Bank of Tampa President Corey Neil says that rather than a corporate ladder for executives, his bank has something more like a corporate stepladder.
Not that people don’t hold a variety of managerial positions in the bank. They do. But the process isn’t the typical fierce corporate competition you might find in an $ 82.17 million company with some 260 employees. The bank, in addition to this payroll and $ 82 million in revenue in 2020, has $ 2.7 billion in assets. It is one of the largest local community banks in the region.
By stepping stone, Neil refers to the bank’s leadership development process. Like many banks, results matter, of course. But the Bank of Tampa differs from many other businesses, not just financial institutions, in the time – and money – it devotes to training future leaders. This includes executive coaches, field experience, courses and seminars at the Ivy League and other top colleges. And he has a relatively flat hierarchy, with plenty of opportunities for actors. âYou can find your own ways to build your leadership career here,â Neil told me on a recent Zoom call.
Neil is the A example of the bank’s leadership development. He joined the bank in 2003, coming from SunTrust. He then spent eight years in commercial loans. In 2011, other bank executives started giving Neil more tasks and authority. In 2015, Neil took the Advanced Management Program at Columbia University, a 30-voice immersive program where he left his family and went to New York for the month. (The bank’s Hillsborough County Market Chairman, Scott Gault, also participated in Colombia’s Advanced Management Program.) Neil’s title and responsibilities have grown steadily, culminating with his appointment as Chairman and Director of the ‘operation in July 2020.
The bank’s leadership development program is broken down into two levels: a dozen high-level leaders and another parallel program aimed at future young and junior-level leaders. The bank has spent well in the six figures of its leadership programs over the past decade, CEO Bill West said. He was asked how the bank can afford to do it – or why it does. West’s response? This is something the bank cannot afford not to do. âIt’s not about the money,â West says. âIt’s about being intentional in building leadership in your business.â
West’s pragmatism aside, I think the Bank of Tampa’s leadership programs and how it runs to find its next generation of leaders is a model any business should emulate. âWe don’t just prepare people for a promotion,â West tells me. âWe try to prepare our employees for jobs that we don’t even know currently exist.â
Like Neil, West, 70, traces his rise in banking to his focus on leadership. It goes back to founder A. Gerald Divers, who told West he didn’t want to âbe the last guy standingâ at the bank, which Divers started in 1984. âJerry wanted to build a bank that could survive him,â West says of founder, now president emeritus, “And he succeeded in that.”
Bank leadership courses are built around things that are not taught in banking school. Members of the Senior Executive Cohort meet with an Executive Coach at least once a month to improve what they learn. (Each leader can choose their coach, out of three of the four options.) The bank’s human resources department is working with the University of Florida on a program for young leaders.
West’s goal is to build a base of strong, complementary leaders – agile problem solvers who are also leaders in high performing teams. âMost leaders fail because they don’t have enough emotional intelligence,â West says. âIt’s not always about knowing what your needs are. It’s about figuring out what you can do to meet the needs of your team members. “
Neil joined the bank for reasons mentioned by West about leadership and corporate culture. The divers and West, says Neil, were the “types of people I wanted to hitch my cart to.”
âMost leaders fail because they don’t have enough emotional intelligence.â Bill West, Bank of Tampa
As President and Chief Operating Officer, Neil holds a unique place in his leadership and banking career. He’s 47 – years away from retirement. But he’s also constantly analyzing who will be the next group of executives at the Bank of Tampa. What is Neil looking for? His answer is succinct: attitude and impact.
In practice, Neil says it means people “who come to work every day ready to take on any task in front of them without debate and who do it in a way that has a big impact on the bank.”
Neil, who still works regularly with his own leadership coach, credits West with the vision of making leadership his priority at the bank. âBill’s crowning glory is that he’s helped put forward a group of leaders here who have 15 to 20 years of track,â says Neil. “I have enormous confidence in the ability of this team to lead our future.”