Wall Street’s biggest lobbying group is gearing up for an ambitious project—cleaning up Wall Street’s image. Leading the charge is Judd Gregg, a long-time New Hampshire Republican with deep ties to both Washington and the financial services industry.
In May, the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) recruited Gregg to the role of CEO. In an unusual step, the trade group split the roles of president and CEO, creating what Chairman Chet Helck of Raymond James calls the “dream team.” Meanwhile, acting president and CEO Kenneth Bentson is staying on as president.
“SIFMA needed to have someone who was part of the rule-making process, someone who was in the House of Representatives, who was in the Senate,” Helck says.
Gregg has spent time as a former U.S. senator, a two-term governor of New Hampshire and eight years in the House of Representatives—time enough to bolster his credibility with key players. “I don’t think you can be a success in Washington without having been here for a while and understanding how it works,” Gregg says.
“If you’re going to be at the table and contributing meaningfully in the discussion, then you have to develop relationships with people who are writing the rules,” Helck added.
And SIFMA definitely is at the table. The group—which has about 500 member firms—spent $5.58 million on lobbying in 2012 and has already spent $1.45 million in the first quarter of 2013, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
In addition to spending time and money on rulemaking, SIFMA is also working on an aggressive campaign to combat the lack of investor confidence in the financial sector. Gregg plans to spearhead a grassroots initiative aimed at showing the public how essential the capital market system is in the U.S., rolling out a number of strategies focused on community involvement and education.
“We’re trying to build on the fact that people on Main Street having a good life is tied to having strong capital markets,” Gregg says.
The financial services industry has been in defensive mode for a while now, Helck says. SIFMA plans to play offensively, venturing directly into communities in states like Iowa and New Hampshire to talk about job creation and projects that will benefit local communities.
SIFMA also hopes to tackle the broad lack of financial literacy within the U.S. Starting in the classroom, SIFMA is designing curricula to be used by financial advisors and teachers in schools, at club meetings, or within Boys and Girls Club programs.