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Conversations with the Council Featuring Fabiola Brumley, Palm Beach County President and Senior Public Policy Lead at Bank of America

Sunshine and palm trees, the scenery was the same, but Fort Lauderdale was a very far cry from Beirut, Lebanon, where 9-year-old Fab Brumley had just immigrated with her family. “It was very different from being in an all-girls Catholic school in Beirut where there was a strong sense of discipline to being in a co-ed public school where there was no dress code.”

As a student, she excelled in math and spoke French and Arabic, but the kids called her stupid because she was in remedial English through middle school. “When you have an accent or a language barrier, it’s easy for people to underestimate your potential. But you can overcome that by persevering and leaning on family and friends.” That is precisely what she did, reminding herself, “There’s no problem too difficult to solve,” a valuable lesson from her father that eventually became her mantra. That mantra has guided her since, especially now in her role as the Palm Beach County President for Bank of America, where she leads more than one thousand employees and forty-plus branches while nurturing deep community relationships. As you can imagine, challenges can and do arise. “I try not to be paralyzed by the problem and instead roll up my sleeves and get to work. I rely on my team, so selecting smart and caring people who are equally driven and like-minded about customer service is very important”.

That passion for her people and the bank’s clientele was one of the primary reasons she was interested in joining the Economic Council of Palm Beach County. “It provides the opportunity to engage with other business leaders who care about public policies and their impact on the business climate. Membership allows us to represent our clients, employees, and the greater community. For example, the recent strategy focused on workforce housing by increasing the supply would help our employees and improve our recruiting and retention. It helps our clients because they can attract talent to the area at all employment levels. It also helps the overall community because we all need a skilled workforce to meet our growing demands.” Now 15 years later, she is the Chair of the Board of the Economic Council. “It’s an opportunity to lead and pursue areas that are important to our business community and our members. To lean into relationships I’ve developed over decades and make sure we harmonize our interests with those around us to continue the great work others before me have started with a backdrop of an ever-changing business environment that is rapidly advancing due to technology.”

The President and CEO of the Economic Council, Michele Jacobs, says she looks forward to working with Fab in her new role and admires her ability to be present in meetings, setting everything aside to focus on the conversation. “I think Fab is going to work hard to bring more members into key roles while utilizing the talent internally that currently exists even more effectively. I know how busy she is and how many hats she wears. She is great at tailoring her message to her audience and is a very effective communicator.”

And there will be a great deal of discussion on industry-common topics such as ensuring that the recently passed housing bond program works the way it should. “Housing has experienced the largest inflationary impact. While the county’s business community grows, so does the need for talent recruitment in all job sectors. That talent and their families need housing they can afford. As members, we have a responsibility to represent our own teammates and those of the business community.” Fab says that this council both challenges and embraces policies that affect businesses and their ability to thrive. That includes policies that impact water, mobility, economic development, education, and infrastructure. “When it comes to education, it hits home for me. When we address the education gap, we improve people’s economic lives forever. It was important to my family and me when we immigrated to the U.S. My parents made sure my siblings and I were recipients of a solid education because none of us spoke English except my father. It was important then, it’s important today and it will be important tomorrow.”

Making a difference in people’s lives is at the core of who she is. She loves to sponsor her employees’ career growth and takes a genuine interest in doing something for others without getting anything in return. “There is nothing better.” You can feel her sincerity when you’re in her presence. She actively listens as you speak. She’s in the moment and is never one to sugarcoat anything. The honest feedback exemplifies her character and coincides with the three words she used to describe herself: dependable, reliable, and accountable. If you know her, those words ring true repeatedly.

Her colleagues describe her as a team player. It makes sense. Her father frequently spoke about teamwork, having learned the value of it from the educator and author Peter Drucker, known as “the founder of modern management.” For Fab, working together creates greater success, especially when private and public sectors can come together. “It makes the business climate friendly and attractive, leading to more jobs for our families who want a better future.”

Helping others achieve their goals is at the core of who she is. She is on executive boards and has chaired many organizations, from numerous non-profits to internal employee resource groups at Bank of America, and diversity and inclusion initiatives that connect women leaders from emerging countries with established female executives from various business sectors. 

She’s also a doting grandmother who loves to spend time in the kitchen with her grandkids, making cookies or perhaps one day sharing her recipe for homemade hummus, tabouli, and kibbe. All delicious middle eastern favorites, which of course, go great with the homemade bread she bakes. You may see her riding her turquoise Schwinn out in Loxahatchee or in her goggles on the racquetball court to burn off those calories. The exercise keeps her grounded, as does her faith and her ability to take time each day to read, listen and clear her mind. Somehow, she has figured out the balance, and it’s that balance that makes her the great leader and person that she is.

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