Questions About Your Loan?

Loan Servicing Department

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

Kaleb Storm Joins Merchants Bank as a Commercial and Ag Banker

Kaleb Storm

Kaleb Storm has joined Merchants Bank as a Commercial and Ag Banker, according to Randy Domeyer, Senior Vice President and Commercial Banking Manager for Merchants in Winona.

“Kaleb’s experience in commercial and ag lending will be a benefit to his customers and add strength to our team here at Merchants,” Domeyer said.

Storm brings industry experience in banking as a Commercial and Ag Banker, as well as a credit analyst, from Unity Bank, working both in Wisconsin and Minnesota. He has experience in both SBA (Small Business Administration) and FSA (Farm Service Agency) loans.

Storm also brings practical experience in agriculture, which will help him understand the needs of his customers first-hand. He worked on the family farm near Westby growing up and looks forward to continue helping family in the St. Charles and Dover area. He has also worked as a Vineyard Manager, again near Westby.

“I understand what’s important in making a good loan, and I understand and appreciate the value of hard work,” Storm said. “The values that I have are consistent with Merchants’ values, and that was important in my decision to join this organization.”

Storm has a degree in Business Administration/Business Finance from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

“I look forward to getting to know the area and the people who make this a special place,” Storm said.

Merchants Bank has 21 locations, including its locations in Winona, Goodview and other Minnesota locations in St. Charles, 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. Loans are subject to approval. Twin Cities-based Merchants Bank Equipment Finance is also a division of Merchants Bank, N.A.

Industry Snapshot: Learn More About Building Material Suppliers and Construction Managers/Contractors

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(l-r) Randy Knutson, Brad Ballard, Jim Vrchota, Travis Buege and Greg Backes

In our second story focusing on industries in 2018, we highlight two related industries, Building Material Dealers and Construction Managers/Contractors. Our goal is to bring you useful information and research for those industries.

Read our first story on food manufacturers and wholesalers here.

Randy Knutson and Greg Backes, of Kendell Lumber of Winona and Rollingstone, and Brad Ballard and Travis Buege, construction managers with Gordian’s Knot, will tell you the outlook for building is good.

Merchants Bank Commercial Banker Jim Vrchota will tell you that he and many other commercial bankers across Merchants Bank’s footprint especially enjoy working with these industries.

“Our bankers especially enjoy helping businesses in these sectors because their success is based on the same elements as ours – exceptional service, competitive products and strong relationships,” Vrchota said.

But what do the numbers say? Let’s take a closer look:

Building Material Dealers

Data from Hoovers and First Research says this about the future for Building Material Dealers:

  • “The value of US residential construction spending, which impacts contractor demand for building materials, rose 4.3% in January 2018 compared to the same period in 2017.”
  • “US retail sales for building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers, a potential measure of building material supply demand, increased 6.0% in the first two months of 2018 compared to the same period in 2017.”
  • “Total US wholesale sales of durable goods, a potential measure of demand for building materials, rose 9.7% in January 2018 compared to the same period in 2017.”

And this about predicted growth through 2022:

“The value of US private and public building construction, which is a driver for building material supply sales, is forecast to grow at an annual compounded rate of 6% between 2018 and 2022.”

Building Material Dealers-2

Residential Construction Contractors/Construction Managers

Data from Hoovers and First Research say this about the future for Residential Construction Contractors:

  • “US personal income, which drives consumer spending on home construction, rose 3.8% in January 2018 compared to the same month in 2017.”
  • “The value of US residential construction spending, an indicator of the health of the residential construction market, rose 4.3% in January 2018 compared to the same period in 2017.”

And this about predicted growth through 2022:

“The value of US new residential home construction and renovation is forecast to grow at an annual compounded rate of 7% between 2018 and 2022.”

Residential Construction Contractors-2

Demand is Cyclical

The numbers show the industry is enthusiastic, but it is a cautious enthusiasm tempered by experience for those who have worked through downturns.

As Hoovers and First Research points out — “Demand for new residential buildings can change rapidly, depending on the economy and interest rates: from 1986 to 1991, annual US home construction dropped 40%; from 1995 to 2005, it increased 75%; and from 2006 to 2011, it fell 65%.”

Both Knutson and Backes and Ballard and Buege understand that first-hand. They point out that one of the reasons they are doing well now is because they are survivors. They said the number of dealers in their market has shrunk since 2008, as did the number of contractors. A result is businesses like Kendell absorbed the customers of other dealers, and the need for Gordian’s Knot’s service has increased because there is less competition and demand is picking up.

Compared to 2008, for example, Kendell is above where they were in terms of business, according to Knutson and Backes. The same is true for the residential construction contractor/construction manager business, according to Ballard and Buege of Gordian’s Knot.

Industry Pressures

“The same house we built last year cost 15% more this year to build and it will continue to grow,” Ballard said.

Another threat is the cost of materials. A lumber tariff on Canadian lumber has driven prices, and steel prices have also risen because of recent tariffs, according to Knutson.

Hoovers and First Research notes that the average margins for “lumber companies selling commodity products primarily to contractors can range from 5 to 20%. Home Depot and Lowe’s, which sell mainly to consumers, have gross margins of about 35%.”

That increases the need for efficiency, and one of the best ways to be efficient for dealers is to provide quality materials where contractors don’t have to come back for better materials or deal with complaints from end use customers down the road, Knutson and Backes pointed out. Ballard and Buege noted Kendell’s top materials save them time because they don’t have to sift for quality.

Another threat is material allocations from producers, according to Knutson. He said it is simply that there may not be enough to go around at times because some of the larger big box stores have ordered the biggest part of the material supplies because of natural disasters.

It’s also difficult to find people to work. The 34-year-old Buege is a bit of an anomaly in the industry where he said the average worker is 55. He said people across the industry are faced with the challenge of finding dedicated and accomplished workers.

“The cost of trade labor has gone up,” Buege said. “But the cost of building is still manageable. The economy is good and people have equity in their current homes.”

While there are things to pay attention to, Gordian’s Knot and Kendell agree they are generally optimistic about the future.

“Everybody is pretty confident in the economy,” Backes said.

It Comes Down to the Relationships

Kendell and Gordian’s Knot both are long-time customers of Merchants. Kendell has been in business since 1957 and Ballard started Gordian’s Knot in 2004.

“Ours is a relationship business,” Backes said.

Ballard agreed.

“We answer our phones and we call people back. If we can’t help them, we get them to someone who can,” Ballard said. “We grow through the service we provide.”

That service and willingness to understand and support their businesses is why both Kendell and Gordian’s Knot partner with Merchants Bank.

“It’s the quality and service experience. There’s a value there that’s hard to put a price on,” Backes said.

Vrchota said it’s that “Start to Finish” attitude that is pervasive with Merchants and is one of the reasons Merchants stands apart from others. Another is how Merchants can help them with their financial needs, especially in a business that is seasonal.

Typically, with suppliers, a bank can partner with them in a number of ways, Vrchota explained. Often, it is with a line of credit so money is available when the business needs it, or with equipment or real estate financing.

With contractors/construction managers, a line of credit is often in place, and there is an emphasis on helping them with financing for construction projects.

“Those are the basics,” Vrchota said, “But every business is different in some way, so it is worthwhile to work with a banker that is knowledgeable, adaptable and will take an interest in your business, like our bankers here.”

 

Q&A with Two Business Banking Experts: Meet Annette Bleninger & Jeff Carter

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Did you know we have over 40 Commercial Bankers and Cash Management experts available to help your business? At every local branch, you’ll find a Commercial Banking team ready to get to know your business and provide meaningful financial solutions.

This month we’re meeting two of the team who serve our clients in the South Metro area:

  • Jeff Carter, Commercial Banker in Cottage Grove and Hastings
  • Annette Bleninger, Cash Management Officer and Certified Treasury Professional (CTP) in Rosemount

Read on to learn more about Jeff, Annette and how they approach working with business customers every day.

Share a little about your background and banking career

Annette: I have worked in financial services for over 20 years, with more than 14 of those years in Cash Management. I started with Merchants Bank in September of 2017 and am very happy to be with a community bank that really strives to find meaningful, valuable solutions for our business customers.

Jeff: Likewise, I have been in the financial services industry for over 20 years, with 15 years in commercial lending. I joined Merchants in 2013 and have spent most of my career in community banking culture, where my passion lies.

What do you like most about your job?

Annette: I really enjoy the variety of customers that I meet when we go out to visit businesses. It is so interesting to hear about your passion and see your facility. Having that background knowledge and relationship really helps us work together to create the most efficient cash management plan for your situation.

Jeff: Getting to know you, our business customer, is one of the most rewarding parts of my job as well. I really enjoy creating relationships with business owners. At the end of the day, I strive to bring you value – whether that’s products, services or counsel – to help you succeed. I hope these relationships are lifelong and meaningful.

What kinds of business do you typically work with and how do you help them?

Jeff: The beautiful thing about community banking is that we can help every business in our community.

Annette: Yes, that’s definitely true. I work with businesses of all sizes and variety every day. Cash management solutions can be used by any business – big or small. I help businesses like yours come up with plans to make their day-to-day processes more efficient, reduce the potential for check or electronic fraud, while allowing them access to their cash as needed.

Jeff: In addition to Cash Management services, we also have deposit accounts to help your business with daily financial needs and grow your money. We even offer business checking account analysis, free of charge, whether your account is with us or elsewhere. We know the needs of a business change over time and we want to be sure you’re in the account that best serves your needs.

Then on the loan side, we can provide smart solutions to leverage capital and grow your business. No matter where you are on your business journey, from start-up to expansion, we have the products and expertise to assist you at any stage.

What do smart business owners do?

Annette: Security is a big concern for our customers, so I think smart business owners make information security a priority. You can start small. One of the most important things a business can do is monitor their daily activity in their accounts to catch fraudulent activity early. Whether you are using our fraud management products (like Positive Pay), or managing it on your own through daily monitoring in online banking, it is a critical function.

Jeff: For me, smart business owners understand the value of a relationship with their key financial partners (ie: banker, CPA, attorney, insurance agent, etc) and will learn how we can all work together to assist in their success. Consistent communication and collaboration amongst your key sphere of influence can keep you on track and uncover unforeseen obstacles and opportunities.

What is something not many businesses know about working with Merchants Bank?

Jeff: Merchants is large enough to provide the level of products and services every business needs but is culturally small, meaning, the focus is on local bankers creating local relationships to support the communities that we serve.

Annette: Along the same lines, I think it’s important to note that we are most interested in finding solutions that work for your business and help you succeed. We are not here to pressure you into using and/or paying for products that may not be the best fit for your needs.

How would you describe your team approach to working with businesses?

Annette: I typically work very closely with our Commercial Bankers. As one of our business customers, we try to help you understand each team member’s main area of expertise, but we are always willing to take your call and direct it to the correct person. You will never hear “that’s not my job” at Merchants Bank.

Jeff: The Merchants Commercial Banking team brings you many areas of expertise, which include our lenders, cash management experts, lending assistants, credit analysts, and more. We are very supportive of one another and team up to provide assistance and bring more value to you.

What does community banking mean to you?

Annette: Community banking means being a trusted partner for our business customers. We truly get to know you, your business, and your needs and expectations so we can be proactive instead of reactive with our approach.

Jeff: To echo what Annette said, community banking is all about relationships and value. As Bankers, we need to know our customers by building relationships in order to provide the most valuable solutions for their situation so they are successful. We live in the communities we serve and successful businesses build strong communities. We do it together.

Learn more about business and commercial banking at Merchants Bank:

Our Top 4 Reasons to Use Floor Plan Financing

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If your business manages equipment or vehicle inventory – from cars to power sports, to manufactured homes to implement dealers or other types of floor plans – you know how complicated inventory management can get.

Our efficient and easy floor plan financing system helps you take care of it all from paying off and buying units to inventory management and more.

“We’ve been impressed with the convenience of the floor plan financing system from Merchants Bank. In a matter of a click, I can access balance, payment and payoff information when I need it. Everything we need to manage our inventory is at our fingertips.” – Randy Stevens, Partner at Adamson Motors, Inc.

So, how can floor plan financing benefit your business? Here are our top reasons:

Easy Access to Your Line of Credit
Access to your line of credit when you need it – even from your office. We provide same day funding to our floor plan clients.* Plus, we offer competitive rates and flexible terms tailored to your business.

Increase Efficiencies in Inventory Management
Our floor plan system provides robust reports and data to help you see the whole picture, including turn time of inventory, interest expense and more. Plus, you’ll receive curtailment notifications. 

“We’re proud to offer a floor plan system that rivals what is offered at larger corporate banks,” said Dan Massett, President for Merchants Bank’s Central Region. “It’s easier than ever to access the information you need at your fingertips.”

Better Understand Costs
Tracking your costs, including interest, is easy with our system.

Simple and Intuitive System
You’ll find that our floor plan financing system is user-friendly and tasks you’d like to complete are just a click away, including:

  • Easy process for paying off and buying units.
  • Draft payments and submit directly to the manufacturer on your behalf when you add inventory

“We’re here to help make things easier with a best in class floor plan system and financing options tailored to your business,” continued Massett. “It’s truly important to us at Merchants to get to know your business and find solutions that will help you be successful.”

To learn more about our customized floor plan financing and how it can benefit equipment or vehicle inventory management for your business, visit our website or contact your local Merchants Bank Commercial Banker.

 

*Same day funding available if initiated prior to Merchants Bank cut-off time.

5 New Year’s Resolutions for Your Business Finances

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The new year can mean many things for your business. What will the next 12 months look like? Do you have goals for your business and how you plan to get there? Now is the time to review your past financial performance and make plans for 2018.

With this in mind, we’ve put together five financial New Year’s resolutions to help your business make this one of the best years yet.

1. Review Last Year’s Financial Highlights

How did your business perform in 2017? At the most basic level, you should review your business income, expenses, profit and sales.

In addition, ask yourself these questions:

  • How do these numbers compare to last year? Are they better or worse and by how much?
  • Do these numbers align with my business projections for 2017? Why or why not? Are there new income or expenses that should be accounted for in 2018?
  • In what area(s) of my business did I see the most growth?
  • What lessons can I learn from my 2017 business data?

2. Set New Goals
Goal setting does not have to be complicated, especially now that you’ve taken the time to review key numbers from 2017.

It’s as simple as writing down 2 or 3 things you’d like to see your business achieve this year. It could be a goal to reduce expenses in a certain area, to produce a new product or hire additional expertise.

The most important part about goal setting is to be specific so you can measure your success throughout the year. Attaching time frames, numbers, steps it will take to meet your goal and other details can help you know if you’re on track or not.

Once you’ve established your 2018 goals, here’s a fun way to keep them top of mind from the SCORE business blog.

By clicking above you will be linking to another website not owned or operated by Merchants Bank, NA. Merchants Bank, NA is not responsible for the availability or content of this website and does not represent either the linked website or you, should you enter into a transaction. We encourage you to review their privacy and security policies which may differ from Merchants Bank, NA.

3. Update Software and Processes

Payroll and other business processes can be affected by the change to a new year. Make sure your systems are up-to-date and ready for 2018. It’s also a great time to review your security protocol and procedures, especially if your business collects personal information from your customers.

4. Check in With Your Business Team
Catch up with your accountant, tax advisor, lawyer and banker at the beginning of the new year. Communication between you and your team of expert advisors can be crucial to your business’s success. After all, they want your business to succeed just as much as you do.

“During this time of the year, I like to check in with my business customers and see how they felt about 2017 performance and what’s on tap for 2018,” said Mike Swanson, Commercial Banking Officer in Hastings. “For example, what went well for them in 2017 and what didn’t? Are there any new opportunities or internal changes coming? It’s about keeping the lines of communication open, so I can provide the best solutions going forward.”

As you share your business plans for 2018, your team can also provide updates on things that may affect your business. For example, there may be new taxes or loan programs, changes to business laws and much more.

5. Celebrate Small Successes

We’ve saved this resolution for last, but it’s certainly one of the most important – you deserve to celebrate your business’s successes. Being a small business owner can feel like a never-ending job, so take a minute to give yourself (and your team) some kudos. Celebrating small successes are the steps to celebrating larger ones!

Our team of Commercial & Ag Bankers and Cash Management Specialists are ready to talk about your business plans for 2018. Visit our website to meet our local experts.

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: