Bremer Bank's third-quarter profit grew 7.2 percent from a year ago to $21.4 million, driven largely by lowering the amount of money the lender set aside to cover loan losses.

But the St. Paul bank also benefited from strong mortgage activity and "growing momentum" in commercial loans, Bremer CEO Pat Donovan said in a news release this week.

As with most lenders, Bremer's net interest margin -- a key gauge that measures the difference between what a bank makes on loans and what it pays out in interest -- has been squeezed by ultra low interest rates. The bank's margin dropped to 3.87 percent from 3.91 percent a year ago.

Net interest income on loans grew 2.5 percent from a year ago to $72.1 million. On the other side of the lender's business, non-interest income from fees and other charges jumped 16.5 percent to $25.5 million.

One of the state's largest banks, Bremer Bank is owned by the Otto Bremer Foundation.

Jennifer Bjorhus • 612-673-4683