A look at the people behind the numbers in area business.
Mitch Bleske, Bremer Bank
Title: Executive vice president and CFO
For industry veteran Mitch Bleske, joining St. Paul-based Bremer Bank as executive vice president and chief financial officer marks a homecoming. While eager to join Bremer’s executive committee and contribute to Bremer’s community-focused mission, Bleske said he and his wife, who have four children ages 10 and younger, also looked forward to returning to Minnesota after 10 years in Southern states.
“Coming back home and bringing these kids closer to their grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins was a good reason to make the trip back,” said Bleske, who has 15 years of banking experience.
Also appealing was Bremer’s ownership structure. Employees and the Otto Bremer Foundation jointly own the $8.5 billion regional financial services company. The foundation distributes its share of dividends to charitable organizations; in 2012, it contributed $36 million.
Bleske previously was treasurer and an executive committee member at Trustmark Bank, a $12 billion bank in Jackson, Miss. He previously held an executive position at United Community Banks, and began his career at U.S. Bancorp, where he served in several treasury roles. He has an MBA from the University of St. Thomas and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
Bleske replaced Bob Buck, who retired in May after 16 years as Bremer’s CFO. “I’m inheriting a very strong foundation,” Bleske said. Bremer, founded in 1943 by Otto Bremer, offers comprehensive banking, investment, trust and insurance services. It has locations in Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin.
Q: How has Bremer fared as the economy recovers?
A: We’re seeing the same thing other banks are, which is limited loan growth and an onslaught of deposits. A lot of the movement right now in the lending world is somewhat of banks taking each other’s business. We’re well-positioned because of what we can deliver to our customers in terms of community focus, and we can get local decisionmaking, which is what many customers like relative to some of our competitors.
Q: How did you choose banking as a career?
A: I was interested in economics and finance and have a double major. I was recruited to U.S. Bancorp and, as a product of some very good people and institutions, have enjoyed it.
Q: What will you miss about the South?
A: We will miss the climate and the ability to do things all year-round.