News Column

Stearns Bank launches expansion in Albany

July 22, 2014

By Kevin Allenspach, St. Cloud Times, Minn.



July 22--When you think of Stearns Bank, perhaps you envision offices, tellers and drive-up windows at a half-dozen locations around Central Minnesota -- not to mention again as many branches in Arizona, Florida and Georgia. But perhaps the biggest and most successful part of Stearns Bank is its equipment finance division, based in Albany, which many people never see.

Of more than 350 Stearns Bank employees, more than one-third of them work out of offices at 500-13th St., in Albany. Their number also has more than doubled in the past five years. That has led to some cramped quarters and, ultimately, to a major expansion. Officials and contractors will break ground at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday morning on a project that will expand the building from its current 14,000-plus square feet to more than 26,000.

"It's going to allow us to keep everyone on one level but yet we won't exhaust the space we need for parking," said Daryn Lecy, vice president of operations for the equipment finance division. "We wanted to expand the building we've got because we like the environment. Most of us are out in the open in low-level queues. We like to keep the flow going."

Diane Notch, who is senior vice president and general manager of the equipment finance division, was involved in the design of the original building. Operations moved there in May 2000.

"We'll have a capacity of a little more than 200 employees and we'll grow into the space as we need it," Notch said. "We don't really like offices, so we're all together and it's that synergy that exists between all of our people that's essential to our success."

Annual funding for the equipment finance division was $306 million in 2012. In 2013, it topped $468 million. This year, it's on pace to do more than $600 million, to partners across the nation.

Specialty vehicles (think leases for street-sweeping machines, pavers, fuel trucks and trailers) and financial services for healthcare professionals are the areas of greatest growth. The division also specializes in lending for agriculture, fabrication and machine tools and woodworking equipment.

Stearns Bank tries to separate itself from the competition with promises of a one-page application and one-hour response time. Keeping those promises is what works, Lecy said.

"We have to compete on service," he said. "I know everyone says that, but we do what we say we're going to do. If anything, we want to exceed expectations and stay ahead of the game for our clients. That has led to a strong referral business that has been the basis for our growth."

According to The Monitor 100, an annual report that ranks the top 100 leasing companies in the United States, Stearns Bank cracked the top 50 (at No. 50) for the first time in leasing volume. The report, which came out last month, also indicated Stearns Bank ranked 61st in leasing by assets. Both rankings were improvements on the previous year.

Lecy said the lists include organizations including John Deere, GE, IBM, Banc of America, Caterpillar, CNH, Wells Fargo and US Bank that focus on large transactions. Stearns Bank built its equipment finance division focused on the "small-ticket" market, generally transactions of less than $250,000. Lecy estimates Stearns Bank would be among the top 15 leasing companies in the nation if the list were pared to those focused on the same market.

For more, visit www.stearnsbank.com.

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(c)2014 the St. Cloud Times (St. Cloud, Minn.)

Visit the St. Cloud Times (St. Cloud, Minn.) at www.sctimes.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services


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Source: St. Cloud Times (MN)


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