Bremer Bank has deep roots in the agricultural sphere. We sat down with Judd Graham to get a deeper look at how Bremer is investing both resources and expertise into agriculture as a whole.
“It really goes back to the founding of Bremer Bank,” says Judd. “Agriculture is just a huge part of our economy… it’s so important to every community that we serve, and it’s just in our core; It’s who we are to be supporting our communities, which includes the agricultural community. So it’s part of what we’ve always done, it’s always been a part of our culture within our company.
While many other financial institutions may tend to invest nationwide, Bremer’s focus has been local, relying mainly on agriculture expertise. Judd attributes that to Bremer’s philosophy of cultivating thriving communities. “The local agriculture is so important to every economy and community that we do business in,” says Judd. “…And going back to [Founder] Otto Bremer, he believed that the banks exist to help people through both good times and bad, and that may speak to why some organizations are either pulling away or consolidating, whereas we’re not– We’re digging in locally and helping our farm customers during both good and bad times.”
To ensure that Bremer continues to be a leader in agriculture banking, they are continuing to invest in their people and talent within their organization. In addition, Bremer is looking for outside talent that they can tap into and bring into their organization.
“A lot of our ag banking team are experts in agriculture, and they’re also very locally entrenched,” says Judd. “In fact, a lot of our ag bankers are farmers themselves, so that’s how we stay close to the industry.”
In addition to investing in their own organization, Bremer is continuing to invest in their own ag expertise, embracing the ag tech sphere as a whole. One of the things Bremer is doing is bringing ag tech ideas and opportunities to their customer relationships, which they believe sets them apart from other financial institutions.
“We like to think that we’re working elbow-to-elbow with these people to help them be successful,” says Judd. “Because as an organization, we’re only as successful as our customers and our communities that we do business with. It’s a big part of who we are; our culture [consists of] partnerships with our communities and with our customers.”
When it comes to trends in the agriculture tech sphere, Judd believes there are a few things farmers should keep under their radar, including carbon emissions and keeping things ‘green’.
“We’re trying to look for those opportunities to help farmers be net negative on carbon and yet be very accessible,” says Judd. “We’re always looking for convenient ways to start looking at raising those kinds of issues, and just make sure everybody’s aware of the coming trend.”
With trends as well as building a customer base, there’s a certain level of rapport that goes into building that trust. Bremer believes they take some unique steps into building a foundation of support and trust that all farmers can utilize. “At Bremer, we recognize how agricultural producers have really dedicated their lives to their communities and the land they farm,” says Judd.
“We understand that these roles– it’s not just a job– it’s a way of life for them. As I said earlier, a lot of our ag banking team are farmers themselves; they certainly understand the business, as well as the positives and negatives of what farm and ranch customers might be going through– that helps set us apart.”
One of the aspects of Bremer that excites Judd the most is they are taking up a
very localized delivery model, while also bringing in some of the new innovations, technologies, and ag-tech solutions to the relationships with their customers. “I believe that Bremer is on the leading edge of a lot of that technology and incorporating ag-tech, and we really embrace that,” says Judd. “Yet, we’re still doing that in a way that’s being delivered through our local bankers in our local markets – that’s really exciting for me.”
Many might consider agriculture as well as ag banking a high-stakes arena; there are so many variables that aren’t in the control of the farmer, rancher, or even the financial institution. However, Bremer takes pride in their approach to narrowing that gap as much as possible. “The biggest thing we do to kind of help our customers through some of the more stressful aspects is we focus a lot of attention on just listening to them and hearing what they’re going through,” says Judd. “We are very connected to the industry; we have people within Bremer that that are running their own farms on the side or part of a family farming type operation, and they do understand and have real empathy for what a lot of our clients are going through. The biggest thing we do is that we spend a lot of time in training our bankers to be very good listeners.”