St. Paul-based bank Bremer Bank announced Thursday that it's expanding into southeastern Minnesota by acquiring Rochester's Eastwood Bank.
This move quickly ramps up Bremer's presence in this area by adding Eastwood's 13 locations. Bremer has 85 branches in Minnesota, Wisconsin and North Dakota. The nearest branch is in Owatonna, which opened in 2012. It recently broke ground to build a new bank in Eau Claire, Wis.
"This partnership is part of Bremer's overall expansion strategy of entering new markets, making acquisitions and recruiting top talent. We have been working on our expansion initiatives since 2011," said Greg Hilding, Bremer's midwest group president.
The deal is expected to close on Jan. 23, pending regulator approval. Eastwood and Bremer officials declined to discuss the financial terms of the purchase. Once it's approved, all of Eastwood's branches will change over to the Bremer name.
Brad Peters, Bremer's Southeast Minnesota region CEO, will take over the Eastwood Bank operations with Eastwood's current president Paul Tieskoetter reporting directly to Peters.
Acquiring Eastwood extends Bremer's coverage in Minnesota as well as strengthening its position as one of this region's largest financial institutions. Dave Talen, the president of Eastwood bank's holding company, described the deal as being about growth for Bremer.
"It's a great strategic fit and a great geographic fit, really with no overlap," added Hilding.
That lack of overlap with any of Bremer's locations appears to be positive for the future of Eastwood's more than 185 employees. During the next six months, Bremer will study Eastwood to determine if any adjustments are needed. However, dramatic changes don't seem likely.
"We have every intention to continue forward with these locations that Eastwood Bank has built," Hilding said while traveling to Eastwood's branches with Dave Talen to meet the staff. "It's a privalige to take over such a strong legacy. It's an opportunity and a responsibility we intend to uphold."
As of March 2014, Bremer listed assets of $8.8 billion, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC). Rochester's Think Mutual Bank had assets of $1.5 billion, Winona's Merchants Bank had $1.39 billion.
Eastwood's roots extend back to 1903 to founding of the First State Bank of Dover. That bank was later acquired by Farmers State Bank in Eyota. In 1979, Farmers State opened a Rochester branch and called it Eastwood. First State, Farmers State and Eastwood were all combined under the name of Eastwood in 1982.
Considering the family's 75 year history with the bank and the community, the Talens say deciding to sell was took a lot of consideration.
"We have carefully considered what is best for our shareholders, customers, communities and employees," stated Eastwood Bank Chair James Talen. "And we believe the decision to become part of the Bremer organization is the right choice for meeting the best interests of all of these groups."
Dave Talen, James' son, echoed that sentiment. "We wanted someone who would carry on what we've built. Bremer is a good cultural fit with Eastwood," he said.
Both James and Dave Talen will remain with the organization through 2015 "to assist with the transition," according to Bremer Bank.