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VOL. 122 | NO. 45 | Friday, March 09, 2007

Serving Community Important Job for Palazzolo

By Amy O. Williams

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"In community banking, there will always be room for bankers to bring back humanity. We want to know what is going on in your life and we will try to make the product shaped to what your needs are, opposed to fitting you into a box or a vanilla account."
- Mike Palazzolo
Name: Mike Palazzolo
Position: President
Company Landmark Community Bank
Basics: Palazzolo was named president of the Germantown branch upon its November opening.

While a student at Rhodes College in the 1980s, Mike Palazzolo learned the importance of community service. And nearly 20 years later, he is applying those principles in his work as president of Landmark Community Bank on Germantown Road.

"Rhodes has always been an outstanding liberal arts college," he said. "And it is an extremely service-conscious institution."

In the thick of things

Palazzolo serves on numerous commissions in Germantown and currently is the treasurer for the Germantown Area Chamber of Commerce. He also is a member of the Liberty Bowl Board of Directors, the Tennessee Municipal League and Leadership Germantown Alumni Association.

Palazzolo said it was that community service mentality that drove him to run for an alderman position in Germantown, which he was elected to his first four-year term in 2004 and is serving as the city's vice mayor this year.

"It got my interest sparked in community involvement from a governmental standpoint, so it has been kind of a natural progression," he said. "It's the idea that I live here, I work here, I play here and go to church here, so I might as well serve here."

Big and small

That idea of community service carries over to his position at Landmark Bank, which currently has three offices in the Memphis area: Collierville, Whitehaven and Palazzolo's Germantown branch.

Before coming to Landmark when the branch opened in November, Palazzolo worked for both large corporate banks and small community banks, so he should know the difference between the two.

Some large corporate banks have a great formula to reach their customers, he said, but ultimately for them it is a volume-driven business where people become just a number.

"In community banking, there will always be room for bankers to bring back humanity," Palazzolo said. "We want to know what is going on in your life and we will try to make the product shaped to what your needs are, opposed to fitting you into a box or a vanilla account."

From the classroom to the boardroom

While he has been working in the banking industry for about 20 years, Palazzolo did not enter the profession straight out of college.

He graduated from Rhodes in 1986 with a double major in history and international studies and a minor in education.

"One of the things I had prepared myself for was to teach and that happened here in Memphis," Palazzolo said.

He taught at Ridgeway High School - his alma mater - for three years and also coached football. It was during his third year at Ridgeway when the opportunity came along to get into banking.

"When that opportunity occurred I was not very strong in accounting, finance or the analytical work," Palazzolo said. "But in my profession, most banks are looking for people who are good with their people skills - the ability to have a conversation, the ability to have dialogue and the ability to negotiate. And this is where community banking has really thrived."

People profession

It also is a profession where Palazzolo has been able to use those skills he acquired while teaching and coaching through the years. So while he might not have had the analytical skills typically associated with a career in finance, those were the kind of things he could be taught.

"But it is hard to teach people to work with people," he said.

In his job at Landmark, Palazzolo said he often gets to be a part of things that can make him very proud, such as doing a loan for a small-business owner and then being able to see that business grow. The owner might be able to expand the business or bring in a new product, he said.

"Closing that loan gives you a real sense of accomplishment," he said. "Banks are the engines that make the economy grow, and community banks do that on the local level."

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