Location: Grand Forks, N.D.
Assets: $1.5 billion
No. of employees: 589
President and CEO: Randy Newman

Alerus Financial scooped up several failed institutions in the aftermath of the financial crisis. While the acquisitions enlarged the bank's footprint, they also stretched its employees, who put in long hours to ensure the successful addition of new customers.

So, after striking a deal with BNC National Bank in Scottsdale, Ariz., at the end of 2010, to take on some of its business in two states, Alerus executives wondered how they could motivate and reward employees during yet another conversion. The acquisition brought loans and deposits in Arizona and Minnesota, as well as a branch in Scottsdale. "There's a lot of stress and a lot of last-minute things to consider and take care of and act on," says Teresa Wasvick, the human resources director at Alerus. "We wanted a way to show employees our appreciation for all that work."

The bank settled on a series of fun, stress-relieving activities dubbed "Conversion Madness." The name reflected the event's timing; it coincided with college basketball's "March Madness."

Though Mallory Berdal logged extra hours during the week and over the weekend, she enjoyed the special activities. They included chair massages, meals served up by the bank and theme days. On Sports Day, Berdal wore a Chicago Bulls shirt she's had since high school. Others wore jerseys from the University of North Dakota.

"It just brings some excitement to come in that day and look around and see everybody participating," says Berdal, who was managing the bank's call center at the time.

When the next conversion came around, this past summer, Alerus tried some new ideas based on employee feedback. Chief among them was the introduction of a cubicle stocked with treats, rewards and supplies. On Hawaiian Day, employees grabbed colorful leis. On Silly Co-Worker Day, employees walked around the office in fake mustaches and beards.

The conversion — following the acquisition of Private Bank in Minneapolis — took place in mid-July. Berdal, now the bank's deposit operations manager, is looking forward to whatever madness accompanies the next transaction. "We're a growing bank, so I know there's more to come in the future," she says.

Next: The Bankers Bank

Previous: Bridge Bank

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