Starbank: The Bank That Cares

By Brenda Erdhal 

Historic Roots

The history of Star Bank goes back over 100 years to 1904 when a national bank was chartered under the name of The First National Bank of Bertha, in Bertha, Minnesota. For the next 80 years, it operated as a single location bank, until 1984 when The First National Bank of Verndale (Minnesota) was purchased and merged into this charter as a branch office. The two offices operated as First National Bank of Bertha-Verndale until March 2000.

In March 1990, Harry Wahlquist formed a holding company now known as Midwest Bancorporation and purchased the Bertha-Verndale bank. Since that time, the organization we know as Star Bank has grown from two offices to ten offices, and over $265 Million in assets. The bank has remained independent and family-owned during times when many other community banks have struggled. As a matter of fact, Star Bank has been on the Bauer Financial, Inc. “Recommended” list for over 10 consecutive years. Star Bank acquired the Maple Lake office of the First National Bank of Elk River in July 2012 and the bank’s official State of Minnesota Charter is now located in Maple Lake. Star Bank has earned a “Five Star Recommended Rating” from Bauer Financial, Inc.

Family-Owned & Managed

The Wahlquists have been seasonal residents of Annandale and South Haven for 65 years, having spent almost 50 years on Bass Lake before relocating to Lake Sylvia. Harry Wahlquist says, “I grew up in this community as a young boy and have enjoyed building long-term relationships with local families and businesses over the years. The Heart of The Lakes is a beautiful area of our state and we are at home here.” Wahlquist continues, “We are proud of the heritage of Star Bank, and appreciate the thousands of wonderful relationships that have been established in Maple Lake and Annandale. I am thankful for the trust that our clients have in us as community bankers.” Three members of the Wahlquist family are directly involved in senior management at Star Bank. Harry Wahlquist leads the bank as President/CEO and Chairman of the Board. Harry’s son Andy Wahlquist is Vice President, responsible for overseeing the strategic direction of the bank’s two offices in Wright County. Katie (Wahlquist) Incantalupo is Vice President, overseeing Marketing and Human Resources for the entire organization. Harry and Mabs Wahlquist have two other sons, Kip and Charlie, who are also involved in Star Bank on a consultative basis.

Community Focus

Star Bank was recently named the Maple Lake Business of the Year for 2017 by the Maple Lake Chamber of Commerce. The award makes our company proud because one of our core values is about giving back to the communities we serve. We do this by donating our time and talent to local events such as the annual Ice Fishing Derby, St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Gear Head Get Together Show and Swap Meet, the Maple Lake Teacher’s Breakfast, and other events. Andy Wahlquist states, “It was a privilege to be named Business of the Year for 2017. We love getting out into the community and helping to make it a great place to live and work. We had such a remarkable year as a bank in 2017. Being recognized as a leading business is a great honor, and we really appreciate the support of the Chamber and the entire community.”

A Successful Technology Upgrade

Star Bank accomplished a major technology upgrade in March 2017 which was the culmination of 18 months of teamwork across the entire organization. The bank’s core processor was upgraded to an award-winning banking software that has received stellar feedback from banks nationwide. In addition, the bank’s Debit and ATM cards were updated, and several new eServices were launched including the bank’s new Mobile Banking App! These new technologies give customers more seamless access to their accounts from whichever device they choose to use, 24/7. The bank will soon launch Person-to-Person payments and an upgrade to the Mobile Banking App which allows customers the ability to deposit a check into their bank account by taking a picture of the check.

Andy Wahlquist states, “Our new banking technologies have received great feedback thus far and what’s really exciting is that there is more to come! Banking through mobile phones and tablets is on the rise. Banking needs to be convenient. Our customers are always on the go. The Mobile Banking App, Person- to-Person Payments, and Mobile Check Deposit are great tools to help make banking more convenient.

Deanna Lauer, Cashier for the entire Star Bank organization, says, “Our customers asked for a Mobile App so they can transfer funds, review their accounts, and be closer to their finances. Our younger customers especially need these types of electronic tools. We are really excited about these enhancements and have appreciated hearing a positive response from the community. There are more enhancements to come! We want to continue serving our customers in better ways.”

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