American Bankers Association names Rob Nichols as CEO

American Bankers Association names Rob Nichols as CEO
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Rob Nichols will succeed former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating as the CEO of the American Bankers Association, the trade group said on Wednesday.

Nichols, a former Treasury official, already represents 18 leaders of the largest financial services organizations on Wall Street as the head of the Financial Services Forum.  

He’s now set to trade in those reins for the top spot at the much larger organization, which represents banks both large and small.

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Keating announced he would be retiring late last year, after serving at the helm of the ABA since 2011. 

“We sought a visionary, strategic leader with demonstrated public policy acumen, a keen understanding of the entirety of the banking and financial system, and a strong track record of both strategic management and bipartisan advocacy,” said John Ikard, the chairman of ABA’s board and president and CEO of FirstBank Holding Co., in a statement. “Rob Nichols hits the mark on all counts.”

Howard Boyle, the president and CEO of Hometown Bank in Kent, Ohio, said that Nichols’s knowledge and “passion” for and about the banking industry “came through" during the interview process.

“We were looking to take our already strong organization and build on that, enhance what we have,” he said in a statement. “Rob has a vision for the future of the ABA, and I was particularly impressed with his keen recognition of the value of community institutions to the banking industry.”

The organization said the leadership transition would begin this summer.

“It has been my honor to lead the ABA,” Keating said in a statement on Wednesday. “The splendid men and women who make up America’s banking industry are some of the finest individuals it has ever been my pleasure to know. I took on my ABA leadership role during one of the most challenging times in banking history and I am very proud of the many accomplishments, achieved by us all working together, to help right America’s financial ship.”

Nichols has been with the Financial Services Forum since 2005, a gig he assumed following nearly five years at the Treasury Department during the George W. Bush Administration. 

He served as the assistant secretary of the Treasury for public affairs and, before that, oversaw the Treasury’s Office of Public Liaison, which serves as a go-to for the business, advocacy and financial communities to reach the department. He also worked for members of the House and Senate.

"Rob has been a skillful Forum leader during a consequential decade for the financial system,” Brian Moynihan, the chairman of the Financial Services Forum and CEO of Bank of America, said in a statement. “On behalf of the members, I thank Rob for his service and wish him continued success as an effective voice in Washington helping policymakers better understand the important role that banks of all sizes play in driving the U.S. and global economy."

Nichols could also be receiving a big pay boost. According to tax forms, he received about $1.1 million in compensation in 2013, the most recent data available. Keating, in 2013, received $1.78 million.

He will also be managing a much larger policy portfolio for the banking industry at large. In 2014, the American Bankers Association reported spending $8.7 million to lobby the federal government, while the Financial Services Forum spent just more than $1.6 million.

In a statement, Nichols said he was “deeply honored” to be selected for the post.

“The nation’s economic growth prospects depend on banks of all sizes and models in order to effectively serve the needs of local communities, clients and customers.  Community banks, mid-size, regional, and large banks all play a critically important role as part of a diverse and interdependent financial ecosystem that both supports and depends on a thriving U.S. economy,” he said. “The ABA is uniquely positioned to rigorously make this case to legislative, regulatory, and administration audiences.”

The American Bankers Association’s board chairman said the industry and the organization owes Keating, its current CEO, “a tremendous debt of gratitude.”

“Frank Keating accepted this position during very difficult and trying economic times for our nation and for our nation’s banks. Frank stepped right up and did a superb job of rallying our members, celebrating the key role they play in the vitality of their communities and the economy as a whole,” Ikard said in a statement.