Feel, timing and balance. You can’t improve on those three words when working with a horse. You can’t have one without the other and each builds on the previous in an ongoing progression.

Feel is about the relationship between two individuals, it is the give and take in a conversation. Timing is about when to ask, when to listen and when to just sit. Finally, without balance nothing else works.

In my world, leadership and horsemanship are inextricably linked. So feel, timing and balance could also describe the role that Dave Mowat has played at ATBFinancial the past eleven years.

Timing is everything. Dave recently announced he is set to retire in June 2018 as President and CEO of ATBFinancial. The timing of Dave’s departure is most interesting, Dave is leaving when everything feels good. Through his tenure ATB’s assets have grown to $49.6 billion from $20.3 billion, revenue has doubled to $1.5 billion and branch footprint grown by 9%. That is quite an accomplishment in an economic environment that has been anything but great in Alberta for a number of years.

Dave is also the reason that ATBFinancial has been a valuable client of The Natural Leader. Five years ago Debbie Blakeman was tasked with creating a program for ATB Leaders and she believed a day with horses to be a good fit. Between breakfasts and barbecues she brought Dave down to our annual demonstration on the grounds at the Calgary Stampede. Fortunately Dave is also an animal lover so when I handed over the lead rope, the relationship to the concepts of leadership presence was immediately clear.

Despite the chaos of the grounds as far as anyone could see it was just Dave and Rhys.

Since that dance with Rhys at the Calgary Stampede a good deal of ATB leaders have left their footprints in the sand. Through many of those conversations the impression that Dave has left is clear. His feel through a conversation is incredible, he is gracious, complimentary and genuine.

When Dave speaks to you, it is as if you are the most important person in the room.

In an industry not typically known for genuine warmth and care, Dave has instilled a love of stories. Beginning on his back on the floor of the stage at a fundraising event for CC4MS, Dave shared the story of his leadership journey. Stories bring balance to the hectic world of banking and business in a way that memos and directions simply can’t. Stories connect people and bring relationships to life.

Balance has also become very clear at ATBFinancial through the many community sponsorships and initiatives – supporting the communities and the people that make up ATB. Dave has also encouraged work-life balance as technology has made connecting easier many of my conversations with team members have happened in their homes or at the shared workspaces.Where someone sits makes no difference to the outcomes of the work achieved.

Handing over The Reins of Responsibility Debbie Blakeman, Nancy Lowery, Dave Mowat

In recognition of the impact that ATBFinancial has had on the growth of The Natural Leader I handed the Reins of Responsibility over to Dave and Debbie. It was October and the senior management quarterly meeting. I told the story of the meaning the reins held to me. I had no idea he might be handing them over so soon.

So whether it’s ATBx and the new Entrepreneur Centres, Agricultural events and initiatives no one can argue that banking has changed on Dave’s watch. His feel, timing and balance have been impeccable.

It has been an honor, a pleasure to be a part of that. We wish you well Dave. Thank you.


Nancy Lowery has been blogging about her Leadership Learning through Horsemanship Experiences for over ten years. This series began as “One Foot in the Arena” to explore what other leaders in Calgary have learned about their own leadership through their relationships with horses.
To explore how a day with horses can complement your Leadership Training programs Nancy would love to hear from you. 

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