Meet Sarah Danielson, Commercial Banker

Sarah Danielson, Commercial Banker

Get to know more about Sarah Danielson and how she approaches working with businesses every day.

When did you start your banking career?
Sarah: I started working as a Teller in 1994. At the time, I worked mostly with commercial customers and really enjoyed learning about that side of banking. When I had the chance to apply for a job in the Loan Review area, I took it. In Loan Review, I spent my time analyzing business financials and while I really enjoyed it, I missed being in front of people. Ultimately, I knew the best path would be to become a Commercial Banker so I could use all of my knowledge and interact with customers again.

What do you like most about your job?
Sarah: I enjoy being there for my customers through the ups and downs of their businesses. Owning a business isn’t always easy – I know first hand – and I can relate to what it’s like for my business customers day in and day out. I have a tremendous amount of respect for them. It’s so encouraging to see people believe in themselves and have the courage to take the next step in establishing or running their business.

Share your top business/commercial banking tip.
Sarah: The secret to success is having a full understanding of what you’re doing. You might wonder how that’s possible. Start by surrounding yourself with a team of trusted experts, like a lawyer, accountant and a banker, just to name a few.

What do you hope your customers say about working with you?
Sarah: I hope they see me as a trusted partner…someone who has knowledge to share, but also looks out for their best interests.

Can you help businesses assess which business banking options would be most beneficial? How does this process work?
Sarah: Definitely. It’s as simple as sitting down and taking the time to listen to a customer. I try to uncover their true needs and pair that with my knowledge from being in such a wide variety of banking positions helps me make the best recommendation(s).

What does community banking mean to you?
Sarah: It’s gratifying to be part of a banking team where employees are so dedicated to improving the community professionally, through their work helping businesses grow, and personally, through volunteer and service work. I believe in community and community banking.

What are some of the biggest benefits to a business to working with a Merchants Bank Commercial Banker?
Sarah: I think we’re different because our team is interested helping businesses with their entire banking experience, from loans to deposits and cash management tools. I’m not just your lender. I want to be your banker and someone who provides the best guidance about your financial picture.

Meet Kathy Simon, Credit Card Specialist

IMG_5102

Kathy with some of her co-workers: (l-r) Carol Bell, Kathy Simon, Ashley Wagner, Marcus Krings

When did you start your banking career?

Kathy: I started as a teller when I was 20 years old. I came to Merchants Bank in 2008 as a File Clerk, and then moved to Loan Servicing and Credit Cards.

What is your top banking tip?

Kathy: I would say check your statements for fraud. We see credit card fraud daily. If you pay attention to your statements, either paper or online, you may be able to catch fraud in time. If you suspect fraud on your account, the window to act is within 60 days from the statement’s cut-off date.

Acting as soon as you suspect something is always best. Or better yet, download our Merchants Bank Credit Card App on your mobile device to monitor your Merchants Credit Card daily. Many other cards have similar apps; take advantage of them to protect yourself.

What’s one thing your mom or dad taught you about money?

Kathy: My mom always said, “Put money away for a rainy day!” That’s such a “mom” thing to say, isn’t it? It was great advice. A little saved goes a long way later.

If you had $1,875,000 what is one fun thing you’d do with the money?

Kathy: I would travel to Europe and give some to family and friends.

Besides money, what’s your favorite green thing?

Kathy: It’s a toss-up between trees and avocados. If I had to pick, I’d say trees.

Click here to learn more about Credit Cards at Merchants Bank. Credit cards are subject to credit approval.

Merchants Bank to Acquire The First National Bank of Northfield

Greg Evans, Merchants Bank President & CEO and David Shumway. First National Bank of Northfield CEO

Merchants Bank and The First National Bank of Northfield have reached a definitive agreement for Merchants to acquire the Northfield banking institution, according to Gregory M. Evans, President & CEO of Merchants Financial Group, Inc. and Merchants Bank, N.A. The agreement is subject to regulatory agency approval, but it is fully expected that the deal will close before year-end 2019.

Hear Greg Evans & Rick Etsenson of First National discuss the agreement on the KYMN Morning Show with Jeff Johnson.

“We are thrilled with the opportunity to be joining the Northfield community and continuing The First National Bank’s tradition of high quality customer service and community involvement,” said Evans. “We are also humbled by the stewardship responsibility that comes with ensuring First National’s legacy with its customers and in the community will continue to be nurtured and never forgotten.”

Both First National Bank and Merchants Bank have rich histories of service in their respective communities in southeastern Minnesota. First National was chartered in Northfield in 1873, and Merchants’ history began in Winona in 1875.

“There are tremendous challenges today for smaller community banks, so we made the strategic decision to find the right partner to provide broader financial services and technology tools that will be expected by our customers well into the future,” said David Shumway, CEO for The First National Bank of Northfield. “We know Merchants is the right partner, and our due diligence identified Merchants as an organization absolute in its commitment to shared values of community leadership and strong service culture.”

The First National Bank of Northfield has $207 million in assets, $157 million in loans (plus an additional $60 million in sold loan participations) and $183 million in deposits. Internationally recognized as the bank that defeated Jesse James in 1876, First National Bank operates out of two branches in Northfield and a loan production office in Minneapolis.

Under the terms of the agreement, Merchants Financial Group, Inc. will acquire all of the outstanding stock of The First National Bank of Northfield in an all cash transaction. The amount of the sale was not disclosed.

Merchants Bank is a full service community bank with 21 branches in southeastern Minnesota and west-central Wisconsin. Headquartered in Winona, MN, the Bank is the fifth-largest banking organization headquartered in the state of Minnesota with more than $1.76 billion in assets.

Meet Dave Engstler, Consumer Banker at Merchants Bank

Dave Engstler, Consumer Banker

How long have you been with Merchants?
Dave: More than 15 years. In that time, I’ve always been a Lender with Merchants and always in our Rochester Green Meadows office.

What is your top banking tip?
Dave: Live within your means.

What’s one thing your mom or dad taught you about money?
Dave: Basically, save first.

If you won the Powerball, what’s the first thing you would do?
Dave: I would make sure my son had enough money for college.

Besides money, what’s your favorite green thing?
Dave: I really like pine trees. In Northern Minnesota, it’s pine trees and water. I love that part of the state…just smell and the fresh air.

Merchants Financial Group, Inc Announces Earnings of $13,785,285 through Third Quarter of 2018, Pays 70 Cents Per Share Dividend

Greg Evans, President & CEO

Merchants Financial Group, Inc. (MFGI) announced a net income of $13,785,285 through the first three quarters of 2018 and significantly increased the semiannual dividend paid to Shareholders, according to MFGI President & CEO Gregory M. Evans.

“Our core earnings continue to be strong, which in the end benefits all of our customers, the communities we serve and our Shareholders,” said Evans. “We are proud to be a safe, strong bank with growth that allows us to contribute to the economic vitality of this specific region, where all of our resource deployment is focused.”

Net income is $3.1 million ahead of MFGI’s plan for 2018 and is an increase of $4.94 million compared to last year. Several Merchants Bank locations and the Merchants Bank Equipment Finance and Mortgage Operations divisions exceeded their respective performance forecasts through three quarters.

During its October meeting, the MFGI Board of Directors approved a dividend of 70 cents per share to shareholders, up from 61 cents per share for the first half of the year. The semiannual dividends paid to Merchants’ Shareholders for 2018 is an increase of 18% compared to a year ago.

“As is always the case, our strong performance has been the result of a total team effort. I’m proud of all we’ve accomplished together and am optimistic about our performance for the remainder of the year,” said Evans.

MFGI owns 21 Merchants Bank locations, including Minnesota locations in Winona, St. Charles, Goodview, 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. Additionally, MFGI also owns Twin Cities-based Merchants Bank Equipment Finance, a division of Merchants Bank, N.A.

Merchants Financial Group is a publicly-traded Company. Ownership is made up of its more than 440 employees and mostly individuals and families from southeastern Minnesota and west-central Wisconsin.

Area Business Leader John Killen Elected to the Merchants Bank Charter Board of Directors

John Killen, Board of Directors

John Killen, President & CEO of WinCraft, Inc., was elected to the Merchants Bank Charter Board of Directors at its April 17 meeting, according to Scott Biesanz, Chairman of the Charter Board of Directors.

Since graduating from the University of Kansas in 1985, Killen has spent all but four years of his career with WinCraft, an industry leading manufacturer of licensed and promotional products for retailers, professional sports teams, concessionaires, colleges, businesses, distributors and schools. Killen spent four years working for the NBA during its great resurgence in the late 1980s and early 1990s, developing the corporate premium and promotions business as well as promoting the USA Basketball Dream Team.

“WinCraft is a leader in its field in the country,” Biesanz said. “With that leadership position comes insight to how businesses throughout the region and throughout the country view opportunities for growth. John will be able to share that and more, strengthening our board as we continue to grow.”

In addition to leading nearly 700 employees at Winona-based WinCraft, Killen has contributed his talents to a number of organizations over the years. John serves as a board member for The Vernon Company, Newton, IA, and on various advisory boards at Winona State University and Saint Mary’s University. Recently he’s spent time as a member of the National Marketing and Communications Committee for Ducks Unlimited.

“Merchants is a regional banking leader, and I look forward to lending my experience and knowledge to the Board,” Killen said. “It is a privilege to be able to serve with a group with such a broad base of expertise.”

Killen and his wife Wendy live in Winona. They have two sons. John Jr., 23, is a Marketing Manager at WinCraft and Henry, 21, is a Junior at the University of Kansas.

The Merchants Bank Charter Board of Directors is responsible for the fiduciary duty to carry on the business of banking and for providing oversight and strategic direction for Merchants while insuring the safety and soundness of the organization. Without a separate local Community Advisory Board for Winona, Goodview, St. Charles, Eau Claire, and Merchants Bank Equipment Financing, the Bank’s the Charter Board of Directors serves in this capacity as well for those locations.

Merchants Bank has 21 locations, including Minnesota locations in Winona, St. Charles, Goodview, 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. Additionally, Twin Cities-based Merchants Bank Equipment Finance, a division of Merchants Bank, N.A.

Merchants Financial Group, Inc. Announces Earnings of Nearly $3.95 Million Through the First Quarter of 2018

Greg Evans, President & CEO

Merchants Financial Group, Inc. (MFGI) announced net income of $3,949,425 through the first quarter of 2018, according to MFGI President & CEO Gregory M. Evans.

“It has been a very good start to the year thanks to the work of our employees across our locations,” Evans said. Net income for the first quarter was more than $1.8 million ahead of last year.

In acknowledgment of the performance, the MFGI Board of Directors authorized an 8.9% stockholder dividend increase from 56 cents per share to 61 cents per share.

“We had strong and consistent contributions throughout our company. Each of our four Bank regions was ahead of its plan for the year, as were our leasing division and our secondary market mortgage operation. We have experienced year-over-year deposit and loan growth, and we have focused on credit quality,” Evans said. “I am optimistic about the remainder of the year.”

Year-over-year deposit growth was $57.2 million, and year-over-year loan growth was $49.9 million. Mortgage loan volume for the first quarter was $75 million, exceeding the Company’s forecast by $5 million for the quarter. In addition to providing mortgage services for its locations, Merchants also provides correspondent mortgage banking services to more than 62 bank charters with 130 locations across Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and North and South Dakota.

MFGI has recorded three consecutive years of record net income. Net income in 2017 was $20,878,465, including $14,297,105 in core earnings, a record on its own, and a $6.5 million accounting adjustment as a result of the reduction of a deferred tax liability, necessitated by the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.

MFGI owns 21 Merchants Bank locations, divided into four Bank regions, including Minnesota locations in Winona, St. Charles, Goodview, 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. 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.

The ownership of Merchants Financial Group is made up of its 440 employees and its shareholders, mostly individuals and families from Southeastern Minnesota and West-central Wisconsin.

Merchants Financial Group, Inc. Announces Record Earnings of $20,878,465 in 2017

Greg Evans, President & CEO

For the third consecutive year Merchants Financial Group, Inc. (MFGI) has recorded record earnings, ending 2017 with $20,878,465 in net income.

The record earnings report includes $14,297,105 in earnings from Merchants core business activity in 2017, which surpasses 2016’s record earnings total by $140,000 on its own. Additionally, Merchants recorded an accounting adjustment of more than $6.5 million as a result of the reduction of a deferred tax liability, necessitated by the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 occurring before year-end, according to MFGI President & CEO Gregory M. Evans.

“We are especially pleased with the work of our team across all of our locations in pushing our core earnings to a record level,” Evans said. “While we appreciate the addition of the extra income that comes from the tax act, it can only be viewed as a one-time addition to our bottom line because of the deferred tax line item on our balance sheet.”

MFGI benefitted from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 primarily because of depreciable assets leased to commercial clients through the Company’s equipment finance division, Merchants Bank Equipment Finance (MBEF) in Minneapolis. The corporate tax rate reduction impacted the reduction of that future tax payment liability, creating the additional income accounting adjustment. Because of the significant year-over-year increase in reported net income, the MFGI Board of Directors authorized a special $1 per share dividend to be paid to shareholders. That dividend payment will be made March 30 to shareholders of record as of February 9.

Evans said MFGI’s focus is on the core earnings of the company, and he credited deposit growth, strong mortgage activity and commercial loan growth for contributing to the record year.

“I am exceptionally proud of our team and the work we did together, especially over the last quarter of the year to reach this level of accomplishment,” Evans said, noting that MFGI’s net income through the first three quarters of 2017 was at $8,841,114.

MFGI’s net income was $14,154,891 for 2016 and $13,454,698 for 2015. MFGI’s stock continues to perform well, trading today at $71.00 per share.

MFGI owns 21 Merchants Bank locations, including Minnesota locations in Winona, St. Charles, Goodview, 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. 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.

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

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.

Andrew Guzzo Joins Merchants Bank as Regional President

Andrew Guzzo, Merchants Bank Regional President

Andrew Guzzo has joined Merchants Bank as Regional President, according to Merchants Financial Group, Inc. (MFGI) President & CEO Greg Evans.

Evans said Guzzo’s primary responsibility will be to provide leadership for Merchants Bank’s Winona locations, along with meaningful community engagement for the Winona area. Additionally, Guzzo will have supervisory responsibility for the strong team of Market Presidents in Onalaska and Eau Claire, WI, and Minnesota locations in La Crescent, Caledonia, Spring Grove, St. Charles, Rushford and Lanesboro. He will have a presence in all of the markets for the southern tier of Merchants’ service footprint.

“We are excited to have Andrew leading our team in the region,”Evans said.  “Andrew brings an intense passion for customer service and community leadership. He also has had significant sales and management experience, both outside and inside the banking industry. We believe his skill set is the right mix to help facilitate our continued growth for our community banking organization.”

Guzzo has spent the past 11 years in the banking industry, working for American Bank & Trust in the Quad Cities (Iowa/Illinois) area, and most recently leading NXT Bank in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Prior to that, he had more than 15 years of sales and sales management experience for US Foods.

“I look forward to helping to establish, build and grow long-term customer relationships around our region,” Guzzo said. “By every measure, Merchants Bank’s enviable culture and customer-centric commitment to the communities it serves continues to raise the bar among community banks across the region. I am humbled by the responsibility to customers and shareholders and excited at the possibilities that come from working with this team.”

Guzzo and his wife, Dawn, have four children, two boys and two girls.

The Merchants organization has reached record earnings each of the past two years and is tracking for another significant year in 2017.

Since the retirement of former MFGI President & CEO Rod Nelson in January, Evans has been serving as the Winona Bank President, as well as overseeing the banking operations for all of Merchants Bank’s 21 locations, in addition to his role as MFGI President and CEO.

With the addition of Guzzo, Merchants will have three regional presidents reporting to Evans – Guzzo for the Winona and Southern region, Dan Massett for the Central Region and Lawrence Stovern for the Twin Cities Region. Evans points out that all are supported by local presidents who have decision making responsibilities in their markets.

“Real local decision making is one way we stand apart from others in our industry. It allows our local leaders to positively influence the people and the communities they serve,” Evans said. “We recognize it is a unique model, but it best serves our customers.”

Leading Merchants’ locations in the region are: Steve Christiansen in Onalaska and La Crescent, Matt Schuldt in Caledonia and Spring Grove, Larry Accola in Eau Claire, Ken Graner in Lanesboro and Rushford, and Jim Allen in St. Charles.

MFGI owns Minnesota locations in Winona, St. Charles, Goodview, 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. Additionally, MFGI also owns Twin Cities-based Merchants Bank Equipment Finance, a division of Merchants Bank, N.A.