WASHINGTON — Paul Saltzman, the president of The Clearing House Association who helped to significantly raise the trade group's profile in recent years, is stepping down to pursue other opportunities, the group said Thursday.

The announcement came as a surprise. Although the Clearing House is the country's oldest banking trade group, its profile in Washington was relatively low until Saltzman took the reins of its advocacy arm in 2009. Since that time, he has helped boost The Clearing House's visibility, including in the banking industry's battles over the Durbin amendment, new capital rules and other fallout from the Dodd-Frank Act.

"You see The Clearing House taking the lead in virtually every major regulatory matter with quality analysis and research," said H. Rodgin Cohen, a partner at Sullivan and Cromwell, in an interview. "Paul has certainly burnished the prestige of The Clearing House, but more importantly has created a strong sounding board for the largest U.S. banks."

The trade group agreed Saltzman had made a big impact.

"Paul always took pride in The Clearing House's storied history, and I can say with confidence that at no other time in TCH's history was our advocacy more prolific than it was under his leadership," said Jim Aramanda, CEO of The Clearing House, in a press release. "I appreciated Paul's sound counsel over the past few years and wish him well in his future endeavors."

Greg Baer, the head of regulatory policy at JPMorgan Chase, said that "Paul established the Clearing House as a source of quality research and analysis, ready to engage openly with regulators or anyone else interested in banking policy.

"He leaves behind a great team ready to carry on this important work," he added.

Saltzman's next move is unclear as is who will be tapped as his successor at the trade group. The Clearing House represents the largest commercial banks in the country, as well as operating The Clearing House Payments Company, which is a key part of the payments system's infrastructure.

As a result, Saltzman has helped lead the Clearing House during recent discussions concerning ways to speed up the payments system as well as the debate over the Federal Reserve Board's rule capping interchange fees, which was required by the Durbin amendment in Dodd-Frank. But Saltzman has also been outspoken in defending parts of Dodd-Frank, most notably its structure for resolving failing megabanks.

More than two years ago, The Clearing House spent 10 months and $2 million to plan a simulation of a large bank failure, one that it said proved Dodd-Frank's new regulatory powers worked. The plan involved 180 participants, including 150 bankers from 23 institutions, split into 11 teams to play a variety of roles.

The war game was part of Saltzman's effort to bring more data analysis to the industry's lobbying efforts. The group has also tried to provide hard data on the impact of new capital rules, among other big picture items.

"Paul has been a dedicated spokesperson and advocate for the industry," said Eugene Ludwig, former Comptroller of the Currency and founder of Promontory Financial Group. "His considerable talents and energy benefited the association during a time of unprecedented change."

Prior to joining The Clearing House, Saltzman was the managing director and general counsel of Ellington Management Group, an alternative-investment management firm specializing in asset-backed securities and derivatives. He was also formerly the executive vice president and chief operating officer of Espeed, an electronic marketplace, and was executive vice president of the Bond Market Association.

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