The Financial Services Group at lobbying firm Ballard Partners is approaching its two-year anniversary, and just like the industries it specializes in, it’s growing at a rapid pace.
Ballard Partners launched the practice in August 2020 and brought on former Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater to run the show.
Though many know Atwater for his political career — he served a decade in the Legislature and was twice elected statewide — he also has an extensive resume in the financial sector. He spent nearly 20 years at Barnett Bank, including stints as president of the bank’s Treasure Coast and Broward divisions, and helped smooth the transition when Barnett was acquired by NationsBank and subsequently by Bank of America.
In the two years since Atwater joined the firm, the Financial Services Group has grown to include five Ballard Partners lobbyists. Lobbyist Abby Vail was one of the first to join Atwater in the practice.
A former Chief of Staff at the Florida Office of Financial Regulation, Vail was one of the top advocates for the Financial Technology Regulatory Sandbox bill in the 2020 Legislative Session. Now, she advises Ballard Partners’ clients on all aspects of the financial services industry.
The Financial Services Group has since grown to include Oscar Chemerinski, Rebecca Benn and Tola Thompson.
Chemerinski is the Co-Managing Partner of Ballard Partners’ office in Tel Aviv and a former Director of the Global Corporate Coverage Group for the International Finance Corporation, the private sector arm of the World Bank Group.
Benn and Thompson come from the political arena, each boasting experience as high-level staffers in Congress.
Benn was the lead Republican negotiator for billion-dollar federal appropriations bills on the Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies as well as the Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs, Housing and Urban Development, and Independent Agencies.
Thompson, meanwhile, came to the firm from the office of U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, who is a member of the House Financial Services Committee.
Together, the team has helped the practice build a roster of clients that includes a diverse set of major financial companies, such as cryptocurrency trading platform Coinbase, investment management juggernaut Blackstone, multinational professional services company KPMG, installment loan company Affirm, Nationwide Retirement Solutions and VyStar Credit Union.
“The regulatory landscape in the financial services industry is changing rapidly both at the state and federal levels to keep up with the emergence of new technologies — blockchain, cryptocurrency, fintech, insurtech, regtech, et cetera,” said Abby Vail, who was recently named Managing Partner of the Ballard Tallahassee office.
“Our expertise with these issues allows us to not only predict and navigate the path forward, but help clients inform that evolution as well. It’s fascinating to represent an industry playing such an important role in the state’s and the nation’s economies and to assist them in forging a new path for their innovative ventures.”