How Some Banks Are Easily Making Money and Helping Their Customers

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Some community banks are missing out on a money-making opportunity, and Mike LaSalle wants to help remedy that situation. As Bell Bank’s new SVP/equipment finance bank channel director, Mike is working with community banks on ways we can help you better help your customers.

Most small and medium businesses occasionally lease equipment, and a majority of those businesses use community banks as a source of capital and borrowing – yet community banks hold only 1% of leasing assets in the United States.

“Community banks have been sitting on the sidelines while their customers are leasing from competitors,” Mike remarks. “Bell Bank Equipment Finance allows community banks to partner with Bell to meet existing customers’ demands and prospect for new business and customers.”

Community banks don’t usually offer equipment leasing, because of the complexities associated with structure and documentation as well as costs of building infrastructure with lease accounting systems. But by partnering with Bell, community banks can take advantage of our expertise and full suite of leasing products, while generating significant income from referral fees or, should they wish, from purchasing the transaction back through a participation.

“We’re more than happy to come in and price, structure, document and service the lease from start to finish, while the asset sits on the community bank’s balance sheet,” Mike notes. “The customer gets the lease, community banks keep the earning asset, and Bell does the work – at no cost or obligation to the community bank.”

We also provide training for bank lenders on how to present leased products to their customers, as well as marketing materials they can use to announce their leasing capability.


“It’s a great program,” Mike explains. “We do all the heavy lifting, and the community bank gets to strengthen their relationship with their customer. We’re not a competitor. We’re here as a partner to help them strengthen and maintain their relationships with their customers.”

Bell Bank Equipment Finance provides equipment leasing nationwide across all industries, with flexible terms, competitive pricing and no residual risk.

With more than 30 years’ experience in equipment finance, including an extensive background in community bank leasing, credit analysis and lease structuring, Mike understands how to help community banks succeed.

“I’m heavily committed to helping community banks compete against big-box banks,” Mike affirms. “The community bank model is necessary for our country. It brings relationship aspects and a source of capital to small and medium businesses. Bell is really a large community bank, and we want to see community banks thrive.”

Mike has worked at large banks, where decisions were made based on profitability – not relationships. That’s one of the main reasons he joined Bell in Sept. 2019.

“Bell’s culture so closely matches the culture of banks throughout the region,” he notes. “Because Bell is independently owned, we’re able to think longer-term than our publicly traded competitors.”

Based in Minneapolis, Mike serves as equipment finance liaison with our correspondent bankers and the community banks we work with in 14 states.

“Bell enjoys tremendous relationships in our large network of correspondent banks,” comments Eric Zehr, president of Bell’s equipment finance division. “We want to help those banks and their customers get the equipment finance services they need.”

Prior to Bell, Mike worked at Bankers’ Bank, running the leasing operation for correspondent bank relationships throughout the Midwest. He is also a member of the Equipment Leasing and Finance Association and the Independent Community Bankers Association.

“What I try to do every day is understand and be mindful about what they – and their customers – need,” Mike remarks. “When I’ve helped a community bank maintain or grow a relationship with one of their customers, I consider that a success.”


To find out more about how Bell Bank Equipment Finance can help you and your customers, contact Mike at mlasalle@bell.bank or 952-905-5155.

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