Idea Bank: Advocacy Program Connects Members and Lawmakers

handshake Associations Now May/June 2017 Issue By: Alex Beall

The American Bankers Association's "Bring Your Lawmaker to Work" program gives lawmakers a look into banks' daily operations.

What’s the great idea? “Take Your Lawmaker to Work” program

Who’s doing it? American Bankers Association

What’s involved? You’ve heard of “Take Your Child to Work” day, but what about letting your lawmaker tag along? In September 2016, ABA held its inaugural “Take Your Lawmaker to Work” day to give members of Congress an in-person look at bank operations.

“If we want lawmakers to have a better understanding of what a bank does, particularly when lawmakers are considering rules and regulations associated with banks, it would be good if they had a feel for the institutions, being able to go in and talk to the customers, talk to the employees, see the loans process, see some of the compliance issues they have to go through,” says James Ballentine, executive vice president of congressional relations and political affairs.

While bankers had been individually hosting members of Congress in their local branches, the program formalized and broadened those efforts. Lawmakers were invited to shadow local bankers by the ABA government relations team, committee members, and state bankers groups. Ultimately, ABA matched 72 lawmakers with banks in 34 states.

What are people saying? Ballentine says the success of last year’s effort demonstrated the benefits of the program, encouraging new participants to get involved and last year’s participants to sign up again.

While the program gave elected officials a peek into banks’ challenges, “from the banks’ perspective, it’s beyond complaining about an issue and making it very apparent to the member [of Congress] that this is what we go through on a daily basis to adhere to the law [and] to work with our customers,” Ballentine says.

[This article was originally published in the Associations Now print edition, titled "From the Hill to the Bank."]

Alex Beall

Alex Beall is a freelance writer based in California.