Dawn Farrell: Celebrating 30+ Years of Service

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Dawn Farrell started working at La Crescent State Bank in 1981. When it was acquired by Merchants Bank in 1990,she stayed to continue serving the La Crescent community. Merchants thanks Dawn for her commitment to excellence over the years. In June, she will begin a new adventure: Retirement.

How did you get started in banking?

Dawn: I’ve lived in La Crescent my entire life, and it was important to me that I stay in La Crescent to work. I applied for a Teller position at La Crescent State Bank in 1979 and actually didn’t get that job. Three years later, the position opened again and the Teller supervisor called to see if I was still interested. Naturally, I was. Eventually I moved to the proof machine to track all of the Bank’s daily transactions, which I discovered I didn’t care for. I much prefer working with people. Then I started in customer service and I knew that was where I was meant to be. When Merchants Bank acquired La Crescent State Bank in 1990 I was very happy to continue in my role.

What has changed in banking since you started your career? What hasn’t?

Dawn: Technology and regulations have changed the most. In the early days, when someone would come in to open an account we wouldn’t even ask for an ID, we’d just take down the information they gave us. Now of course we are more diligent and detail-oriented regarding our customers’ identity.

The only thing that hasn’t changed is our commitment to service. We have always cared about our customers and our community. I enjoy getting to know them and hearing their stories. I will greatly miss making those connections.

What is your favorite part about working with your customers and colleagues in the La Crescent community?

Dawn: My favorite part of my job is definitely working with customers and hearing the many stories they have to tell. It’s wonderful to find a strong bond with someone, and I’ve been fortunate to have that with a lot of my customers. I’ve also learned that everyone has their own way they manage their finances that works for them. I’ve enjoyed being able to provide additional insight for them over the years and provide education on tools we have available that may help, but they’ve taught me a lot too.

What will you miss most?

Dawn: I will miss the routine of the work day and the daily contact with people in our wonderful La Crescent community. I will not, however, miss waking up to an alarm clock!

What are some of your favorite memories?

Dawn: I have the fondest memories of the gatherings we organized. The Bank used to put on a senior breakfast with a different theme each year, and now we have great success with the Food Explosion campaign during Applefest. I remember we started that in 2010. I also adore my memories of the social events some of the bank employees would plan for ourselves, including canoe trips, bowling, golfing, hay rides and Christmas parties. We fondly refer to ourselves as “The Old Bank Ladies.” We still get together every Christmas season for a cookie exchange. Of course there are also a few customers that I will never forget.

How will you stay busy?

Dawn: I am looking forward to starting my retirement in the summer. We have 260 acres out in the country, and my husband has big plans for me to clean up our flower and vegetable gardens. We also have two children and five grandchildren. One of the grandsons wants me to play golf with him, so he’ll have to teach me to play golf. In the winter my three grandsons have hockey. My sisters and brother are retired as well and I’m sure I’ll be doing fun things with them. My husband and I will also be taking off to go on trips and doing whatever we want. I guess I’ll be staying busy!

Anything you’d like to add?

Dawn: I will miss my co-workers in La Crescent as well as the wonderful people I have connected with across the other 20 Merchants Bank locations. I’ll have to visit on occasion to say hi and keep up with what is going on in the area. I’d also like to thank the La Crescent community and our customers for their friendship over the years. You’ve all been part of a wonderful career!

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!

Merchants Bank Gives Away $5,340 for Money Ball, Including $2,670 to the Apple Valley Basketball Booster Club

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Pictured with a check for $2,670 (l-r): Brian Wester of Merchants Bank, Zach Goring, Apple Valley High School Boys Varsity Head Coach, Debbie Jones, AVBBC President, and Marty Christiansen, AVBBC Treasurer.

Merchants Bank presented a check for $2,670 to the Apple Valley Basketball Booster Club, matching the amount Merchants gave away to Apple Valley school district students during 2016-2017 Money Ball promotion, according to Brian Wester of Merchants Bank, who coordinated the program.

“I would like to thank Merchants Bank for its generous donation to our basketball program. Our goal is to provide a positive basketball experience for our kids playing high school basketball. Through the donation made by Merchants Bank, we are able to give our kids the best opportunities to be successful. Thank you!” said Apple Valley High School Boys Varsity Head Coach Zach Goring.

Two students were randomly chosen to participate during halftime of each Apple Valley boys’ varsity basketball games. Students won a $10 gift card for a made lay-up and a $25 gift card for a made free throw. Students were awarded $100 for a made half-court shot, with the Money Ball rolling over if the half-court shot was not made.

Wester said seven students made half-court shots during the season, including two students who each made $700 for making shots on the last night.

Merchants Bank Twin Cities locations include Apple Valley, Cottage Grove, Hastings, Lakeville and Rosemount. In total there Merchants Bank has 21 locations in southeastern Minnesota and west-central Wisconsin, including Minnesota locations in Winona, St. Charles, Goodview, Rochester, Rushford, Lanesboro, Caledonia, La Crescent, Spring Grove, Cannon Falls, Red Wing and Hampton. Merchants has Wisconsin locations in Eau Claire and Onalaska. All banks are FDIC members and equal housing lenders. Twin Cities-based Merchants Bank Equipment Finance, a division of Merchants Bank, N.A.

No customer relationship was necessary to enter or win. Merchants Bank employees and family members were not eligible to enter or win.

Merchants Bank Establishes Rochester Advisory Board of Directors

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Pictured (l-r): Bruce Ryan (Board Chairman), Ryan Windows & Siding; John Beatty, Dunlap & Seeger, P.A.; James Rogers, Mayo Clinic; Melissa Brinkman, Custom Alarm; Aaron Benike, Alvin E. Benike, Inc.

As Merchants Bank continues to grow in Rochester, Merchants has established a Rochester Advisory Board of Directors, according to Advisory Board Chairman Bruce E. Ryan.

“Merchants Bank has continued its growth throughout the area and in Rochester, partly because of our model of local decision making in each market,” said Ryan, who also serves on the Merchants Financial Group, Inc. (MFGI) Board. MFGI is the holding company that owns Merchants Bank. “As we continue to grow our market share, putting our local Advisory Board in place in Rochester is the next logical step.”

Ryan, President of Ryan Windows & Siding, Inc., has been joined on the Advisory Board by John Beatty, an Attorney at Dunlap & Seeger, Aaron Benike, President and Co-Owner at Benike Construction, Melissa Brinkman, CEO of Custom Alarm, and James Rogers, Chair, Department of Business Development at Mayo Clinic.

“We are fortunate to have this talented group of leaders helping to guide our decisions in Rochester,” said Merchants Bank – Rochester President John Doyle. “They believe in Rochester’s growth potential and know that Merchants Bank has the resources and staff to help individuals and businesses reach and exceed their goals.”

MFGI President and CEO Greg Evans said the Merchants Bank culture is one of the reasons the Advisory Board members chose Merchants.

“It is important to all of our team members to know our customers by name, and to make sure those customers are truly satisfied with their experiences with Merchants Bank,” Evans said. “Our team members spend time volunteering in the community to make it better. That is part of what makes a community bank like ours important to the people we serve. As people who have exhibited a commitment to improving Rochester, I think that is important to our Advisory Board.”

MFGI recently announced its second year in a row of record earnings, with Rochester again being one of the top performers. The Board and Advisory Board leadership structure is well-established in the Merchants culture and has contributed to the growth of the organization.

MFGI owns 21 Merchants Bank locations, including Minnesota locations in Rochester, Winona, St. Charles, Goodview, 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. All banks are FDIC members and equal housing lenders. Additionally, MFGI also owns Twin Cities-based Merchants Bank Equipment Finance, a division of Merchants Bank, N.A.