Mike Palmer on empowering employees through leadership

Mike Palmer, Chief Operating Officer, TAB Bank explains his philosophy of empowering employees to make mistakes, learn and best serve customers.

Rhys Thomas
|Feb 16|magazine5 min read
Mike Palmer
TAB Bank

COO

Mike Palmer’s destiny was laid out before him until a twist of fate set him on a new path. Born and raised in a small family business, Palmer always thought he’d finish his education as a Finance and Marketing Major at Utah State University, return home and slot right in. “But my dad ended up selling it about three years after I graduated from college and there wasn't room for the family to stay in it with the new owner,” he says. 

So he moved into the financial services sector, initially in consumer lending before shifting his focus to auditing and compliance, where he stayed for the best part of a decade. While working at a large financial institution on international projects (“which were fun”), Palmer decided it was time he returned closer to home and took on a new challenge where he felt he could make more of an individual impact. 

“When I was one of 200,000 employees at that big company, it was a great place to work but really hard to feel like you made a difference every day,” he recalls. “At TAB, we have around 275 employees, and everyone makes a difference every day.” 

Today he is the Chief Operating Officer at TAB Bank, where he leads teams of specialists through a unique philosophy amalgamating family-run business ideals and experience gained in the upper echelons of corporate finance.

“I’m the first to admit I'm never the smartest guy in the room. I don't think I ever have been; my mother would tell you that. So I try to surround myself with, and I've been very blessed to have, very smart people around me and trust them to make good decisions,” he says. 

“From a leadership standpoint, I’ve always believed that empowering people to make decisions is very important. If there are hiccups along the way, we'd go back and we try to identify, okay, why did we make that mistake? And it's not a punishment-type thing. At TAB, our employees don't have to go very high up the chain of command, for lack of a better term, to make some very big decisions around customers and getting them taken care of.” 

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When you’re dealing with people’s money and their financial lives, it’s emotional

Mike Palmer | TAB Bank

He recalls a situation late one Friday evening. “We were having an ACH file issue, but we were getting three or four people from different departments across the bank calling in to make sure our customers’ money was going to move correctly. TAB Bank is full of people who are willing to pick up the phone, even late on a Friday night, to make sure that things happen. I think that's key and so it’s my job to empower everyone to think, ‘Hey, yeah, we've got to make sure it's right and make the decisions. Let's go.’”

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