Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Focus on our Customers: Monroe Bank & Trust Wealth Management Group – Powerful, Personalized Performance

This series of original articles focuses on our local business customers, employees and other areas of interest to our communities including local initiatives and non-profit organizations. We hope that you will find these interesting and informative, and that you will share them with your friends and colleagues via social media or by free subscriptions. It’s easy – just enter your email address or click on the Share on Facebook icon.

Monroe Bank & Trust’s mission is to be “the premier independent provider of financial services in each of the communities we serve”. Our mission is our passion and since our inception in 1858, we have constantly striven to meet and exceed the expectations of our customers, employees and our communities.

Nowhere is this more evident than with our Wealth Management Group. Formed in 1942, the group has steadily grown to become the sixth largest Michigan based asset management provider responsible for $710 Million, and a trusted resource for financial guidance.

Our philosophy is simple and straight forward, and is the basis for our success: we provide each client with powerful, personalized performance.

We support this philosophy through three basic principles that set us apart from other financial services providers – large or small.

First, we select, hire and nurture experienced people. Second, we structure the Wealth Management Group to deliver service through a team approach. Third, we utilize a proprietary process for research and investment management.

We are proud to attract talented and experienced individuals to our Wealth Management team which is comprised of 26 seasoned and credentialed professionals including attorneys, Masters of Business Administration degree holders (MBAs), Chartered Financial Analysts (CFAs), Certified Trust and Financial Advisors (CTFAs) and Certified Retirement Services Professionals (CRSPs)>.

The level of experience and professionalism of our team enables us to ensure that all of our clients work with individuals with over ten years of experience – no matter what the size of their portfolio. Other institutions generally assign their seasoned advisors to clients based on account size and often have limited staff or 800 number service for those with smaller portfolios. We guarantee that all of our clients have regular contact with their advisors – whether it’s, monthly quarterly or semi-annually. Our client-driven approach is an important element of the service we provide and is essential to our success.

Additionally, we manage assets that are held in trust accounts as well as assets held in other account types including IRAs. Portfolios range in size from $300,000 on up. Many institutions have increased their portfolio size requirements and manage smaller portfolios through a brokerage arm.

Our team approach to client service also ensures that our advisors have the time necessary to manage client accounts proactively. Each client works with a team that includes an administrator, portfolio manager and administrative assistant. We are thus able to respond very quickly to client needs and use our internal CARE process (which stands for Communicate, Ask Questions, Respond of Refer, and Enjoy the Results) as our model.

The MBT Wealth Management Group frequently works with trust accounts and often acts as the trustee, co-trustee or agent for the trustee. We ensure that our clients’ wishes are carried out both during their lifetime and afterward, and that the assets held in trust are managed according to the directives written in the trust documents. Additionally, we work with trust clients to properly execute strategies for wealth transfer to beneficiaries, alleviate issues which can arise within families and other beneficiaries, and perform tax filings and other administrative duties appropriately and in a timely fashion.

The group also manages the estate settlement process, including the valuation, disposition and distribution of assets according to the wishes of the deceased or the courts. We provide impartial dispute resolution and objective decision making.

Many investors often don’t realize the difference between a broker and the MBT Wealth Management Group, for example. It is important to understand that trust administration requires a fiduciary, and acting in a fiduciary capacity is the highest level of responsibility. All accounts at MBT Wealth Management are managed to a fiduciary standard. Brokers must fulfill a suitability standard which, while high, is often more subjective. Additionally, brokers are typically commission based as opposed to fee based arrangements.

Finally, the Wealth Management Group offers a top performing proprietary process for selecting equity and fixed income investment options, including personal contact with the companies in which we invest. This enables us to tailor a portfolio to a client’s specific needs and to constantly monitor the performance. We don’t just rely upon “canned” research, but are actively analyzing economic data and information. Thus, we are always planning for the long term needs of our clients and their families.

Senior Vice President and Managing Director of Investments stated, “We never try to ‘time the market’. Our core philosophy on investing is that it be consistent. We offer model portfolios or customized plans for clients based upon their needs. Our internal research is crucial to this effort – and our clients appreciate it. We are consistent in the methodology we use to build portfolios and to adjust to market conditions.”

Audrey Mistor, Executive Vice President and Wealth Management Group Manager added that “we treat all of our clients as first-class customers – not coach. Clients can rely upon the fact that they will always be working with seasoned, experienced professionals with solid credentials and expertise. Our clients know that we are accessible, that we follow through, and that we are proactive. We are, indeed, trusted advisors.”

For further information, visit the MBT Wealth Management Group on the web at or call 800-321-0032 to meet with an advisor. Experience our powerful, personalized performance first hand!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Focus on our Customers: Home Builders Association of Monroe County – Think Spring! Visit the Home Improvement Show!

This series of original articles focuses on our local business customers, employees and other areas of interest to our communities including local initiatives and non-profit organizations. We hope that you will find these interesting and informative, and that you will share them with your friends and colleagues via social media or by free subscriptions. It’s easy – just enter your email address or click on the Share on Facebook icon!

The Home Builders Association of Monroe County (HBA) is gearing up for their 32nd annual Home Improvement Show that kicks off at the MBT Expo Center at the Monroe County Fairgrounds on Friday, February 28 at 5 pm.

According to this year’s co-chairs Karen Essary of Exciting Windows and Amanda Phebus of Monroe Bank & Trust, the event will be more exciting than ever!

“We expect about 2,000 people to attend,” Essary stated. “It’s a fantastic place for people who are looking to remodel or maybe build a new home to view products like flooring, cabinets, windows, doors, closets, window treatments and more – all under one roof. We expect to have over 70 vendors displaying their goods and offering ideas. It’s a great place to get creative input.”

Phebus agrees and added, “There is truly something for everyone, with food available for attendees, face painting and balloons for children and great seminars lined up. It’s really a fun family day. Best of all, tickets are available for free from any of our sponsors including the Monroe Publishing Company, Durocher’s, Hasset Title Company and Monroe Bank & Trust. Free tickets are also available from HBA Members and Show Exhibitors. Parking is free and if people want to purchase tickets at the door, they are only $5.00.”

Exhibitors include Jack’s Lawn Service, Exciting Windows, LaRoy Door, Advance Plumbing of Monroe, Durocher’s, David G. Swartout Builder, Kirk Wylie Masonry, Monroe Dodge, Stanford Allen Chevrolet, and Finisher’s Unlimited, among many others.

Bill Kipf, Executive Officer of the HBA and a realtor with Coldwell Banker/Haynes Real Estate, explained that the show was held at several locations in past years including the Monroe Multi-Sports Complex, Monroe County Community College and the Monroe County Fairgrounds before moving to the relatively recently constructed MBT Expo Center.

“The HBA membership base is comprised of builders, suppliers, subcontractors and other professionals affiliated with the building and remodeling industry,” Kipf stated. “The purpose of the association is to promote the building industry and the welfare of those affiliated with it; to help members become more professional by educating members and the public; to work for the benefit of the public via government representation and consumer education; and to provide services to members and function as a central source of information for members and the public, thereby gaining their respect and trust.

“We’re dedicated to high moral and ethical standards in our industry, and to keeping housing affordable for consumers by being sure our members are licensed and insured and by trying to prevent unnecessary regulations that increase the cost of housing and don’t provide a benefit. We always recommend that people who are looking for builders, remodelers or other home improvement specialists check our website for our members at It’s a good source of information.”

In addition to major exhibitors, the show will also feature products and services available from home-based businesses. “That’s a plus because often people aren't aware of the home-based resources available to them in the community,” Essary explained. “It’s exciting because we feature anything and everything people could want for indoor and outdoor living. And our vendors and exhibitors find that it’s a fantastic opportunity to attract potential customers.”

“We’re also featuring a drawing for a top-of-the-line Weber grill and many of our vendors and exhibitors also offer prizes and drawings,” Phebus added. “Plus we will have three presentations each day on both Saturday and Sunday. Sherman Williams will offer a painting demonstration from 11:30 am until 12:30 pm, and the Monroe County Community College culinary arts students will host a healthy grilling demonstration from 1:00 pm until 2:30 pm. What a culinary delight! At 3:00 pm each day there will be a “Talking Trees” presentation by Davey Tree Service. This seminar is all about fertilizer and nutrient management for landscapes and reducing pest problems through best management practices in the landscape.”

The Monroe Art League is also planning a display at the show and area High School students will exhibit woodworking projects.

In addition to hosting the Home Improvement Show, the HBA is very involved with other community-based projects. “We are planning to partner with Monroe County Community College to help develop curriculum for the building trades and to provide insight,” Kipf stated. “We also co-sponsor the student home design contest with the Monroe Fine Arts Council. The winner’s design is actually constructed for Habitat for Humanity. We then work with Monroe High School students and the construction technology classes to help students with the build.

“Part of our mission is education and we take that very seriously. We want home buyers and owners to be knowledgeable. Additionally, we want to help each other as business owners to be successful. We provide support for our membership and the public.”

“We hope that everyone will come and enjoy the show, meet our vendors and exhibitors, and have a great day. After all, you never know when you might need a plumber or need to remodel a room or a whole house,” Phebus concluded.

The  show will be open on Friday, February 28 from 5 pm to 7 pm, as well as Saturday, March 1 from 10 am to 6 pm and Sunday, March 2 from 11 am to 5 pm. The MBT Expo Center is located at 3775 South Custer Road in Monroe, Michigan.

Visit the HBA online at and on Facebook at

ATTENTION EXHIBITORS: It’s not too late to reserve a space! Check the HBA website today for more information or contact Bill Kipf at 734-770-3529.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Focus on our Customers: Hal Akershoek and Old’s Flower Shop – A Trenton Delight!

This series of original articles focuses on our local business customers, employees and other areas of interest to our communities including local initiatives and non-profit organizations. We hope that you will find these interesting and informative, and that you will share them with your friends and colleagues via social media or by free subscriptions. It’s easy – just enter your email address or click on the Share on Facebook icon!

Most people in Trenton, Michigan know Hal Akershoek, owner of Old’s Flower Shop located at 2033 West Road, as a fixture in the community and a shining example of a successful local businessman and entrepreneur – with an outgoing and exuberant personality.

“I’m a local. I grew up in Trenton, graduated from Trenton High School, and attended Wayne State University where I earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration in 1981,” Akershoek said. “At that time, the economy was terrible and no one was hiring. People were going to California and Texas for work and I told my dad that he should drive me to one of those areas and drop me off. He wasn’t about to do that, and he had heard about a local flower shop that was for sale on King Road. So we walked in, talked to the owner and two hours later, I was in business.

“I didn’t know a thing about flowers or flower arranging, but I had worked for eight years at West Grange Pharmacy so I at least knew how to run a cash register. I immediately went to flower arranging school and told them I needed to learn asap! My instructor still laughs about it because he had never had anyone walk in as an owner who didn’t know the basics. That was in 1984 and I’m still here 30 years later.”

Today, Old’s Flower Shop offers a wide variety of fine fresh flowers, gifts, candles, greeting cards, plants, terrariums, memorial plaques and accessories –plus personal service from a knowledgeable staff.

“We don’t do online flower sales,” Akershoek explained. “You have to talk to me. I want to know my customers and understand their needs. We pride ourselves on helping customers make the right selections for the occasion and giving them warm, old-fashioned, friendly service. That’s how we built the business and it’s why we have fiercely loyal customers. We literally have zero complaints because we take care of people.

“From the beginning, it was helpful that I knew so many people in the area. Teachers, neighbors, and people I met when I worked at West Grange began to do business with me. I had clientele that I didn’t know I had. It’s very gratifying to serve our customers with excellence year after year. I have always believed in supporting local businesses and in buying local. That’s how we build strong communities.”

Old’s Flower Shop acquires their flower stock primarily from Columbia and Ecuador – two high producing regions because of their equatorial climates and 365 day per year growing season. Flowers are flown into Miami and then transported in refrigerated trucks to retailers.

“The mom and pop greenhouses are long gone,” Akershoek stated. “For unusual items, we’ll go to places like Eastern Market, but by far the biggest source for flowers is South America. We are able to provide very high quality flowers at reasonable, fair prices and we can get just about anything the customer wishes.

“Our biggest days of the year are Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. We start preparing for Valentine’s Day on February 1. Most of our customers order flowers early so we’re ready. In fact, I always say that if you walk by the store slowly on that day, you can have a job delivering flowers!”

One of the challenges Akershoek faces is increased competition from big box stores and the trend toward online ordering. “Customers don’t always realize that big box stores aren’t cheaper,” he explained. “We watch the competition and our prices are in line. Again, we want to know our customers as individuals and provide top notch service and quality that you won’t find elsewhere.”

Akershoek also believes in hiring locally. The shop has four employees and often hires additional people for high volume holidays and occasions. Many high school students have worked at the store over the years – often as a first job.

“I’m proud to be able to employ local students and help them get started,” he said. “For example, we always mentor students for the Southern Wayne County Chamber of Commerce Business Exposition for the floral arranging competition. It’s a great way to teach young people about business and art at the same time.”

Community service has always been part of Old’s Flower Shop’s culture. Akershoek’s father Harold (who worked in the store for many years) served as a member of the Trenton School Board, and Akershoek himself is active with the Trenton Business Association and is a past member of the Trenton Rotary Club. The shop also supports local non-profit organizations such as the Trenton Education Foundation with in-kind gifts of flowers for events and fundraisers.

Akershoek’s philosophy of business has paid off. “No one works harder than I do for my customers. I have a saying: If I don’t want it, you don’t want it. We’ve been successful all these years because of our fantastic customers who have really become family. They are generous to a fault – at Christmas, our cooler is full of goodies! And I have a split personality – I watch the business side as well as the creative side. It’s essential if you want to stay profitable.”

In addition to fabulous flowers and gifts, Old’s Flower Shop offers an enticing array of hand poured candles made on site. Popular scents include Home Sweet Home Cinnamon, Candy Cane, Bakery Apple, Oven Fresh Bread, Gingerbread, Lavender and Gardenia, among others.

Treat yourself to a wonderful experience and place your Valentine’s Day order by visiting Old’s Flower Shop in person at 2033 West Road in Trenton, or by calling Hal at 734-671-1488 or toll free at 800-344-2306. Visit online at and on Facebook at