Behind the Scenes with Our Credit Team

 

CreditAnalysts-Blog

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

If you’ve worked with Merchants on a loan for your business, you know our Commercial Bankers have a team of people assisting them in the loan process. You may have even heard them mention a Credit Analyst, who would review your financial information.

Our Credit Analyst team plays an important part in the loan approval process. So we’re giving you a behind the scenes look at their role and what kind of expertise they bring to our commercial banking team.

How is a Credit Analyst involved in my application for a business loan?
Our team of 11 Credit Analysts assist in determining your credit worthiness and ability to pay back a loan. Upon application, your financial information is given to a Credit Analyst, who reviews all the details and provides a credit presentation to your Commercial Banker.

“Our job is to assess repayment ability of credit obligations and determine overall financial risk. This information helps the Commercial Banker decide on next steps,” said Chris Duellman, SBA Lending and Credit Underwriting Manager. “Our ultimate goal is to help the borrower gain loan approval, but we also need to identify potential risks – that’s why we review so many details about the business and business owners. We look at the full picture to create our report to the Commercial Banker.”

In some instances, you may also meet with one of our Credit Analysts and a Commercial Banker to collect your financial information. A face-to-face conversation is sometimes the best approach to obtaining all the details needed to gain a full understanding of your business.

What expertise does a Credit Analyst bring to the business banking team?
Most of our Credit Analysts have an accounting or finance degree and/or related job experience. In addition, they are well-trained on all different types of credit to be able to fully assess your business’s situation. Day in and day out, they work with the financial details of businesses of every size and industry – their incredible depth of knowledge is an asset to you, your Banker and the entire commercial banking team.

Because Merchants Bank provides many loans for agricultural businesses and farms, three of our Credit Analysts specifically concentrate on ag requests. Having grown up on farms or worked on farms, these Credit Analysts provide an additional level of expertise and insight when reviewing an ag loan.

How do I benefit from a Credit Analyst reviewing my loan application?
Talking with your Commercial Banker and Credit Analysts can give you more insight into the financial side of your business.

While gathering your financial information, the Credit Analysts may ask questions your business might not have ever considered. Or, the Analysts might even pinpoint some financial areas where your business could make improvements by working with your accountant or in-house finance department. In addition, tapping into the Credit Analyst industry-specific knowledge can be a bonus for your business.

“We’re here to provide an additional level of financial understanding and support to both the business and the Commercial Banker,” said Duellman. “It’s our job as part of the commercial banking team to help our business customers thrive.”

To learn more about business financing options at Merchants Bank, visit our website:

Ransomware and Rip Van Winkle: Don’t Ever, Ever Sleep Again

This can't be right

Security Awareness Week: June 5-9, 2017

By Rodney Nelsestuen, Chief Information Officer

We all know the story of Rip Van Winkle who slept for 20 years and woke to find he’d missed the Revolutionary War and that society had changed dramatically. Today, poor Rip would find that a mere 20-minute nap may be enough to put him out of touch – especially when it comes to security.

This was driven home by the recent global attack of ransomware (aptly named Wannacry) that put hospitals, governments, and businesses on the defensive and interrupted the normal course of business on some estimated 250,000 computers in 150 countries, including the US. This event was one of the first to have a large-scale global reach and one which cost those who were attacked an estimated $3 billion dollars. Moreover, the success of Wannacry and its scale will most certainly result in a massive expansion of the ransomware “business.”

You may wonder why ransomware is suddenly so popular as compared to other types of hacking. Here are three reasons:

The attacker need do nothing and still gets paid.

Ransomware either encrypts files on a computer or blocks access to the files. These programs used to be delivered exclusively in emails as an attachment that a victim would open. While that delivery method is still in use, the more pernicious versions simply roam the internet and when they find an unprotected network or computer, will launch the attack without human intervention.

Stealing personal information and credit card data is still popular, but imagine how much work it is to steal, store, organize, and then find a buyer for that data. In short, the old fashioned methods of theft are a lot of work compared to a ransomware attack that threatens to delete all data on a computer unless the victim pays for the release. Attackers simply sit back and wait for the victim to pay.

Want to go into business? Try ransomware as a service.

Don’t know anything about computers or hacking? No need to worry. You can contract with a hacker and outsource your criminal activity. Organizations offering ransomware services are beginning to take root and will encourage bad actors of all types to try their hand at it.

After all, what do they have to lose? The outsourced service provider does all the work and gets paid a cut of the take, and you merely await your share as the business owner.

If one door is locked, just try another.

The interconnectivity of the internet and businesses across the globe makes it much easier for a ransomware attack to succeed. Can’t get into a corporate network? Try the company’s version of webmail, which can be accessed from any computer in the world. Can’t get a user to click on a link? Then use in-memory malware to deliver the payload. Find it hard to scale your crime? Then hack cloud services and launch attacks against thousands of high value targets at once. In short, ransomware has multiple attack vectors.

So what can I do to protect my business?

There are long-standing processes and tools that companies need as a foundation to stopping ransomware. While the list of approaches is long, let’s focus on three items that will reduce the risk of being hacked or a victim of ransomware:

  1. Whether you run your own technology or outsource it, be sure you know what protections and processes you have in place. Anti-virus software, firewalls, and intrusion detection software with expert alerts, and patching systems and applications are regularly among these basics.More importantly, make sure your security tools are on the most current versions. This may mean having updates almost continuously at times as risk conditions can change dynamically. It’s good to look into new technologies as new threats arise, but remember that the tools you do have may be the best there are if kept up to date.
  2. Layer security across your business. No one single solution will protect you from every attack. Whether physical locks on doors, increasing the sophistication of passwords, using out of band authentication, or segmenting your network with additional firewalls, consider using a layered approach to make it more difficult for bad actors to get through to your valued information. This includes using the security and authentication steps offered by your bank. Most banks will provide tools that allow the business to verify financial transactions before they occur. Unfortunately, too many businesses fail to adopt these solutions and processes.
  3. Train your staff on proper use of the connected world we live in – and keep security awareness in the forefront of employees’ minds. The human threat is twofold: first, people make mistakes and as humans, we always will.Second, there has been a growing threat from insiders who are ‘groomed’ by bad actors to ultimately take part in a crime. While this is an unpleasant topic, it’s something every business owner or manager needs to consider today.

One final thought. It would pay most businesses to be connected to an organization that monitors the global threat environment and can keep the business up to date on emerging threats. This external information can then be aligned with your internal IT steps and actions. There are several such organizations and many have very reasonable fees.

The security issues faced by businesses will only be more challenging in the future. Staying up to date on security technology, being vigilant on how users interact with your systems, and having an eye to the emerging threats as they grow are all smart and necessary steps for any business today.

While there are no sure-fire solutions to risk, by taking a multi-faceted approach you’re in the know about the threat environment, and you’ll feel better that you’re managing it in a sound manner. Then you’ll be able to sleep peacefully even with one eye open so as not to miss, as Rip Van Winkle did, the important things in life such as the birth of a nation.

Gina Miller Joins Merchants Bank as Vice President and Commercial Banker

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Gina Miller, Commercial Banker

Gina Miller has joined Merchants Bank as a Vice President and Commercial Banker, according to Shawn Sackman, Senior Lending Officer and Senior Vice President for Merchants Bank’s Southeast Region.

“We are excited to have Gina join our team,” Sackman said. “With her experience, ability and connections, as well as our increased presence in the La Crosse area, we know she will contribute to our continued growth.”

Miller had been with the Wells Fargo organization for the past 17 years, most recently as a Business Relationship Manager/Commercial Banker.

“Merchants is a great match for me because it is a community bank that is built on and values the relationships with its customers,” Miller said. “Building and maintaining those relationships has been my goal throughout my career, and I look forward to continuing that career with Merchants as it gains more market share in our area.”

Miller is a graduate of Viterbo University. She is active in the community. She is a member of the Coulee Region Young Professionals, a member of the Women’s Alliance of La Crosse, and a participant in the Chamber of Commerce’s La Crosse Area Community Leadership Program.

Onalaska is one of the fastest growing of all 21 Merchants’ locations. In 2016, Merchants reported record income of $14,154,891. The Onalaska location was one of the leaders in productivity, with nearly $2.2 million in net income.

In addition to Onalaska, Merchants has Minnesota locations in La Crescent, Rushford, Lanesboro, Caledonia, Spring Grove, Winona, St. Charles, Goodview, Rochester, Cannon Falls, Red Wing, Hampton, and the southern Twin Cities metropolitan suburbs of Apple Valley, Cottage Grove, Hastings, Lakeville and Rosemount. Merchants has an additional Wisconsin location in Eau Claire. All banks are FDIC members and equal housing lenders. Loans are subject to approval. Twin Cities-based Merchants Bank Equipment Finance is a division of Merchants Bank, N.A.

Jerad Brown Has Joined Merchants Bank in Rushford and Lanesboro as a Commercial and Ag Banker

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Jerad Brown, Commercial & Ag Banker

Area native Jerad Brown has joined Merchants Bank in Rushford and Lanesboro as a Commercial and Ag Banker, according to Ken Graner, President for Merchants Bank in Rushford and Lanesboro.

“Jerad has the right mix of experience, interest and personality to be successful as a banker and, more importantly, to help our customers grow,” Graner said. “His work in credit analysis and his interest and experience in business and ag will be a benefit to the people he serves.”

For the past two years, Brown has worked with Rushford State Bank as a credit analyst, looking at agriculture and commercial loans, including an emphasis on the Farm Service Agency (FSA) guaranty program. A graduate of Rushford-Peterson High School and South Dakota State University, he served as a member of the South Dakota State University Livestock Judging Team. At SDSU, Brown majored in Agriculture Science and had minors in Animal Science and Agriculture Business.

“The people who live here are my neighbors. I know what’s important to them, and I know how important it is for our local economy for our farms and businesses to succeed,” Brown said. “I look forward to putting my knowledge and energy to work for Merchants Bank and our customers.”

ICS: 5 Frequently Asked Questions

ICSAccount-Blog

An Insured Cash Sweep (ICS) account is an easy way to protect your business deposits over $250,000. But how does it work? Learn this and more with these five frequently asked questions.

How does an Insured Cash Sweep account work?
If you want to protect deposits of more than $250,000 (the standard FDIC insurance coverage amount), you can use an ICS account to deposit your money automatically through a network of pre-selected, highly rated banks. Just open your ICS account with Merchants Bank and we do the rest.

An ICS account can be structured as a checking account with our ICS Demand Checking or as a savings account with our ICS Money Market Savings. Both accounts earn interest, allow for unlimited deposits and have no minimum balance requirements.

Why would an ICS account be better than using multiple banks?
Skip the running around and paperwork. With an ICS, you only have to open one account at Merchants to take advantage of the automatic, additional FDIC insurance coverage through the ICS network of banks. Plus, you’ll only have one statement to review.

Who has custody of my funds?
Funds placed through an Insured Cash Sweep are deposited only in FDIC-insured banks. Merchants Bank acts as custodian for your ICS deposits.

How safe is my information and the ICS service?
As always, Merchants Bank takes protecting your information seriously. Your confidential information is not shared with the ICS bank network.

The ICS program has been designed to comply with all FDIC requirements. You can be confident that your deposits are safe and sound.

Are there other account options similar to ICS?
Merchants Bank also offers a CDARS account through the Certificate of Deposit Account Registry Service. This account provides additional FDIC insurance protection through a Certificate of Deposit account – instead of checking or savings. You can choose from a variety of terms to fit your needs.

Protect your large deposits and enjoy the convenience of having them insured with one bank through ICS. Want to learn more about how your business can benefit from an Insured Cash Sweep account?

References:
*http://www.insuredcashsweep.com/home/faqs/

Placement of your funds through the ICS service is subject to terms, conditions, and disclosures set forth in the agreements you enter into with us, including the ICS Deposit Placement Agreement. Limits and customer eligibility criteria apply. Program withdrawals are limited to six per month when using the ICS savings option. If you are subject to restrictions with respect to the placement of funds in depository institutions, it is your responsibility to determine whether the placement of your funds through ICS, or a particular ICS transaction, satisfies those restrictions. ICS and Insured Cash Sweep are registered service marks of Promontory Interfinancial Network, LLC. Public Fund 0414

Meet John Piscitiello, Commercial Banker

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John Piscitiello, Commercial Banker

Get to know John’s commercial banking philosophy and how he helps businesses in the Twin Cities.

Share a little about your background and banking career.

John: I grew up in Winona and went to St. Mary’s University. After graduation, I moved to the Twin Cities, where I currently live with my wife and four boys in Lakeville.

I have been in the lending business my whole career. During the real estate boom years of the 2000s, I was a business owner in the construction lending industry. It was a challenging environment leading up to the economic meltdown. I was fortunate to exit the business before the Great Recession hit, and I learned many great lessons about both the successes and failures of running a business.

What do you like most about your job?

John: When I am able to make a difference helping a client succeed and reach their goals.

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

John: My clients are typically family-owned companies located in the Twin Cities market. I help them by providing financing and other banking services where needed, along with ideas and guidance when appropriate.

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

John: That Merchants is an employee-owned ESOP bank! Being employee-owned has a positive effect on our company culture, and is a nice contrast to the big banks.

How would you describe your partnership with your business customers?

John: It is very much a business partnership. For me to be a good banker for my clients, I need to have a deep understanding of their business and business goals. This helps me to not only provide the services and advice needed, but also allows me to be an advocate for my clients internally within the bank.

What do you hope your customers say about working with you?

John: I hope my customers say that I understand them and that they have a banker they can trust to take care of their needs.

What does community banking mean to you?

John: To me, community banking means strong relationships with our clients and with the local markets we serve. Community banking also means local decision-making, which for many business owners can be the difference between feeling understood and getting the service they need versus feeling like your bank doesn’t get you.

Loans are subject to approval.

Meet Mike Swanson, Commercial Banker

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Mike Swanson, Commercial Banker in Hastings

Get to know Mike, Commercial Banker,  and how he helps businesses – big and small – meet their financial goals.

Share a little about your background and banking career.
Mike: I started in banking as a part time teller in high school at Vermillion State Bank. Two years later, I moved to First Federal Bank (now known as MidCountry Bank) as a Construction Loan Assistant. After college, I moved back to the retail side of the bank as a Personal Banker and eventually became a branch manager there.

In 2012, I started at Merchants Bank as Personal Banker. Since then, I’ve changed office locations and roles a couple of times and eventually was fortunate enough to move to the commercial side of banking, in my current role as a Commercial Banker. It had been a goal of mine to move into a commercial role for many years and I feel very fortunate Merchants has afforded me that opportunity and in my hometown no less!

What do you like most about your job?
Mike: When people hear you are a banker they tend to draw conclusions about number crunching and spreadsheets, but I’m a community banker because I like people! I love building relationships and getting to know my clients, their goals, dreams, and aspirations, and most importantly helping them achieve them.

I also greatly enjoy my community and Merchants Bank’s commitment to the communities we serve allows me to be involved in several organizations. Part of my job is to help make Hastings a great community for all of us who live and work here.

What kinds of businesses do you typically work with and how do you help them?
Mike: That’s one of the great things about Merchants – whether you are a one-man show landscaper or plumber, or have employees in multiple locations – we are going to have products and services to offer you. I’ve work with several one-man operations in landscaping, agriculture, all the trades (plumbing, electrical, etc), as well as real estate investors, accountants, and doctors.

We can help with equipment purchasing and leasing, working line of credits, credit card, and an entire suite of cash management services too. We have something for every kind of business.

What do you hope your customers say about working with you?
Mike: I hope they say “that was such a great experience I’m going to tell everyone I know about Mike at Merchants!” Really, I hope they know I am working for them and that I’m here to offer them options in order to meet their future goals. I hope they say I am a long-term trusted partner to help them reach their goals.

What does community banking mean to you?
Mike: Community banking means that we, the Bank, take care of our community. Decisions are made by people who understand the local needs of families, businesses and farmers.

In today’s world, you can’t walk into just any bank and ask to talk to the president. But at Merchants you can because of our local, market-based leadership. Being a community bank means we partner with you through opening your child’s savings account, financing your first home, or helping you get the business of your dreams started. It means when you walk in the door, we’re going to know your name and you will know ours.

Loans are subject to approval.