Location: Fargo, N.D.
Assets: $3.9 billion
Employees: 657
President and CEO: Michael Solberg
www.bellbanks.com

Bell Bank's motto, according to President and Chief Executive Michael Solberg, is "Happy Employees, Happy Customers."

So Bell, which shortened its name from Bell State Bank & Trust on Aug. 22, does plenty to try to make sure its employees are happy and, by all accounts, it succeeded spectacularly on May 6, the bank's 50th anniversary. Every full-time and part-time employee received a one-time cash bonus of $2,500 and $1,000, respectively. At a party to celebrate the milestone, Bell also gave away 50 massages and 50 televisions that had a 50-inch screen.

Besides the surprises on special occasions, employees like Joe Ackerland enjoy ongoing support in the form of career development. "Bell has invested in me by sending me through the Dakota School of Banking," said Ackerland, a branch manager who has worked at the bank for nine years. More recently, Ackerland expressed an interest in commercial lending, and Bell responded by sending him to the Commercial Lending Academy at the University of Minnesota's Continuing Education Center.

The result is that employees genuinely feel they matter, because the bank demonstrates this through meaningful action, rather than just paying lip service to the idea, said Steph Melgaard, a vice president and virtual bank services manager who has been with Bell for two years.

"'Happy Employees, Happy Customers' is not just a poster that hangs in the break rooms," Melgaard said, "but truly the basis of how we do business."

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