Merchants Bank in Lakeville Raises $700 for Lakeville North and Lakeville South

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Kristin Vlasak, Dan Vlasak, Eddie Araujo, Alejandra Hernandez-Silva, Kelly Donohoe, Mark Kragness, Jim Louwagie.

Attendees at the Lakeville North and Lakeville South football game September 22 enjoyed delicious Dairy Queen Blizzards and were able to support both schools with $700 thanks to Merchants Bank.

Merchants supplied and served the Blizzards at the game and donated all the proceeds from the sales to the schools.

“We are passionate about supporting our community and the game brings a lot of community members and customers out,” said Dan Vlasak, President of Merchants Bank in Lakeville. “We are glad we were able to see so many people we know, and the schools were able to benefit.”

Merchants Bank in Lakeville has been supporting the Lakeville schools for a number of years through fundraisers at the North and South game.

Merchants Bank has 21 locations, including the southern Twin Cities metropolitan suburbs of Lakeville, Apple Valley, Cottage Grove, Hastings and Rosemount.  Other Minnesota locations include Winona, St. Charles, Caledonia, Spring Grove, Rochester, Rushford, Lanesboro, La Crescent, Cannon Falls, Red Wing and Hampton. Wisconsin locations are in Eau Claire and Onalaska. Twin Cities-based Merchants Bank Equipment Finance is also a division of Merchants Bank, N.A.

Behind the Scenes with Our Credit Team

 

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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:

From the President’s Desk: Fall 2017

Greg Evans, Merchants Bank President & CEO

By Greg Evans, President & CEO

A few weeks ago, Merchants Bank was featured prominently in a Sunday news feature in the Business section of the Star Tribune newspaper. I sincerely appreciate the response I have personally received from so many friends and Bank customers about the exposure for the Merchants organization.

It’s gratifying to be associated with a company that is recognized throughout the state of Minnesota as a leader in our industry. The extraordinary business growth that Merchants has enjoyed over a period of many years was one of the reasons the Star Tribune reached out to us for purpose of doing the story.

The story focused on two primary things:

  • What has been the formula for our sustained track record of success
  • What perspective does our organization have in regards to the regulatory environment we operate in and what, if any, reform is appropriate for the banking industry

Addressing the first topic of the interview was the easy part. As I’ve already shared with you in previous submissions to our E-newsletter, our success is driven 100% by our people. At Merchants, we have made talent acquisition, retention and development a critical strategic priority. Nobody on our Merchants team is perfect, but we are purposeful in filling our team with difference-makers, people capable of providing great customer service and demonstrating community leadership.

Everybody on our team understands the importance of living up to our brand promise of being the Bank that Service Built. When we fall short of meeting our customers’ expectations, as we at times do, our goal is to learn from our mistakes and take the opportunity to get better.

Something that does create conflict at times with our intense desire to be customer-centric in all that we do is regulatory requirements. As I shared in the Star Tribune article, I do believe strongly that the banking industry – particularly the community banking sector – is over-regulated.

There is no question that there was a need for reform coming out of the Great Recession, and that increased regulation was enacted with the hope of protecting consumers. Unfortunately, corrective action resulted in unintended consequences associated with intense regulatory burden. As you may have experienced yourself, getting loans is more cumbersome, more costly and more onerous in terms of documentation today than prior to these regulations.

I believe strongly there needs to be some regulatory burden normalization. The reality is that for Merchants Bank we are fortunate to be of adequate size to absorb the additional burden and stay the course in being a major contributor to the economic vitality of our communities and this region. We have been able to put processes and best practices in place to help our customers work through documentation requirements. We rely on our team members to understand the impact of regulations and guide customers step-by-step through borrowing transactions.

In the community bank space, I believe we are driven to be as customer-centric as we can be in light of regulatory requirements. Banks like Merchants… with significant presence in outstate markets… are tremendous drivers of the economic vitality of the communities we serve. Playing that important role is one of the most rewarding things about this profession. The work we get to do each day allows us to have a powerful impact in changing people’s lives in positive ways.

Our Community Banking Commitment

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A few weeks ago, Merchants Bank was recognized by the Winona Area Chamber of Commerce at its annual Business Celebration Luncheon as the Business of the Year for 2017. Eligibility for this distinction was based on a comprehensive assessment of outstanding achievement in all five of these categories:

  • Economic Development
  • Workforce Development
  • Environmental Awareness
  • Business Achievement
  • Community Engagement

While this specific recognition was isolated to Merchants’ contributions to the vitality of the Greater Winona area, the documented achievement for the categories identified above as part of the nomination process was based on the collective team effort that is contributed to by every one of my teammates in each of our markets throughout the entire region.

At Merchants, we do what we do not for the purpose of accolades and recognition, but simply to contribute to the economic well-being of our communities and the financial success of our clients. That said, we sincerely appreciate this recognition by the Winona Area Chamber of Commerce. Most gratifying was the fact that quantifiable achievements in each of the five categories of the nomination was representative of business as usual for the Merchants organization during the past year, not the result of nonrecurring incidents of extraordinary achievement.

In accepting the award at the recognition banquet in May, I articulated that at Merchants we have a fundamental philosophy as it relates to our commitment to community banking: Simply, we know that when our clients and communities thrive and prosper, we, too, will do well. That approach has served us well for more than 140 years, and it’s what drives the commitments we make to providing active community leadership.

It’s an appropriate time of the year to share with you the importance we place on active community involvement and engaged leadership in each of our markets. With the arrival of summer, it becomes festival season for this entire region. That means you won’t have to look real hard to see visible signs of the extraordinary involvement in community activities that all of us at Merchants take great pride in demonstrating.

Community leadership is a critical differentiating component of the Merchants Brand. The members of our employee team are truly humbled by the opportunity we have to serve the needs of our clients and communities. Again, when our clients and communities prosper, we know we, too, will do well. And in the case of the recent Chamber award, I would add that when one wins, we all win! Thank you for your continued trust and confidence. It’s your loyalty that allows us to continue to do great work in our communities!

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.

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.