What’s Up with Bremer Bank?

Bremer Bank and the Otto Bremer Trust that owns 92 percent of it disclosed earlier this week the bank may be sold because the two are not getting along. From the outside it sounds like a bit of a hot mess.

Here’s a short audio explanation of what’s happening, and what’s likely next for Bremer Bank, from an interview earlier this week with WCCO-AM’s Cory Hepola. Within these four and a half minutes, we covered quite a bit of ground. Here’s more perspective.

Bremer’s joining the trend. It’s Minnesota’s fourth largest bank. The third, TCF Financial, was sold earlier this year to Chemical Bank of Detroit. Also sold this year was First Minnesota Bank, which had 11 locations west of Minneapolis. This followed on the heels of bank sales in 2018 and 2017. Last year Klein Bank, a 111-year-old family owned Chaska business with 18 locations, agreed to sell to Old National (which a year earlier acquired Anchor Bank); and Venture Bank agreed to sell to Choice Financial.

Why all the bank sales? Last year, higher interest rates and lower tax rates helped boost bank profits and in turn, bank valuations. Congress also passed The Economic Growth Act, which pulled back rules and restrictions that were created after the Great Recession in ways that benefited most community banks—those with $10 billion or less in assets. And a year earlier, the Federal Reserve made changes to make it easier for larger banks such as TCF and Chemical Bank to merge.

Another reason: brick and mortar banking isn’t as popular as it used to be. This shows in how the number of commercial banks in Minnesota has dropped from 628 in 1990, to 274 as of March this year, a 56 percent decrease, according to Federal Reserve Economic Data. That’s not quite as bad as nationally, where the number of banks dropped 63 percent during the same period.

Here’s a Star Tribune story providing more information about the conflict between  Bremer Bank and the Otto Bremer Trust.