CCF Bank posts record profits for 2020

EAU CLAIRE — CCF Bank’s parent company reported $12.7 million in net income for 2020 — a new record for the local financial institution.

Those earnings were about 33% higher than the $9.5 million that Citizens Community Bancorp posted at the end of 2019, according to a quarterly financial report released last week.

In his assessment of the last three months of 2020, Stephen Bianchi, president, chairman and CEO, noted indications of the region’s economy continuing to improve.

“Fourth quarter commercial activity accelerated across our markets where unemployment through November was below 5% in all markets and under 4% in select markets,” he said.

CCF’s quarterly report does include mentions of a sector that continues to need help while the pandemic wears on and effects travel and leisure. At the end of December, the bank had almost $61 million in approved loan deferrals —$51.6 million of which were for hotels.

“As expected, COVID-19 deferrals remain concentrated in the hospitality segment where occupancy rates generally have been tracking with, or slightly better than, national averages depending on the property,” Bianchi stated.

Chambers plan virtual Chippewa Valley Rally

EAU CLAIRE — The yearly trip Chippewa Valley business leaders take to meet with state lawmakers in Madison will be replaced by a weeklong virtual event later this month.

The annual rally is an opportunity for area businesses to speak with policymakers about state issues concerning the Chippewa Valley, including items up for consideration in the biennial state budget.

The Chippewa Valley Chamber Alliance — a partnership between business groups in Eau Claire, Chippewa Falls and Menomonie — will hold its Chippewa Valley Rally from Feb. 22 to 25 through a series of online meetings using Zoom.

On the first day of the rally, all attendees will be part of two sessions during the afternoon.

On the following three mornings, small groups will have 30-minute meetings with individual legislators. Each participant will have a total of 1½ to 2½ hours in those meetings over those days, according to an online notice of the event posted on the Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce website.

There also will be a noon online event each day on Feb. 23 to 25 for all attendees to hear from guest speakers.

As this year’s rally does not involve travel, facility or meal expenses, registration will cost only $39 per person. For more information or to register, go to

Mortgage activity boosts Merchants’ earnings

WINONA, Minn. — The parent company of Merchants Bank ended last year with earnings 8.8% higher than 2019.

Merchants Financial Group announced its year-end financial results last week, posting $21.5 million in net income for 2020. It was $1.9 million than the company expected in its plan for the year, according to a news release.

A big factor contributing to the core earnings was a surge in mortgage refinancing driven by historically low interest rates. Merchants’ residential loan volume exceeded $950 million last year, the news release stated, a 77% increase on 2019’s figure.

Deposit growth of $376 million, 21% more than 2019, also was a factor in the bank’s year-end results. Merchants attributed that to consumers putting more money into the bank while their spending habits changed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Merchants Bank has an Eau Claire branch at 2728 Mall Drive.

From staff reports