Kirk Muhlenbruck had already decided he wanted to stay in Northfield.
The longtime banker, who already had experience leading Rochester- and Northfield-based institutions, took on the market president role with Merchants Bank in Northfield based on the organization’s positive reputation and his desire to make a lasting impact on the community where he lives.
In his new role, Muhlenbruck is responsible for local decision-making and all aspects of customer care, from business banking to retail banking and mortgages. He said he will play a “very active” role in working with business customers and getting to know Merchants Bank members.
33 years of service
Muhlenbruck’s banking career started in 1988 when he moved with his family to Rochester. There, he worked for Norwest Banks and was employed during the organization’s 1998 merger with Wells Fargo, staying until 2002. He then moved to the Northfield market, becoming bank president for Wells Fargo from 2002-05. In 2005, he started working with Rochester-based Think Bank, where he served until assuming the Merchants Bank position in April.
He said the “longstanding” positive regional reputation of Merchants attracted him to the position. Muhlenbruck added that he wants to oversee the branch’s continued presence “as a community leader” through sponsorships, continued participation with nonprofits and as a physical downtown presence that continues to offer up-to-date products.
“When Merchants Bank chose to invest in the Northfield market, I saw that as a real positive and a long-term play for the Northfield customer base as well as the community,” Muhlenbruck said.
“We’ll continue to invest in our people and our customer offerings.”
‘We’re still in the relationship business’
Muhlenbruck says customers have learned how to be more efficient in digital banking throughout his career. He said Merchants Bank must provide a consistent customer experience in all business locations. Though there have been numerous industry changes during his career, Muhlenbruck noted the need for bankers to forge customer bonds remains the same.
“The industry continues to change and adapt, and (it) has been exciting to be part of that,” he said. “When it’s all said and done we are still in the relationship business and getting to know our customers day in and day out is what will set us apart for the future, and I look forward to being able to continue to develop the relationships here in Northfield that are both new and being reintroduced, being back in the community.”
Dan Massett, Central Region president, said Muhlenbruck “brings a broad background related to strategic leadership, commercial banking and community involvement to Merchants, which will be extremely beneficial to his role in Northfield.”
“Moreover, he embraces the community service culture that Merchants Bank embodies,” Massett said.
Merchants Bank expanded in 2019 into Northfield. Its predecessors, First National Bank of Northfield, was known by history students around the globe as the bank where ordinary townsfolk defeated Jesse James and his gang.
Today, Merchants Bank has more than $2 billion in total assets and is one of the largest independent financial organizations in the region. All former First National Bank of Northfield employees were kept on-board for the transition. Merchants Bank has approximately two dozen locations across southwestern Wisconsin and southeastern Minnesota and has been growing. The acquisition of First National Bank, with its $250 million in assets as of 2019, was considered the largest at that point.