Ag Lending? Work with a Leader

Bell Bank is – and always has been – very active in the ag market. That’s why we have a regional ag banking leader as part of our correspondent team.

Having started with “hay in my hair and manure on my shoes,” Lynn Paulson has had firsthand knowledge of ag economics – through good times and bad.

He’s been financing farm operations and agribusinesses for more than 35 years, but he had an unusual entry into the industry. Lynn worked as a vocational ag teacher after college before returning to the family dairy farm where he grew up. He also went to auctioneer school – and although he hasn’t called an auction in years, he can still rattle off an auction chant without hesitation.

Then in the early 1980s, an electrical fire burned the Paulsons’ dairy barn to the ground and changed the course of Lynn’s life.


From Farming to Finance

Lynn had friends who worked in the Farm Credit System, and he thought the industry might be a good fit for him.

“When I started, I still had hay in my hair and maybe a little manure still on my shoes,” Lynn recalls. “I didn’t know anything about banking, but my experience on the other side of the desk proved very valuable.”

The 1980s were a stressful time in agriculture, and Lynn “learned to swim by jumping into the deep end of the pool,” he says. “In hindsight, it was the best learning experience I could have ever had. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

Lynn liked being able to use his life experience and understanding of the financial world to help farmers figure out how to be successful.

“I had operations that didn’t survive, but there wasn’t a single operation that failed that didn’t know a year in advance that it was coming,” Lynn notes. “We don’t cut anybody off at the knees. They will know what the consequences are if certain things don’t happen.”

Lynn quickly rose through the ranks, managing multiple offices after just a few years, and he was eventually approached to start a new bank. He turned it down twice before finally agreeing. Eventually, he merged 4 banks and 3 holding companies into a company that grew from $13 million to $600 million before he left to join Bell Bank.

“I always knew that if I decided to make a change, I wanted to work for Richard Solberg (Bell’s board chairman and former CEO),” Lynn explains. “He had a solid, successful business model, and I wanted to be part of that.”


“A Great Resource”

Today, Lynn is senior vice president and director of agribusiness development for Bell Bank. In addition to working in ag lending, he works with correspondent banking partners and agricultural operations and businesses across several Midwestern states.

“Over the years, I’ve dealt with just about every aspect of agriculture,” Lynn affirms. “There isn’t much a correspondent bank could throw our way that I haven’t had some experience in.”

Lynn often helps the correspondent team with ag underwriting as well as in bank stock parameters and lending.

“Many of our clients are rural banks, and the 2 things they love to talk about are banking and agriculture. Lynn speaks that language very well,” says Tom Ishaug, Bell’s correspondent banking manager. “Lynn’s been a great resource for us.”

Not only is Lynn an expert in the local ag economy, but he also understands the importance of keeping his finger on the pulse of regional, national and global ag economies.

“What goes on in the rest of the country and the world, it does matter,” Lynn remarks. “It truly is a global economy – especially in agriculture.”
Committed to ag customers, Bell has approximately $400 million in agricultural loans.

“We’re able to share our expertise, things we’ve done right, things we’ve done wrong, with our correspondent bank partners,” Lynn comments. “I’ve gone through business cycles. We always compare this ag economy to the ’80s. I lived and survived the ’80s – I can share some of those lessons of what to do, what not to do. I also learn a lot from our correspondent banking partners. It’s been a good reciprocal information and knowledge-sharing benefit.”


Shared Knowledge

Lynn shares his knowledge by writing a quarterly publication on agricultural issues called AgViews. He also speaks to financial, commodity and other farm groups on agricultural lending and finance, the global economy and the ag economy. He has audiences fully engaged as he discusses hard-hitting issues.

Dr. David Kohl, an author and nationally known speaker on the economics of farming and agribusiness, has endorsed Lynn as an agricultural speaker.
“Lynn Paulson is an experienced banking practitioner who can relate to a wide range of audiences, including agricultural lenders, producers and agribusiness owners, in a practical manner,” Kohl explains. “Lynn is an articulate speaker who is very appropriate for the challenging and changing times.”

Lynn is also a retired farmer, who owned and operated his family’s Benson County, N.D., farm. He grew wheat and soybeans and fed cattle over the summer.

“It goes back to my roots,” he notes. “In the spring, that smell of freshly tilled soil, if I could make a perfume out of that, I would. I understand when farmers say that next to your family, the most important thing is the soil, the land.”

The experience of being a fourth-generation farmer, combined with financing farm operations and businesses for more than 3 decades, gives Lynn a unique perspective on the agricultural sector’s challenges and opportunities.

“When a storm was coming, my dad used to say ‘there’s storm clouds building in the west,’ ” Lynn remembers. “I’ve got the ability to see when a storm cloud is building in the west earlier than most.”

Lynn is a past member of the American Bankers Association Agricultural and Rural Bankers Committee and currently serves on the North Dakota Bankers Association’s legislative committee.

Lynn is ready to talk ag lending with you and your customers! Just call or email.

Contact Lynn

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