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.

Shareholder Story: Karen Hawkinson on behalf of Francis Zeches

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Francis (center) pictured with his children and their spouses.

We are proud to be locally owned. At our Annual Shareholder meeting this year, we asked our shareholders how they became part of the Merchants family.

Karen shares her story:

“My story with Merchants Bank is really my dad’s story that has been passed on to me.  It is a story that started a very long time ago.  Since he is no longer here to share it, I will do my best to tell it on his behalf.

A life long businessman in Winona, there were times in building his business that my dad needed loans.  When another Winona bank at which he had always banked did not grant his request, he went to Merchants Bank and there he found willing partners.  It was the beginning of a very long relationship built on trust and mutual respect.  A friendship developed with long ago Bank President Gil Grabow.  After a round of golf in early June 1967, he convinced my father to purchase Merchants stock.  My dad became a ready stockholder and never looked back.  Over the years you could not find a more ardent supporter of the bank or a prouder stockholder.  On two separate occasions, he gifted my husband and me with some of his Merchants stock.  There was always a caveat with that gift –“don’t ever sell this stock without talking to me first”.  Needless to say, we didn’t sell that stock because we understood that its value was much greater than the stated book value.

My dad continued to invest and the bank stock continued to grow, splitting several times over the course of his ownership.  As he neared the end of his life and was carefully planning his trust, he derived great pleasure in knowing he would be passing on stock in such a fine institution to my brother and me.  My dad was a proud Minnesotan, and even prouder member of the Winona community, so it is no surprise that he took it quite personally that the very successful bank in which he had invested, had its origin in his hometown.

My Merchants stock represents so much more than the gift of a wise investment.  While I enthusiastically welcome the growing dividends, it is an investment, that like my dad, I take quite personally. His advice to “never sell that stock”still resonates in my mind.  The bank and its stock –represent all that my dad found important in life –good value, a solid business plan, relationships built on trust and mutual respect and a sense of community pride.  Being a stockholder allows me to still be a part of the community in which I was raised and to share in the continued richness of that environment.”

-Karen Hawkinson, the daughter of Francis Zeches.

Merchants Financial Group, Inc Reports Year to Shareholders and Appoints Directors to Its Board

Greg Evans, President & CEO
During its annual meeting on Thursday, April 4, Merchants Financial Group, Inc. (MFGI) reported strong 2018 financial results, Shareholders re-elected two Directors and elected one new Director to the MFGI Board.

MFGI formally reported net income of $18,887,308 for 2018. Pre-tax earnings were up 11.9% as compared to 2017. There was business growth on both sides of the Company’s balance sheet with year-end 2018 total deposits of $1.435 billion and total loans/leases of $1.424 billion. MFGI ended 2018 with $1.756 billion in consolidated assets, making Merchants the fifth largest banking organization chartered in the state of Minnesota.

“Our Board of Directors helps ensure the Merchants organization stays true to our community banking roots while continuing to provide value to our shareholders. Their guidance, along with the hard work of our employees and the support of our customers and the communities we serve, is what helps us achieve steady business growth and consistently strong earnings performance year after year,” said Gregory M. Evans, MFGI President & Chief Executive Officer.

Re-elected to three-year terms as Directors were: Scott K. Biesanz, Chairman of Goodson Manufacturing Company and James A. Trenda, Founder/Owner/President of CP Advisors, LLC. Elected as a new member of the Board of Directors to a three-year term was John H. Killen, President/CEO of Wincraft, Inc,. Killen has served on the Merchants Bank, N.A., Charter Board since April of 2018.

At the meeting retiring MFGI Director Mike Cunningham was recognized for more than 10 years of service. Mike Cunningham, Partner of La Crescent Property Ventures, LLC and Former CEO/Owner of The Board Store Furniture and Home Improvements, will continue to serve on the Merchants Bank Charter Board and the Bank’s Local Advisory Boards for Onalaska/LaCrescent.

Featured speakers during the meeting included Evans; Susan M. Savat, Chief Financial Officer; Wendy Cagle, Loan Review Officer; and Andrew Guzzo Regional President for Winona and the Southern half of the Company’s service footprint.

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.

Merchants Bank is a full service community bank with 21 branches in southeastern Minnesota and west-central Wisconsin. Headquartered in Winona, MN, the Bank has more than $1.75 billion in assets and was founded in 1875.

Merchants Financial Group, Inc. Announces Earnings of $18,887,308 for 2018

Greg Evans, President & CEO

Merchants Financial Group, Inc. (MFGI) announced year-end earnings for 2018 with net income of $18,887,308, according to MFGI President & CEO, Gregory M. Evans.

The earnings exceeded MFGI’s plan for the year by more than $3 million. Merchants benefitted from corporate tax reform throughout 2018, which contributed to performance results. Evans noted that on a pre-tax basis, MFGI increased earnings by 12% from 2017 to $25,237,358.

“All areas of the organization contributed to help us surpass our planned income for the year with three of our four Bank Regions exceeding their income targets and strong performance from our leasing division, Merchants Bank Equipment Finance, and our Secondary Market Mortgage operation,” said Evans.

Core earnings for 2018 were also bolstered by commercial loan and deposit growth, and intense credit risk monitoring and mitigation, which resulted in a year-over-year reduction in the Allowance for Loan/Lease Loss Reserve contributions. Evans credits MFGI’s strategic diversification of business segments, product offerings and markets for the steady business and earnings growth Merchants consistently achieves.

“The Merchants team is truly special and I’m proud to share our team’s success over the last year,” said Evans. “We look forward to continuing to improve the lives of our customers through the caring and advising approach to financial services they deserve.”

MFGI’s net income was $20,878,465 for 2017, which included an accounting adjustment of more than $6.5 million as a result of the reduction of a deferred tax liability associated with the Tax Cuts and Job Act of 2017. Net income was $14,154,891 for 2016.

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.

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.

Merchants Financial Group, Inc. Reports Third Consecutive Record Year to Shareholders and Appoints Directors to its Board

Greg Evans, President & CEO

During its annual meeting Thursday, April 5 Merchants Financial Group, Inc. (MFGI) shareholders learned details behind MFGI’s third consecutive record year, re-elected two Directors, elected a new Director and bid farewell to a long-time member of the MFGI Board of Directors.

MFGI Board Member Richard J. Pope, who is retiring from the MFGI Board and the Merchants Bank Charter Board of Directors, provided shareholders with perspective on MFGI’s long and consistent growth. Pope, the Chairman of the Board, WinCraft, Inc., has served the Merchants organization as a Board member for 36 years.

Joining Pope in making presentations were MFGI President & CEO Greg Evans and MFGI CFO Sue Savat. Savat provided a detailed look at the past year, while Evans provided overall industry perspective and took a look ahead at MFGI’s future.

MFGI formally reported net income of $20,878,465 for 2017. The record earnings report includes $14,297,105 in earnings from Merchants core business activity in 2017, which surpassed 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.

ShareholderMeetingAward

From left to right: Sue Savat, Scott Biesanz, Dick Pope and Greg Evans. Pope was recognized for his 30+ years on the Merchants Financial Group, Inc., Board of Directors and the Merchants Bank Charter Board of Directors.

“We are thankful for our customers’ trust, the efforts of our employees and the support of our shareholders,” Evans said. “We are especially grateful for the guidance our boards of directors provide to our banks as we grow, sharing their understanding of the communities we serve. Dick (Pope) has been vitally important to our growth because of the insight he has shared, and his influence will continue to be felt as we continue our growth.”

Ann E. Merchlewitz was elected to a three-year term as a new Director for the MFGI Board. Merchlewtiz is Executive Vice President and General Counsel for Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota. A Winona resident, she has been a long-time member of the Merchants Bank Charter Board of Directors.

Re-elected to three-year terms as Directors were Michael F. Cichanowski, Chief Executive Officer of We-no-nah Canoe, Inc., and Bruce E. Ryan, President of Ryan Windows & Siding, Inc. of Rochester.

Also recognized was Steven G. Kohner, President of Modern Ready Mix, who retired after 15 years on the Merchants Bank Charter Board of Directors.

Evans also noted that MFGI Director Timothy J. Murphy, Partner at Hammell & Murphy, P.L.L.P. of Caledonia, is stepping off the MFGI Board after many years of service, but will continue as a member of the Merchants Bank Charter Board of Directors and the Advisory Board of Directors for Caledonia, Lanesboro, Rushford and Spring Grove, where he serves as Board Chairman.

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.

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.