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US Bank, Thrivent Anchor Minnesota’s Diverse Financial Services Sector

Learn more about how great schools, an excellent quality of life, and old-fashioned customer service and integrity make Minnesota the perfect place for financial services companies.

By Cary Estes on October 29, 2015

Pioneers who arrived in Minnesota in the late 19th century brought with them a sense of stewardship – for the land, their families and their communities. Their growing wealth helped to seed the institutions that would one day become the nation’s fifth-largest bank, Minneapolis-based U.S. Bank. U.S. Bank was formed from the merger of four Midwestern banks and a fifth in Portland, Ore. It now has more than 3,000 branches in 25 Midwestern and Western states. For four consecutive years, Fortune magazine has named it its Most Admired Super-Regional Bank. In early 2015, U.S. Bank was chosen by the Ethisphere Institute as one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies for 2015. Top-rated public schools, an abundance of well-regarded colleges and universities, excellent quality of life, and an enviable cost of living combine to make Minnesota a magnet for financial companies

“In addition, our Small Business Administration lending activity is among the highest in the nation,” says

Kevin McKinnon, deputy commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. “These loans signify a healthy business environment.”

Fraternal Bonds

Thrivent Financial also has a rich Minnesota heritage. Thrivent was formed in 2002 from the merger of two fraternal organizations, Aid Association for Lutherans and Lutheran Brotherhood. These two fraternal societies were formed in 1902 and 1917, respectively, providing services such as life insurance, investment funds, and credit and banking for members. Thrivent Financial now serves people from all Christian churches. The company has two headquarters: in Minneapolis, with 1,000 employees, and in Appleton, Wisc. “For investment and IT jobs in particular, our workforce in Minneapolis is growing,” says Bill McKinney, Thrivent’s vice president of strategy and long-term development. “We feel very good about the business climate in Minnesota. There is an excellent talent pool here in the Twin Cities, especially for cutting-edge IT functions such as Web design and data analytics.” Thrivent recently launched a new enterprise, Bright Peak Financial, which targets what McKinney calls “average American families,” people under 45 with incomes in the $35,000 to 80,000 range. Bright Peak even has its own separate office, in Minneapolis’ trendy Warehouse District.

Secure Home, Bright Future

In the last six years, Minnesota companies have attracted more than $1.6 billion in venture funding. Major venture capital firms in the state include Oak Investment Partners, Split Rock Partners, Vesbridge Partners and Thomas McNerney & Partners. Minnesota is a mini-mecca for banking, investment services and insurers of every kind. In addition to U.S. Bank and Thrivent Financial, Ameriprise Financial, Allianz, Federated Insurance, NorthStar, Piper Jaffray, Prudential, Securian, The Travelers and Wells Fargo all have either headquarters or significant operational hubs in the state. UnitedHealth Group Inc. is a health insurance giant based in Minnetonka, Minn., which operates UnitedHealthcare and Optum. UnitedHealthcare provides health care coverage and benefits services, and Optum provides information and technology-enabled health services. The company serves more than 85 million people worldwide and employs approximately 15,000 people in Minnesota, out of a total 170,000 worldwide.

When UnitedHealth Group, Inc. broke ground for its $200-million, 257,000-square-foot office in Eden Prairie, Minn., several years ago, the move was an indicator of the strong upward trend in employment at the company and a vote of confidence in the business conditions in its home state.   of confidence in the business condition of its home state.

Cultural Groundwater

There’s something else at work that makes Minnesota great for financial firms: a cultural mindset that values old-fashioned honesty and integrity. “Piper Jaffray looks for employees with the right background – such as sector expertise, finance degree and strategic thinking abilities,” says Laura Kruth, manager of compensation and human resources information systems for the investment bank and asset management firm. “Yet, an important part of our interviewing process is to ensure employees are the right cultural fit for the company. We want to ensure that employees are customer-focused, accountable, and believe as strongly as we do in our guiding principles.” Those principles emphasize putting customer needs first, building client trust through service, integrity and mutual respect and companywide teamwork. The company employs 530 people in Minnesota, out of a total workforce of 1,185. “At Piper, we often hear that we have a ‘Midwest feel,’ which people find valuable,” Kruth says. “Living in Minnesota seems to provide people with service-oriented, ethical values that are indispensable in the workplace.”

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