The American Bankers Association wants the names of more members on election ballots.
The group is forming a candidate school to groom more bankers to run for political office, including state legislatures. The two-day program, to be held in Washington, will debut in September.
Attendees will learn how to target voters, file the paperwork required to run for office and raise campaign funds, according to the association’s website.
“We think it’s really important for those casting votes on banking policy to fully understand and appreciate the impact that these decisions will have on a community [and] the overall economy,” said Rob Nichols, the association’s CEO.
The ABA noted that only 35 members of Congress, or 6.5%, have experience working in the banking industry.
The effort comes at a pivotal time in U.S. politics after Donald Trump’s election as president. The Trump administration has indicated that it wants to dial back regulation and lower taxes, which has contributed to a significant run-up in bank stocks since early November.
Though it could take a while for the program to gain traction, Craig Meader, chairman and CEO of First National Bank of Kansas in Burlington and mayor of nearby Waverly, said the offering could provide motivation for bankers curious about running for office.
“It might swing them off the fence and get them involved,” said Meader, who also serves on the ABA’s membership committee.
At the same time, it would be helpful for the banking industry to have more lawmakers who know the business, Meader said.
The notion of running for elected office makes sense to some bankers who have already followed that route.
“I would encourage any banker to get involved in politics,” said Rob Moore, a senior vice president at Bank of Perry County and mayor or Lobelville, Tenn. Moore, who has been mayor for 15 years, said working at a bank and holding elected office help him get a better understanding of his community’s needs.
A number of former bankers are in Congress, representing both major political parties.
Rep. French Hill, R-Ark., was founder and CEO of Delta Trust and Bank in Little Rock. Elected in 2014, Hill is a member of the House Financial Services Committee. Other notable banking professionals in Congress include Reps. John Delaney, D-Md.; Jim Himes, D-Conn.; Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo.; and Steve Stivers, R-Ohio.
The candidate school is the latest effort by the association to step up political activism. The group’s existing Power Up initiative includes a political action committee and programs designed to build the banking industry’s clout in Washington and to encourage bankers to participate in grass-roots lobbying.
Training potential candidates is “a natural progression” from Power Up, Nichols said.
“Part of it is … definitely just on its face about having more people in elected office that understand the banking sector,” Nichols said. “We believe [that] will lead to better public policy, particularly as it relates to banking.”