Bank

Rachel Larson. Manager of Collections

Rachel Larson has been promoted to Manager of Collections at Merchants Bank, according to Mark McGrory, Chief Credit Officer.

“Rachel is the perfect fit to lead our Collections team. Not only does she understand the risk management side of our business, but as a 20-year veteran on the Merchants Bank team she knows our culture and understands that taking care of our customers is what makes Merchants Bank a great community bank,” said McGrory.

Larson has been with Merchants Bank since 1999 and as an integral part of the Bank’s Audit/Compliance team for the past 16 years, most recently as a Risk Management Officer. Larson also graduated from Merchants’ home-grown leadership program, the I Believe Leadership Series, in 2019.

In her new role as Manager of Collections, she will work with individual loan customers who are experiencing financial hardship and help them with an appropriate workout plan. As an area that affects the overall credit quality of the Bank, Larson and the Collections team will help maintain the asset quality of the Bank by finding workable solution for these customers.

“This new role provides me with the opportunity to interact with customers in a much more personal way and provide the caring service approach that’s in alignment with the Merchants culture. I’m looking forward to assisting customers as possible with solutions for their individual needs,” Larson.

Merchants Bank is a full service community bank with 21 bank locations in southeastern Minnesota, two bank locations in 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.

Meet Ellen Morehouse, Credit Support Manager

Ellen Morehouse joined Merchants Bank in May of 2011. She started as a Credit Analyst and is now Credit Support Manager. Sometimes these titles can sound a little vague. What is it that Credit Support professionals do at a bank? Ellen provides some context.

Ellen, can you explain what the Credit Support team does?

Sure! The credit support team helps our consumer and commercial lenders keep track of documentation, making sure it’s all accurate and keeping an eye on all the details, really.

One way to break it down is I oversee “Credit Support,” which can be broken up into three departments: the Appraisal and Evaluation Team, the Importing and Reporting Team and the Post-Closing team.

  • The Appraisal and Evaluation Team orders property appraisals and makes sure we operate within legal compliance there.
  • The Importing and Reporting Team makes sure all loan paperwork we need to retain and track are in our systems accurately.
  • The Post-Closing Team takes care of any necessary reporting or documentation after a loan is closed.

What do you like most about your job?

I love the variety. One of the things we really keep an eye on is how all the different areas of credit support work together and how we’re making sure our processes are efficient so that the lenders can work with their customers in a timely manner.

It also helps a lot to have a great team! We all work well together and have a lot of fun along the way.

You were previously a Credit Analyst and now the Credit Support Manager. Beyond the change in job title, how have you grown in your time with Merchants?

I was fortunate to participate in our internal leadership development program, the I Believe Leadership Series, Class of 2019 -2020. That experience really taught me the importance of being able to always come back to a positive mindset.

My biggest takeaway that I do every day now is identify three things I’m grateful for each morning. There’s science that shows that focusing on what you’re grateful for can help keep your mental game strong.

I think that’s something important that I bring to the team, is a positivity that even when the going gets tough, we know how to keep our chin up and get through it all together.

Congratulations, New and Promoted Staff

NewPromotedStaff-Blog

We are happy to have these new employees on our team! If you’re interested in working with these local experts, find your branch.

New Staff

Erin Beier, Customer Service Representative, Lakeside
Samantha Bratland, Teller, Caledonia
Greg Brown, Investment Advisor, Twin Cities
Paula Carty, Underwriter, Winona
Natasha Flynn, Teller, Rochester – Green Meadows
Molly GleasonMolly Gleason, Lending Assistant, Northfield
Austin HeaneyAustin Heaney, Teller, Caledonia
Sarah HuangSarah Huang, Teller, Hastings
Amy Kalember, Mortgage Processing Supervisor, Winona
Mark Little, Teller, Spring Grove
Jon Marley, Market President, St. Charles
Alayna McCarville, Teller, Onalaska
Jolea Tarbox, Teller, Eau Claire
Nicole Williamson, Mortgage Lender, Rochester – Green Meadows

Transfers and Promotions

Angie BooherAngie Booher, Mortgage Loan Processor, Winona
Tony DenstadTony Denstad, Courier, Winona
Becky FaustBecky Faust, Assistant Security/Operations Officer, Northfield
Amy GrossAmy Gross, Lead Teller, Caledonia
Zach KasenZach Kasen, IT Workstation & Peripherals, Winona
JR Larkie, Mortgage Loan Processor, Winona
Rachel LarsonRachel Larson, Manager of Collections, Winona
Heidi McCormickHeidi McCormick, Lead Teller, Northfield
Ellen Morehouse, Credit Support Manager, Winona
Adrian QuillingAdrian Quilling, Mortgage Lender, Rosemount
Tim Shelton, Treasury Management Sales Support, Winona
Tricia SlaytonTricia Slayton, Mortgage Loan Processor, Northfield
Nicci VosejpkaNicci Vosejpka, Lending Assistant, Northfield
Jessica WieseJessica Wiese, Customer Service Representative, Caledonia
Katelyn ZiebellKatelyn Ziebell, Mortgage Loan Processor, Winona

Where You Need Us, When You Need Us: Now and Always

Employee On Phone Wearing A Mask
Dana Christensen, Customer Service Representative

Stocked with hand sanitizer, masks and shields, we’re ready and happy to help you in person in our branches. Although we understand that as communities continue to have positive cases of COVID-19, you might want to limit your “in-person” errands. Or maybe you’re just getting really comfy at home.

Either way, we’re ready to serve you however you prefer to reach us. We wanted to gather up (almost) all the ways you can take care of your banking with us:

1. Online & Mobile Banking

First and foremost, the best way to see what’s going on with your account is our now enhanced Personal Online & Mobile Banking. Of course you can take care of all the basics: checking balances, making a transfer, viewing transactions and deposit images, viewing statements (if you’re signed up for eStatements), paying bills, etc.

But now with enhanced features like 24/7 access to your credit score, account alerts, a budgeting tool and more, you have easier access to more details of your financial situation.

2. Merchants Bank Credit Card App

Hot off the press: the Merchants Bank Credit Card App. If you have our credit card, you can download this free app to:

  • Turn your credit card “on” and “off” giving you peace of mind if you lose your card.
  • Control where your credit card can be used, such as limiting transactions by location or store type.
  • Get real-time data, tracking and insights into your credit card purchases.
  • Receive instant alerts about possible fraud and take action.

3. Our Drive-Ups

Maybe you’re feeling like if you have to do one more thing from home you’ll lose your marbles: hop in your car and head to your nearest Merchants Bank Drive-Up!

Our Drive-Ups can handle pretty much anything you’d do at the teller line. And if you’ve been in touch with your banker and simply need to sign some documents, chances are they’ll be able to meet you in the Drive-Up, but best to discuss options with your banker beforehand.

4. Phone Call

A classic. Tried and true. Give us a ring and we’ll do our best to help. You can contact your local branch or one of our specialty departments such as Electronic Banking, Credit Card or Loan Servicing.

So, if you have a question or concern, we’re happy to help and looking forward to hearing from you, however we hear from you. Stay safe, be well!