Mergers often give other banks a golden opportunity to hire seasoned employees.

For Minneapolis’ Marquette Capital Bank, the merger of Firstar Inc. and U.S. Bancorp presented the chance to get into a whole new line of business.

The $256 million-asset bank, a subsidiary of $3.2 billion-asset Marquette Bancshares, said this week that it had hired three former Firstar executives to launch a commercial lending division that will focus on construction lending for developers in the Twin Cities.

Though commercial lending has been in Marquette’s plans since 1993, president and chief executive officer Jeanne Crain said that the bank was waiting to find the right people before it launched the unit. The bank had always done some commercial lending, but it was never core business.

“The time was right as the Firstar-U.S. Bank merger happened,” she said of developing the unit.

When that merger was completed, on Feb. 27, two years of talks between Ms. Crain and Terry L. Kriesel came to fruition. She had been trying to persuade Mr. Kriesel, Firstar’s manager of commercial real estate, to come over to Marquette.

“I had been thinking for a couple of years about making a change,” said Mr. Kriesel, now Marquette’s commercial real estate manager. “This merger was that little extra reason I needed.”

But he would not move unless he could bring members of his team. So Marquette hired Paul S. Bauer and Bradley Steiner to come with Mr. Kriesel to build the new line of business.

“It was really nice to bring a team over here. It makes the market sit up and take notice that Marquette is serious about commercial real estate,” Mr. Kriesel said.

The new unit will focus on making construction loans of $1 million to $10 million. Mr. Kriesel said that it will lend as much as $20 million by including other participants.

Ms. Crain and Mr. Kriesel expect the new unit to be successful for three reasons. First, the team is experienced and has contacts in the area. Second, the Firstar merger removed one competitor from the market, which made room for a new one. Third, Marquette plans to leverage its relationship with NorthMarq Capital Inc., an affiliated real estate investment banking firm.

NorthMarq provides financing for projects such as office buildings and shopping centers. When its customers wanted construction financing in the past, it would refer them to other banks. Marquette Capital now has a division for the referrals.

“Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank are probably the two biggest [real estate lenders in the area], and there’s a lot of room in-between those giants for Marquette to operate,” Mr. Kriesel said.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.