The coronavirus pandemic has taken a major toll on the casino industry in general, and Scientific Games in particular. Teri Chan Palomaki, vice president of finance, has been in the middle of the action.
“We’ve enhanced our efforts exponentially, because we’re constantly monitoring and forecasting around the clock to predict what the return of the industry will look like,” Palomaki says.
Palomaki didn’t bargain for Covid-19 when she joined Scientific Games in 2015, after years with Caterpillar, Alexian Brothers Health System and others.
“We have a heightened focus on all health and safety policies and protocols,” she says. “We’re being very cautious at every stage in order to keep our essential, on-site employees as safe as possible.”
Despite the pandemic, Palomaki says she likes where she is. “Nothing against track-type tractors or stainless steel implants, but analyzing tables, slot machines, online casino, lottery tickets and systems is fascinating.”
Still, her prior work experience provided a foundation of financial practices and reporting. “I worked in corporate treasury during the 2008 financial crisis, and I developed significant crisis management skills which helped tremendously during the pandemic,” she says.
She also gained firsthand exposure working with executive offices and leading forecasting and budgeting processes after moving into the health care industry, says the Chicago native, who got a bachelor’s in finance from Bradley University in Peoria.
“It was a dynamic work situation, helping clients implement new systems and create management reporting packages. Each of the company’s unique financial needs provided a good backdrop on how to approach opportunities at Scientific Games following several acquisitions,” says the diehard Cubs fan.
In her role, Palomaki is responsible for financial planning, management reporting and analyses. She recently took on the facilities department. “I’m proud to lead a team that handles day-to-day facility operations, our real estate portfolio and environmental health and safety. This provides me with the chance to learn even more outside of finance, while mentoring teams to have autonomy.”
That includes working on diversity efforts. Palomaki has addressed the Women’s Leadership Series at Scientific Games. Such discussions prove valuable for employees of all genders, backgrounds and career levels, she says.
Palomaki believes she was fortunate to have strong mentors throughout her career. Scientific Games’ previous chief financial officer, Michael Quartieri, was supportive and allowed her to capitalize on opportunities within the company. “By giving me stretch assignments, he helped me showcase my talent and strategic vision. These opportunities proved I was capable to hold the role and responsibility,” says Palomaki, an avid tennis and poker player (“Poker allows me to factor odds and probabilities”).
Attending Global Gaming Women conferences, Palomaki worked with Debra Nutton, retired executive vice president of casino operations for Wynn Las Vegas and Encore, and Ann Simmons Nicholson, president and founder of the Simmons Group, both of whom provided great advice as she navigated her career.
She has a word of advice for others coming into the industry. Be nimble. Be open-minded. Be optimistic even during a crisis. And have fun. A great attitude will open up doors for collaboration.
“Finance can be stressful 90 percent of the time,” she says, “but that positive attitude will impact your team, their performance and morale in a significant way.”