The signs are there: It's now First Federal

Inside, all 45 Marquette employees remain at work

By Bob Freund

The name "First Federal" took the place of the red M at the main office of Marquette Bank Rochester this morning.

Bank executives unveiled the new sign to mark the first day of business for First Federal Rochester, part of First Federal Savings Bank La Crosse-Madison.


It will take a few more months for the Marquette name to disappear entirely from the Rochester area. Wells Fargo Bank, which bought the north side and Stewartville branches of Marquette Rochester, is due to switch signs and other operations about mid-July.

Two fragments

Marquette Rochester was split into two fragments when Wells Fargo bought most of the Marquette Bancshares system from Minneapolis businessman Carl Pohlad and his family. To clear federal regulators, Wells Fargo agreed to sell off three of Marquette Rochester's five branches, holding $125 million to $130 million in deposits.

Those offices -- the prominent Marquette Rochester headquarters at South Broadway and Second Street Southeast, a small office in the subway of the Rochester Marriott Hotel and a branch at Apache Mall -- went to First Federal Capital Corp. of La Crosse for $27 million.

On Friday, it all became official. First Federal completed the paperwork, taking the weekend to tend to the technical details of adding thousands of Marquette customers to its system.

In remarks before a sign-unveiling ceremony this morning, First Federal chief executive officer Jack Rusch positioned the former Marquette bank as a steppingstone to bigger things.

"We're builders; we're not cost-cutters," he told local business leaders and bank staff assembled at the downtown bank.

The Wisconsin-based institution offered all 45 employees "very similar jobs or the same jobs," said First Federal Rochester president Mike Bue, who also kept his post.


While Marquette customers will see familiar faces, they will have to adapt to some changes.

They will receive new First Federal checks for immediate use. (Marquette checks will be honored for about 60 days.)

The network of no-fee automatic teller machines also is smaller. First Federal customers will not have free use of ATMs at Wells Fargo branches, Bue confirmed. First Federal intends to install its own ATMs.

Terms of some accounts also might differ, as Marquette patrons have been informed. But, in general, the change does not require revisions of loans or savings instruments, such as certificates of deposit. First Federal has worked on "making the (switch) as transparent to the customer as possible," Bue said Friday.

With its Marquette acquisition, First Federal now becomes the third-largest bank in Rochester behind Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank.

Supermarket branches

First Federal's first step into Minnesota won't be the last. The company is in the process of buying four branches in Hy-Vee supermarkets at Rochester, Austin, Albert Lea and Mankato. That deal could be complete in September.

Bue also said he wants to place a First Federal branch to serve the city's fast-growing northwest neighborhoods, which have attracted a number of bank branches.


Based in La Crosse, First Federal holds $2.7 billion of assets in 84 offices, mostly in Wisconsin. Its stock trades on Nasdaq exchange under the symbol FTFC.

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