Alerus: Focusing On Your Financial Future

Written by: Brady Drake

With roots running back to 1879, Alerus has been a part of our region’s history for more than a century, serving consumers and businesses with one core belief: Everything they do is in the best interest of their clients.

Alerus has readily embraced changes over the years, but they’ve always held true to that core belief. Every change they make is made with you in mind. The diversified services Alerus offers today makes it possible to provide holistic financial care for you and your business, from business banking and payroll services, to retirement plans, benefits packages, and wealth management. By pairing you with a dedicated business advisor, Alerus is able to identify the right mix of products from its full suite of services for every client’s unique needs and long-term goals.

How To Choose A Financial Partner That Adds Value

Running a business is complicated enough without having to worry about mastering every financial topic that runs across your desk. Alerus business advisors provide the financial expertise so you can focus on doing what you do best.

One of the best aspects of business ownership is you get to choose who you do business with. When evaluating financial service providers, remember that this relationship can last decades — from start-up to succession. The right advisor will become as emotionally invested in your wellbeing and success as you are. Here’s what to look for:

  • Proactive communication. No successful relationship is a one-way street. If you find yourself initiating all of your conversations with your financial advisor, you can bet they are not spending any extra time thinking about you or your business’ success. Find an advisor who is accessible and contacts you regularly, and you’ll find a true business partner.
  • Service, with your best interest in mind. It’s important to choose a financial services provider with the capabilities and services that will meet your needs as your business evolves. But make sure you work with a provider that puts your unique needs and best interest above products and services. A financial advisor who takes time to understand your business can play a key role in helping you achieve your long-term goals.
  • Good corporate citizenship. Banks can be more than a business. Those that value doing the right thing, respecting everyone, serving with passion, and embracing change can be catalysts for economic development, community champions, and dream makers — helping you succeed while strengthening the entire community together.

In an October 2020 survey released by the National Endowment for Financial Education, 84% of Americans said COVID-19 is causing stress on their personal finances. Over half of those surveyed said not having enough money saved for emergencies, retirement, college, and other uses ranks among their top financial concerns.

A growing number of employees have begun looking to their employers for help in establishing and maintaining financial wellness plans. Employer-sponsored wellness plans can be a win-win; providing employees with tools to improve their financial outlook can increase their workplace productivity and give employers a recruitment/ retention advantage, among other benefits.

If you are one of the many employers who would like to help their employees become more financially secure, but aren’t sure where to start or how to enhance your existing retirement plan, here are a few popular options:

  • Retirement accounts. Common types include traditional 401(k) accounts, SEP IRAs, or simple IRAs. Eligibility for these accounts may vary based on your company’s employee headcount and individual employee earnings. Other differences include withdrawal penalties, deferral limitations, and federal filing requirements for the employer.
  • Health savings accounts. These are long-term savings accounts specifically for health care costs that are paired with low premium, high deductible insurance plans. Contributions are not taxed and earn interest.
  • Personal financial fitness tools. Technology offerings like MY ALERUS give employees a holistic view of their finances and provide guidance to help them build their financial confidence. Employees can access their retirement accounts, track their emergency savings, create a personalized budget, and manage debt using one tool, empowering them to take control of their financial future.

Retirement and benefits plans are numerous and confusing. Know the basics going in, ask lots of questions, and work with a provider who recognizes your employees as individuals instead of plan participants.

Guidance From Start-up To Succession

On any given day, you might find Alerus lead business advisor Bill Carlson working on a new client’s business plan, helping a company develop its employer-sponsored benefits plan, meeting with a client’s employee to answer their 401(k) plan questions, or providing wealth management guidance to a business owner after completing a successful succession.

“That’s my role – to be involved at every level, wherever they need me to provide guidance,” Carlson says. “Business bankers at many banks are primarily focused on loans and deposits. Being a business advisor at Alerus is so much more than making loans. We really get to know our clients and their businesses, and as a result we become an important part of their team. We are able to provide strategic guidance and services tailored to their needs and long-term plan.”

Carlson has been providing financial guidance to Alerus business clients for more than 30 years, developing relationships with many business clients that have lasted decades — from start-up to succession and beyond.

When one of his clients decided they were ready to plan their exit from business ownership, Carlson was one of the first people they told. He then spent six years helping them develop and successfully execute a plan for minority owners to purchase the business. He now provides financial guidance to the new business owners, and wealth management services to the previous owners.

“That’s what I love most, is working with clients throughout their careers and lives,” he says. “There is a lot of information out there today, but people still need advice and expertise. Advisors can draw on their experiences, the successes and mistakes they’ve seen, and provide grounded advice that really makes a difference in their clients’ financial lives.”

Carlson has worked with all types of businesses over the course of his career and finds something interesting about every one of them. But he especially enjoys working with entrepreneurs because of the energy they have for everything they do.

“Entrepreneurs are full on the gas,” he says. “I love the passion they bring, but I sometimes have to be the person to tap the brakes. I’m keeping their best interest in mind, however it’s a give and take. It’s important not to stomp on their vision and, instead, be a voice that helps guide their vision to reality.”

Bill Carlson
Has the pandemic changed your business plan?
Contact Bill Carlson, lead business advisor at Alerus
[email protected]

The Relationship Quarterback For Your Finances

After having worked for years at other financial organizations, Jessica Hoppe joined Alerus in 2012 because she wanted to do more for her business clients.

“The entrepreneurial spirit at Alerus and the ability to serve as one point of contact for my clients makes a huge difference in the service I’m able to provide,” she says. “I have the opportunity to really get to know my clients and offer meaningful advice that helps them achieve their goals. Plus, when their needs change, they can just call me and know that I will bring the right experts to the table. It’s kind of like being the quarterback for their financial team — I know the ins and outs of business banking and make sure to include the right players at the right time.”

Hoppe is an experienced advisor for all types of business clients, but after growing up in a family-run business and watching her parents experience the highs and lows of business ownership, she has a soft spot for helping small business owners.

“My parents worked so hard. They were in the store before I went to school and worked until after I went to bed every night,” she says. “For many small businesses, finances are one of the most difficult aspects of ownership. They need the help that banks can provide, and it is very satisfying to set them up for success.”

Financing structures are a great example of how business advisors can provide additional value to their clients. “Many clients believe the most important financing factor is rate,” Hoppe says. “In reality, the terms, amortization, equity structure, and operational cash flow support are more important factors to the business’ success. Of course the rate should always be competitive, but ‘lowest’ doesn’t always equal ‘best’. “

An experienced business advisor will work as an extension of the business’ financial team, providing expert input in navigating complex U.S. Small Business Administration federal funding programs as well as evaluating traditional financing options. They can explain available programs and processes, review financial results, and help the owner decide which opportunity is right for them, now and for the long term.

“The best part of being a business advisor at Alerus is our overarching priority to help clients succeed, no matter what,” Hoppe says. ‘Do the right thing’ is far more than a motto in our company. It drives how we work with clients. Our goal isn’t to sell products, it’s to provide solutions that our clients actually need as we support their journey.”

Jessica Hoppe
Ready to update your employee benefits program?
Contact Jessica Hoppe, senior business advisor at Alerus
[email protected]

Driven By Honesty And Integrity

There’s nothing Brad Loween likes better than sitting down with a business owner to find out what makes them tick, and then helping them reach that goal.

“What is the ultimate goal of ownership?” he says. “Do you want to remain stable in your current state? Do you want to grow the business and sell it? Provide a succession opportunity for your kids? Everyone is different, so it’s important to think about what matters to them, and then we figure out a way to get there.”

After spending a decade in the financial industry specializing in wealth management and business banking, Loween joined Alerus in December 2020. He says he was attracted to the company for three reasons: its size, capabilities, and emphasis on providing holistic care for clients.

“It’s exciting to be the main point of contact and take care of any need my clients have, from lending and treasury management to employee retirement and benefits plans or wealth management services,” he says. “I meet with them more often and get a clearer view of their financial picture, which allows me to provide better service. And Alerus has all of the products and capabilities to meet any business need my clients have, but we’re able to still provide personal service. Clients aren’t just a number and don’t get shuffled around.”

Loween says Alerus’ one point of contact approach also saves clients time. Instead of surfing the web for specialists or calling around to arrange appointments for various needs, they can make one call to Loween and get back to running their business. “When we can help provide peace of mind by focusing on the financial considerations of their business, that’s what we do best,” he says.

A 21-year military veteran with two overseas deployments under his belt, Loween refers to himself as a regular Joe who enjoys contributing his financial expertise to help fellow veterans and businesses succeed. He especially enjoys working with core businesses that are essential to the economy. “Construction firms, wholesalers, healthcare providers … it’s those types of businesses that are the engine making our world turn,” he says. “My job is to support my clients’ growth, offering advice and guidance to help them succeed.”

Brad Loween
Do you have a business finance question?
Contact Brad Lowen, senior business advisor at Alerus
[email protected]

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Brady is the Editorial Director at Spotlight Media in Fargo, ND.