Otto Bremer created a legacy that continues to flourish today. The Bremer Story focuses on our vision of building healthy communities as partners in possibility, and highlights the contributions our employees make with clients and communities every day.
We have an incredible story that elicits employee pride, connects with clients and enriches communities. It’s the story of a self-made man – an individual committed to the long-term health and vitality of the communities that were home to his banks. But it’s also the story of nearly 2,000 dedicated employees who today deliver outstanding customer service, volunteer for local nonprofits and make investments in the long-term health of the communities where they live and work. At Bremer Bank, we believe one of the most important investments we can make in a community’s health begins with our own employees – creating an inclusive and respectful culture, providing a living wage and competitive benefits, and cultivating a diverse, skilled and responsive staff.
Otto Bremer came to Minnesota as a German immigrant in 1886, seeking opportunities for a good life. Over the next decades, he lived the American dream. Speaking limited English at the start, he called the day he was hired in his first job in St. Paul “about the happiest moment in my life.” But looking for greater challenges, he soon moved on to a job as bookkeeper for the National German American Bank. Over the next 36 years, he worked his way up to become the chairman of the American National Bank and a dedicated community leader involved in civic, financial and corporate life. He partnered with his brother Adolph in the ownership and management of the Jacob Schmidt Brewing Company, served as treasurer of the City of St. Paul for more than a decade, and became an advisor to Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Otto Bremer’s financial acumen ultimately made him the largest investor in bank stocks in the Midwest. Many of these investments were in independent rural banks, “countryside banks” as he called them. His commitment to these institutions and to the surrounding communities was unwavering. During the Great Depression, Otto liquidated many of his personal assets to strengthen these banks and help them ride out hard times. He believed that people could survive and flourish if they had help in critical times.
For all his success, Otto did not forget the strengths and hardships of the rural and immigrant experience. His concern for those working to make their lives better, coupled with his commitment to the local banks, became the cornerstone of his long-term vision. In 1943, Otto created a bank holding company to consolidate his stake in the community banks, giving the banks the advantage of acting as a group and avoiding their sale after his death.
Always aware of individual problems and the various needs of small towns, Otto also wanted to increase the benefits of living in a community served by one of his banks. To do that, in 1944, he created the Otto Bremer Trust, which provides grants to meet community needs throughout Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin. In 1951 Otto died at the age of 83.
Since 1951, the cities, towns and rural areas Otto Bremer knew have changed, and our local banks and the Otto Bremer Trust have both grown and evolved to meet current community needs. Otto’s history in St. Paul began long ago, but his story is not old. Today, it is replayed daily with an ever-changing cast of characters. Bremer Bank and the Otto Bremer Trust employees carry his legacy forward through their commitment to helping people find opportunities to thrive and participate in their communities.
The Bremer Story continues to add new chapters inspired by the vision of our founder. Throughout communities in Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin, our clients and employees are working together to realize extraordinary possibilities.