Earlier this summer, the American Bankers Association welcomed its first chief policy officer, Naomi Camper. In her role, Camper oversees all government relations and policy research functions, including federal legislative affairs, state policy support, regulatory affairs and economic research, as well as ABA’s mortgage, tax and accounting policy groups.
Prior to joining ABA, Camper was head of nonprofit engagement at JPMorgan Chase, and previously oversaw consumer public policy at the firm and directed the federal-level advocacy team. Earlier in her career, she served as the subcommittee staff director on the Senate Banking Committee for former Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) and was a lawyer in private practice. The ABA Banking Journal sat down with Camper to discuss her new role.Q: As you start your new role as ABA’s chief policy officer, what are you most excited about?
A: There is so much opportunity right now for banks to create inclusive growth in their communities. We’ve come through a really tough time, but we are seeing growing appreciation for what banks bring to the table. ABA has the magic formula: an engaged and broad membership, an incredible network of state associations and unparalleled in-house policy and communications expertise. If we are strategic and optimistic, we can deliver a unified message to policymakers and work to ensure that banks of all sizes and geographies have the tools we need to create economic growth and opportunity. Q: You spent some time as a staffer on Capitol Hill earlier in your career. Can you tell us a little about that experience? A: I spent four years working for Sen. Tim Johnson of South Dakota. When I started, he was chairman of the financial institutions subcommittee, and his policy focus was really on small community banks. That was my first introduction to ABA as a national organization. And of course the South Dakota Bankers Association—led by our very own Curt Everson—was my bread and butter in terms of understanding the needs of South Dakota banks. That said, Sen. Johnson also understood the important role banks of all sizes play in the economy, and the industry was especially effective when they presented a united front. Q: From your time as a staffer on the Hill, what advice do you have for bankers on how to be effective advocates? A: The key is local, local, local—and also, know your stuff. There was no question that while we absolutely valued the expertise of ABA, my priority as a staffer was to get to know and earn the trust of the South Dakotans who made the economy run. My advice to bankers is: Don’t wait until you need something to build that relationship—and also respect the staffer’s role by making sure your policy positions are well grounded and defensible. When policy issues came up last-minute, we could just call each other and shorthand it since we already had that trusted relationship. Q: Congress earlier this year passed S. 2155, which was really the first substantial legislative change we’ve seen since Dodd-Frank. Can you speak to the significance of the bill? A: S. 2155 broke a critical psychological barrier: members of Congress saw that commonsense, bipartisan legislation is actually possible. The bill proved that Congress could improve existing legislation in a meaningful but thoughtful way—that is a really important step forward. Of course, no bill is perfect, and Washington is often about incremental change. S. 2155 has laid the groundwork for the industry to continue to work for changes that help them create strong communities. Q: President Trump’s regulatory team is now almost all in place at the agencies. What do you think that will mean for the industry moving forward to have this new crop of leaders? A: We have a critical window in which to approach the agencies with data and granular recommendations about how regulations can be tailored so banks of all sizes can meet the needs of their communities. There is incredible depth and expertise in the regulatory agencies—as well as a real willingness to listen. Ultimately, we all want a strong and healthy economy that creates inclusive growth across the country.