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Bell Bank is an independently owned bank based in Fargo, North Dakota

Bell Bank is among the largest independently-owned banks in the United States[1] and is the largest privately-owned bank in the Upper Midwest[2] with assets of more than $6 billion.[3] Through its wealth management division, the company manages more than $6.5 billion in assets.[4] Bell Bank, which employs 1,300 people[5] (500 in the Twin Cities[6]) is headquartered in Fargo, North Dakota[7] It has 24 locations in North Dakota, Minnesota and Arizona and does business in all 50 states.[8] State Bankshares is Bell Bank 's parent company.[9]

Bell Bank
Privately Held Company
IndustryBanking, Financial Services, Mortgage, Insurance
Founded1966; 53 years ago (1966)
Key people
  • Richard Solberg, Board Chairman
  • Michael Solberg, President & CEO
  • Rod Jordahl, EVP/Chief Financial Officer
  • Julie Peterson Klein, EVP/Chief Culture Officer
  • Patrick Chaffee, EVP/Banking & Wealth Management
  • Todd Lee, EVP/Banking & Commercial Lending Administration
  • Tony Weick, EVP/Bell Bank Mortgage President
Number of employees


History and GrowthEdit

Bell Bank was founded as State Bank of Fargo in 1966[10] as a single location in the Northport Shopping Center in Fargo.[11] Thomas "Buck" Snortland was one of the company's founders.[12]

In 2003, the bank bought Northern Capital Trust, a trust company and flex spending adjudication business.[13] Richard Solberg, who was then the bank's president and CEO, had served on the board of directors for Northern Capital Trust since the company was established—16 years before the merger.[14]

Not long after the merger, Bell created a spin-off company called Discovery Benefits, which administers flexible benefits, COBRA and health savings accounts.[15] It is now one of the largest privately-owned third-party administrators in the country, and has been ranked among the fastest-growing health savings account administrators.[16] Bell also started Healthcare Bank, one of the largest health care savings account banks and a client of Discovery Benefits.[17] In January 2019, State Bankshares announced plans to sell Discovery Benefits for $425 million to Wex Inc., a South Portland, Maine-based payment processing and business solutions provider. Discovery Benefits, which employs 900 people, has worked with Wex for over 10 years. State Bankshares will keep 5 percent equity interest in Discovery Benefits and Wex's health division.[18]

In 2011, the company acquired Minneapolis-based Bell Mortgage, expanding its reach into the Twin Cities and Phoenix, Ariz.[19] The company changed its name from State Bank & Trust to Bell State Bank & Trust in 2012[20] and to Bell Bank in August, 2016.[21]

In 2013, Bell acquired Minneapolis-based The Business Bank and its Prime Mortgage Division.[22]

In addition to 20 full-service banking locations, Bell has trust offices in Fargo and Bismarck, North Dakota, and Boise, Idaho, with Bell Bank Mortgage offices in the Minneapolis–St. Paul area, Phoenix,[23] Wisconsin[24] and New Mexico.[25]

Bell launched an equipment finance division in Minneapolis in 2018, to serve the manufacturing, transportation, construction and agriculture industries. The division serves companies in a 17-state area and works with vendors and equipment manufacturers to offer financing packages for potential buyers.[26]

In January 2019, Bell signed a purchase agreement to buy Warner and Company Insurance in Fargo, Schiller Insurance in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, and Thompson-Schaefer Insurance Agency in Grand Forks, North Dakota, which have 30 employees all together. Warner and Company, a full-service insurance agency founded in Fargo more than 100 years ago, owns the other two agencies. Brian Hayer, Warner and Company president and CEO, will remain managing director of the agencies under the Bell Insurance brand.[27]

Bell opened its first full-service bank branch in Arizona—in the city of Chandler—in January 2019.[28]

Bell has a 5-star rating from Bauer Financial, an independent bank research firm. Based on financial data from federal regulators, a 5-star rating, the highest rating the firm awards, means a bank is financially sound and is operating well above its capital requirements.[29]

The company plans to remain privately owned.[30]


Michael Solberg is Bell Bank's president, and the third CEO in the company's 50-year history.[31] He was named CEO in 2014, succeeding his father, Richard Solberg, who had been CEO since 1982.[32]

Michael Solberg was named chief operating officer in 2004[33] and president in 2009.[34] He started with the company in 1998 after graduating from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, and William Mitchell College of Law in Saint Paul, Minnesota.[35] He grew up in Finley, North Dakota, and Fargo.[36]

Richard Solberg is the board chairman and a company shareholder.[37] The bank is owned by about 70 shareholders, with a majority stake held by the families of Richard Solberg, Michael Solberg, Julie Snortland and Laura Snortland Fairfield.[38] Other major shareholders have included Thomas "Buck" Snortland[39] and his son, Thomas "Mickey" Snortland, both farmers from Sharon, North Dakota.[40]

Thomas "Mickey" Snortland, who was also a longtime director of the bank, died in 2013 of an apparent heart attack.[41]

Before working for what was then State Bank of Fargo, Richard Solberg was president of Citizens State Bank in Finley, where he grew up. He also graduated from Concordia College.[42] Under Richard Solberg's leadership, the bank grew from a single location with $28 million in assets to 20 branches in North Dakota and Minnesota with more than $3 billion in assets.[43]

NorthWestern Financial Review named Richard and Michael Solberg Bankers of the Year in 2012.[44]

Additional executive leadership includes: Rod Jordahl, executive vice-president/chief financial officer,[45] Julie Peterson Klein, EVP/chief culture officer,[46] Patrick Chaffee, EVP/banking and wealth management,[47] Todd Lee, EVP/banking and commercial lending administration,[48] and Tony Weick, EVP/Bell Bank Mortgage president.[49]

Company CultureEdit

Michael Solberg says the bank's growth and profits are due to the way the company treats its employees.[50] Bell Bank's mission statement is Happy Employees! Happy Customers![51] Thomas "Buck" Snortland was a major player in establishing the company's culture of putting employees and customers first.[52]

In 2019, Forbes ranked Bell among the World's Best Banks. The company ranked second in U.S.-only banks, behind USAA, a bank for military and their families.[53] In 2018, Bell was one of two banks nationwide to receive "Best Bank" ranking in more than one state when Forbes named Bell "Best Bank" in both North Dakota and Minnesota based on customer interviews.[54] The publication cited high grades customers gave Bell for its digital services, Pay It Forward program and Minnesota United soccer club sponsorship.[55]

In addition to being a gate sponsor at Minnesota United's Allianz Field, Bell is giving a $1,000 check to a player each match to donate to a charity of his choice.[56]

American Banker Magazine and Best Companies Group named Bell to its Best Banks to Work For list every year since starting the national ranking in 2013. Bell ranked third overall in 2018[57] and second in 2019.[58] To calculate their rankings, American Banker and Best Companies Group survey employees and review employer benefits and policies.[59]

Star Tribune Media Co. has named Bell to its "Top Workplaces" list since 2015[60]. In 2016, the media company also recognized the bank with a special award for ethics because of the company's culture.[61] In 2019, Bell ranked first among Minnesota's 150 top workplaces.[62]

In 2019, Fortune magazine named Bell on its list of the Best Workplaces in Financial Services & Insurance. Bell came in eighth on the list and was the only bank listed from North Dakota. Bell also ranked among the best workplaces for millennials. Great Place to Work based the list on employee surveys.[63]

Bell also hosts events for employees, like baseball nights, picnics and Christmas parties.[64] Through a program called "How Bell of You," the bank recognizes employees for doing something nice for someone else and demonstrating Bell's core values of family atmosphere, personal service and paying it forward. Those who go above and beyond in demonstrating the company's values have a chance to win a trip to anywhere in the continental U.S.[65] Every month, the bank holds employment anniversary luncheons for employees hired that month.[66] And each year, Bell Bank gives employees a $500 gift card and a day off to spend with a friend or family member.[67] Each year, Bell gives employees annual bonuses based on bank performance. When the bank reached a milestone of $5 billion in assets, Bell gave full-time employees an extra $2,500 and part-timers an extra $1,000 on top of their regular bonus in December 2018.[68]

Several media outlets, including USA Today, People magazine and the BBC have written stories about Bell Bank's culture.[69]

In November 2016, Bell Bank announced that it would make an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) part of its employees' retirement benefits.[70] A portion of each employee's retirement funds will be invested in State Bankshares stock. Bell Bank expects the ESOP to grow to nearly 10 percent ownership in about 10 years.[71]

Pay It Forward ProgramEdit

Part of the culture is the bank's Pay It Forward program, which Michael Solberg started in 2007, inspired by Oprah Winfrey's "Pay It Forward" project.[72] The program gives full-time employees $1,000 and part-time employees $500 each year to give to people and organizations in need,[73] and has contributed more than $14 million toward charitable causes so far.[74] In 2019, full-time employees received $2,500 and part-timers $1,000 to donate to people and causes they care about in honor of Bell Bank reaching $5 billion in assets. As of December, 2018, the company had given out more than $12 million through the program.[75]

After launching the program, Michael Solberg appeared on a number of news outlets to talk about it, including Good Morning America, CBS's The Early Show, Fox News[76] and CBS Evening News with Katie Couric.[77]

Examples of Pay It Forward donations have included:

As Bell's chief culture officer, executive vice-president Julie Peterson Klein heads the Pay It Forward program.[81]

Sponsorships and EndorsementsEdit

Bell has formed several partnerships with athletes, athletic organizations, theaters and other celebrities with North Dakota and Minnesota ties. Known as "Bell Bank Champions," the celebrities and organizations are featured in advertising campaigns and work with Bell on charitable "Pay It Forward" causes.[82]

"Bell Bank Champions" include:


  1. ^ StarTribune, August 4, 2019
  2. ^ KVRR, May 6, 2016
  3. ^ StarTribune, August 4, 2019
  4. ^ The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, July 29, 2016.
  5. ^
  6. ^ StarTribune, January 17, 2019
  7. ^ Forbes, June 26, 2018
  8. ^ KVRR, May 6, 2016
  9. ^ Twin Cities Business, January 8, 2013
  10. ^ Twin Cities Business, December 17, 2014
  11. ^ The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, July 29, 2016
  12. ^ The FM Extra, September 3, 2014
  13. ^ The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, February 2, 2012
  14. ^ The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, July 19, 2002
  15. ^ The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, February 2, 2012
  16. ^ "Discovery Benefits Ranks Number One in HSA Account Growth". Retrieved 2018-06-07.
  17. ^ The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, February 2, 2012
  18. ^ StarTribune, January 17, 2019
  19. ^ Twin Cities Business, December 17, 2014
  20. ^ The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, July 23, 2012
  21. ^ The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, July 29, 2016
  22. ^ Prairie Business Magazine, April 2, 2013
  23. ^ Prairie Business Magazine, April 2, 2013
  24. ^ Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, August 22, 2018
  25. ^ StarTribune, January 17, 2019
  26. ^ Finance&Commerce, October 8, 2018
  27. ^ The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, January 23, 2019
  28. ^ Chandler Chamber, January 31, 2019
  29. ^ Bauer Financial, January 30, 2019
  30. ^ StarTribune, January 17, 2019
  31. ^ Twin Cities Business, December 17, 2014
  32. ^ Twin Cities Business, December 17, 2014
  33. ^ Bush Foundation
  34. ^ Twin Cities Business, December 17, 2014
  35. ^ Valley News Live, December 17, 2014
  36. ^ Valley News Live, December 17, 2014
  37. ^ Twin Cities Business, December 17, 2014
  38. ^
  39. ^ The FM Extra, September 3, 2014
  40. ^ Valley News Live, December 17, 2014
  41. ^ The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, January 28, 2013
  42. ^ Valley News Live, December 17, 2014
  43. ^ Twin Cities Business, December 17, 2014
  44. ^ The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, February 2, 2012
  45. ^
  46. ^ The Grand Forks Herald, Feb. 25, 2017
  47. ^ The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, January 23, 2019
  48. ^
  49. ^
  50. ^ American Banker, August 25, 2015
  51. ^ The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, February 2, 2012
  52. ^ The FM Extra, September 3, 2014
  53. ^ Forbes, March 4, 2019
  54. ^ Forbes, June 26, 2018
  55. ^ Forbes, June 26, 2018
  56. ^ Star Tribune, April 17, 2018
  57. ^ American Banker, August 27, 2018
  58. ^ American Banker, August 28, 2019
  59. ^ American Banker Magazine, August 28, 2016
  60. ^ Minneapolis StarTribune
  61. ^ Minneapolis StarTribune, June 24, 2016
  62. ^ Minneapolis StarTribune, June 14, 2019
  63. ^ Great Place to Work
  64. ^ American Banker, August 25, 2015
  65. ^ American Banker, August 27, 2018
  66. ^ American Banker, August 27, 2018
  67. ^ American Banker, August 25, 2015
  68. ^ Bring Me The News, December 11, 2018
  69. ^ Bush Foundation
  70. ^ The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, November 23, 2016
  71. ^ The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, November 23, 2016
  72. ^ The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, December 18, 2007
  73. ^ Bush Foundation
  74. ^
  75. ^ Bring Me The News, December 11, 2018
  76. ^ The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, December 18, 2007
  77. ^ The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, January 10, 2008
  78. ^ The West Fargo Pioneer, June 14, 2018
  79. ^ The Daily Journal, April 8, 2014
  80. ^ The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, August 26, 2016
  81. ^ The Grand Forks Herald, Feb. 25, 2017
  82. ^ The Bemidji Pioneer, January 22, 2019
  83. ^ The Bemidji Pioneer, January 22, 2019
  84. ^ The Bemidji Pioneer, January 22, 2019
  85. ^ The Bemidji Pioneer, January 22, 2019
  86. ^ The Bemidji Pioneer, January 22, 2019
  87. ^ The Bemidji Pioneer, January 22, 2019
  88. ^ The Bemidji Pioneer, January 22, 2019
  90. ^ Star Tribune, April 17, 2018
  91. ^ Guthrie Theater, November 13, 2018
  92. ^ Broadway World, Marcy 7, 2018
  93. ^ Trollwood Performing Arts School
  94. ^ AM 1100 The Flag, November 18, 2018
  95. ^ Fargo Theatre
  96. ^ JJ Meets World, March 18, 2019
  97. ^ Twin Cities Summer Jam

External linksEdit

Bell Bank website [1]

Discovery Benefits website [2]