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.

Merchants Financial Group, Inc. Posts Earnings of Nearly $6 million Through the Second Quarter of 2017

GregEvansPresidentCEOMerchants Financial Group, Inc. (MFGI) announced net income of $5,970,031 through the second quarter of 2017, according to MFGI President & CEO Gregory M. Evans.

“Our core business is performing extremely well,” Evans said. “Our year has been one of significant strategic progress, and our earnings have been solid.”

Evans noted that there has been year-over-year growth in both deposits and loans. He said mortgage volume continues to be strong and well ahead of MFGI’s plan through the first six months of 2017.

Net income is slightly behind MFGI’s plan for two quarters and is behind 2016’s pace, when MFGI celebrated record earnings. Earnings were impacted by $900,000 set aside as addition to loan loss reserves in the second quarter. Merchants made a similar adjustment at the end of the first quarter. The money is a cushion against possible future loan stress. Evans said putting the money aside is consistent with MFGI’s conservative principles, and that actual loan charge-off activity is well below industry averages.

“We believe we are well-positioned for continued strong earnings during the second half of the year,”Evans said. “I am optimistic about the remainder of the year and beyond.”

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 440 employees and its shareholders, mostly individuals and families from southeastern Minnesota and west-central Wisconsin.

Richard T. Lommen, Jr. Re-elected to Merchants Financial Group, Inc., Board; Onalaska/La Crescent Advisory Board of Directors Reappointed

ChristiansenSteve

Steve Christiansen, Market President – Onalaska and La Crescent

During the Merchants Financial Group, Inc. (MFGI) Annual Meeting on April 6, area business leader Richard T. Lommen Jr., was re-elected to a three-year term on the MFGI Board.

Lommen is also the Board Chairman for the Merchants Bank Advisory Board of Directors in La Crescent and Onalaska. Lommen, the President/Owner of Courtesy Corporation, is joined on the Advisory Board of Directors by a number of area business leaders.

The members of the Merchants Bank Advisory Board of Directors in La Crescent and Onalaska were reappointed to their roles following an April 18 meeting of the Merchants Bank Charter Board. In addition to Lommen, Advisory Board of Directors include Dean L. Ashbacher, President and Chief Executive Officer Truss Specialists, Inc.; Robert A. Heth, Jr., President Heth Hardware, Inc.; Stephen D. Loehr, Vice President of Operations Support Kwik Trip, Inc., and Michael D. Cunningham, Partner La Crescent Property Ventures L.L.C. and Former CEO and Owner The Board Store Furniture and Home Improvements. Cunningham also serves as a member of the MFGI Board.

“It is gratifying to see the commitment of our advisory board to helping continuing to grow our relationships throughout the area,” said Steve Christiansen, Market President of Merchants Bank in Onalaska and La Crescent. “They are well-known in our area for their knowledge and advocacy for business growth.”

MFGI reported record income for 2016 of $14,154,891, its second year in a row of record income. The Onalaska location was one of the leaders, with nearly $2.2 million in net income.

MFGI owns 21 Merchants Bank locations. In addition to La Crescent and Onalaska, Merchants has Minnesota locations in Winona, St. Charles, Goodview, Rochester, Rushford, Lanesboro, Caledonia, 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 another Wisconsin location in Eau Claire. 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.

Merchants Financial Group, Inc. Posts Earnings of $9,774,109 Through the First Three Quarters of 2016; Onalaska Location Makes Significant Contributions

mfgiq3resultsMerchants Financial Group, Inc. (MFGI) announced net income of $9,774,109 through the first three quarters of 2016, according to MFGI President & CEO Rodney R. Nelson. Nelson pointed out that the Merchants Bank location in Onalaska contributed significantly to the performance.

Nelson said the Onalaska location ended with $1,777,844 in net income for the first nine months of the year, which was 62.4% over budget for the location. Nelson noted that total loans for Onalaska were up 36% and Commercial Real Estate balances increased 49% compared to a year ago.

“I think we have the best banking team in the La Crosse area,”said Merchants Bank — Onalaska President Steve Christiansen. “We spend time building relationships, and we always strive to treat people well. We have been pleased to help businesses who have needed our assistance, and we look forward to helping others who may not have experienced the Merchants Bank difference or who may not know of our capabilities.”

Nelson shared that the MFGI Board of Directors voted to reward its shareholders with a one cent per share dividend increase from 55 cents to 56 cents. Earlier this year, the MFGI Board increased the dividend from 53 cents to 55 cents per share. MFGI stock is currently trading at or near record highs, $48.75 per share as of earlier this week.

Nelson recently announced he will be retiring as of January 31, 2017. Winona Market President and Chief Banking Officer for the organization Greg Evans has been named as his successor.

“We are in a good position. I know that under Greg’s leadership and with the support of our teammates, we will continue to grow and be successful,”Nelson said.

MFGI owns 21 Merchants Bank locations, including Wisconsin locations in Onalaska and Eau Claire. Minnesota locations include 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. All banks are FDIC members and equal housing lenders.  Subject to credit approval. 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 450 employees and its shareholders, mostly individuals and families from southeastern Minnesota and west-central Wisconsin.

Merchants Financial Group, Inc. Posts Earnings of $6,442,991 Through First Half of 2016

MFGIResults

Merchants Financial Group, Inc. (MFGI) announced net income of $6,442,991 through the first two quarters of 2016, according to MFGI President & CEO Rodney R. Nelson.

“Our earnings reflect the exceptional work of the employees throughout our organization in meeting and exceeding the needs of our customers in the communities we serve, whether they are business owners, someone buying a home, or someone saving for the future,” Nelson said. “We believe our success is a direct result of helping others meet their goals.”

Nelson said the main drivers for Merchants Bank’s earnings continue to be commercial loan and mortgage loan growth. He said other areas have also contributed to the positive earnings, including growth in the credit card portfolio. Merchants Bank issues and services its own consumer and business credit cards.

Net income for the first two quarters of 2016 is nearly $170,000 ahead of Merchants Bank’s 2015 earnings through the same time. Merchants Bank posted record earnings of $13,454,698 in 2015.

“I anticipate continued success throughout the year in all of our markets,” Nelson said.

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 nearly 450 employees and its shareholders, mostly individuals and families from southeastern Minnesota and west-central Wisconsin.