In 2001, Eugene Ludwig opened a consulting business with little more than a secretary and a thick rolodex of contacts from his days as a top banking regulator. An astute, driven college friend of Bill Clinton's, Ludwig had presided over a momentous five years for banking as comptroller of the currency. Even as he prodded banks to embrace fair lending and modernize their risk management, he championed their push into securities markets and used preemption to pry state regulators off the OCC's turf.

At the heart of his new firm's business model was the prescient premise that as banks diversified into new states and markets they would be concentrating their exposure to Washington's oversight. Navigating regulations-and the aims of the people who made them-would become as vital to modern banking as managing credit risk.

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