The new signage is up at 47 farm lending offices across Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois signifying the completion of one of the largest farm credit association mergers in the Midwest.
As of July 1, Wisconsin-based Badgerland Financial, 1st Farm Credit Services of Illinois and Minnesota-based AgStar Financial Services officially became Compeer Financial, a farm lending entity with assets of nearly $20 billion.
This union creates the third largest Farm Credit association in the country. The merger was voted on and approved by the membership and Board of Directors of each organization and received final regulatory approval from the Farm Credit Administration.
“The merger of these three highly successful organizations strengthens our commitment to the agricultural and rural communities we serve,” said Rod Hebrink, Compeer Financial president and chief executive officer.
While many members expressed confusion about the new name of the organization, Hebrink told the media gathered at the Sun Prairie office on July 13, that the word compeer means "going forward together as equals".
"When we started with the vision of bringing three legacy organizations together as partners, the meaning of the word was a good grounding in developing this partnership and serving our rural marketplace," Hebrink said."It also speaks to the way we’re moving forward—as a unified cooperative that’s committed to the success of our
clients, team members and rural America."
Prior to merger talks, Hebrink says the boards of the three lending operations talked about the evolution fo the marketplace and openly asked how each could best serve their current client base into the future.
With the merger, Hebrink said the organization has the ability to build capacity and scale necessary to serve ag ventures of all sizes. It also creates a more diverse portfolio that will generate additional stability for Compeer Financial, its member-owners and clients.
"Serving large agricultural businesses are part of our market but it takes great capacity to develop the tools and technology and processes necessary to support he small clients that are really the lifeblood of the organization," Hebrink said. "Eighty percent of the 45,000 clients of Compeer Financial have loan relationships of less than $100,000 and some of them are part-time operations."
Compeer Financial leverages the strengths of the original organizations, while providing expanded capital to help Compeer Financial invest in technology and other resources to support its clients.
“Our clients across the entire geography of our new organization now have the opportunity to benefit from the resources and broad expertise of our teams to help them realize their dreams,” says Paul Kohls, Compeer Financial chief lending operations officer and general counsel.
Soybean and alfalfa farmer Mark Cade of Westby, WI, is just one of many of the members that make up the Compeer Financial Board of Directors that have direct ties to agriculture. Joining Cade on the board of directors are fellow Wisconsinites Tim Evert of North Freedom, David Kretzschmar of Mellon, Lori Meinholz, Middleton, Greg Nelson, Spring Valley, Greg Pollesch of Neenah and Dan Zimmerman of Rosendale.
The Westby, crops and livestock farmer serves as president of the board and personally recognizes the importance of good relationships between clients and lenders.
"The average partnership with clients is 11 plus years and one-third of those who responded to our survey were 16 or more years - that's something we value," Cade said.
As a client, Cade says he expects a deeper knowledge and expertise on meeting his financial needs on the farm, especially an operation that is looking ahead to the next generation taking over.
"From my perspective, I'm looking for Compeer Financial to be there for the next generation, whether it's my children, my grandchildren or my great grandchildren," he said. "I hope we can provide that service to all of our clients."
Cade says there are no plans to close any of the 47 local offices located across the Compeer Financial service area, and the focus on local, knowledgeable and personal service won't change.
Further, the merger better enables the organization to share its earnings with member-owners through its cash patronage program.
“Our allegiance to our clients and communities does not change,” adds Hebrink. “They can count on the same excellent service and commitment from our dedicated team of professionals they’ve come to expect. Ultimately, the union between these three cooperatives will provide us with expanded breadth to better serve client needs—to champion their hopes and dreams.”
“That’s at the core of an organization that measures its success with client relationships not in years, but in generations,” says Matt Ginder, Compeer Financial chief core markets officer.
John Monson, chief mission and marketing officer, announced that Compeer Financial has pledged to return 1 percent of its net earnings back to rural communities and ag service organizations.
“This commitment helps us provide even more opportunities and additional investments into rural communities and agriculture,” Monson said. "It's not about making big splashes but by doing the little things out there, small things that people don't necessarily pay attention to - like fixing the leaky roof of a building at a small county fairgrounds."
The effort is a way to continue supporting agriculture and rural America, and is likely to include: local and state FFA and 4-H programs; scholarships; local and regional food bank donations; county, regional and state fairs; local, regional and state agricultural organizations; disaster relief and community support..
In addition, Compeer Financial encourages its team members to actively support these efforts with their time.
“Each legacy organization had been generous within the communities they serve and we are extremely pleased to carry on this important work,” says Monson. “We’re in partnership with our clients, and our giving pledge is one more way to share their vision for the future and support their needs.”
When Todd Van Hoose began his career in the lending industry, there were over 1000 local Farm Credit System lending institutions. Today there are about 70 - many of them merging together to form larger farm lending entities.
"We're seeing an evolution over time," said Van Hoose, president and chief executive officer of Farm Credit Council. "I travel around and everywhere I go I hear people saying that the thing that unites Farm Credit Service is its mission: supporting communities and agriculture. That's what brings everyone in to work every day - to support that mission."
Hebrink says Compeer Finanical's ultimate vision is to be the trusted financial services partner advancing agriculture in rural America.
"The most important part of a partnership is trust. It's trusting that we have the best interests of our clients in mind in everything that we do," he said.