When you think about Regions Government Affairs, you may envision committee meetings on Capitol Hill, interactions with regulatory agencies and lots of federal policy discussions.
You wouldn’t be wrong – the advocacy that Elizabeth Taylor, head of Government Affairs at Regions, and her three-person Washington, D.C.-based team provide are very important to Regions and to the banking industry.
But a one-person State Government Affairs team in close proximity to the Alabama State Capitol is also doing remarkable work on behalf of Regions – and recently he’s been getting a lot of outside recognition for those contributions.
Jason Isbell, head of State Government Affairs and Economic Development at Regions, came to the bank last year with several years of experience in state politics and financial services advocacy and a reputation for building strong relationships with government leaders and stakeholders.
Isbell has continued to build on that expertise and good standing by representing Regions with legislators, state regulatory officials and local government representatives.
His efforts were recently recognized by Yellowhammer News, an Alabama-based website covering news and politics, in their 2022 Power & Influence 50 – a list of Alabama’s most powerful and influential political leaders.
In May of 2022 Isbell was also recognized by National Association of Secretaries of State for his service.
“Jason’s advocacy and economic development work, not just in Alabama but in every state in our footprint is critical to our success,” said Elizabeth Taylor. “Ensuring the bank has a voice in all the legislatures helps ensure the needs of our customers and communities are considered when varied and complex laws and regulations are being developed and implemented.”
Isbell graciously took some time – in between calls and meetings with officials – to answer a few questions about his past experience and his current role at Regions.
Tell us about your background and your path to Regions.
As someone who has spent the last 20 years working for a state legislature or lobbying for the banking industry, joining Regions in August of 2021 felt like a natural next step in my career. My first job, with the Alabama Legislative Fiscal Office, gave me a front-row seat to legislative politics as well as the opportunity to attend graduate school and law school at night.
I then served as general counsel in the Office of the Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives. From there, I was Vice President of Legal and Government Affairs at the Alabama Bankers Association, where I oversaw the state and federal legislative and regulatory initiatives on behalf of our 120-plus members, including Regions.
After leaving ABA, I briefly worked in the government solutions group at Maynard Cooper & Gale, where our team represented a wide variety of clients, including Regions, before the Alabama Legislature. I greatly enjoyed my time at the firm, but the opportunity to join Regions was one I couldn’t pass up.
You have the challenging task of managing Regions’ interactions with every state government in our footprint, and in some cases, local governments. Can you share some of the hot-button issues you’re monitoring across our markets?
More than 3,000 officials, including over 2,500 state legislators, lead the 16 states where Regions has a physical presence. And each official has his or her own set of priority issues that can change based on current events. But it seems like several states in our footprint are particularly concerned about whether larger corporations decide to do business with certain industry sectors.
It’s important that legislative actions in this space allow entities such as Regions to continue evaluating business opportunities using our own set of criteria. Protecting the bank’s ability to make independent decisions will likely be the focus of our work in state government affairs for the next few years.
Another issue that is frequently discussed in the states is data privacy. As long as the federal government does not enact a national privacy standard, the states can be expected to fill the vacuum with varying, and often conflicting, proposals. Our primary mission is to educate lawmakers on the existing privacy laws for financial institutions and to try to prevent conflicts.
Recently, many states in our footprint have adopted legislation around sensitive ESG issues. How do you keep track of all that state-specific activity and what’s Regions general position on those issues?
ESG issues are hot-button topics both on the state and federal levels and I expect they will continue to be for years to come. The banking industry naturally reacts skeptically to policy ideas that force an institution to disregard its risk tolerance simply because a particular industry is involved. My role is to develop relationships with state legislatures and to coordinate with industry advocates to help policymakers better understand the impact their decisions will have on Regions’ customers.
Regions also has many partners that help convey our message, including many state banking associations. These “boots on the ground” represent our industry in a professional way and leverage their close relationships with state legislators to achieve maximum impact. In addition, the Regions team works with and leverages our own market executives who have extensive contacts in their communities and are always willing to assist as needed.
Economic development is another important component of your job. Can you tell us more about those activities and how they impact the bank?
Every successful financial institution is an engine for economic development. But Regions has the ability, especially in Alabama, to provide additional opportunities outside the traditional banking scope.
Alabama’s Legislature over the past few years has increased financial institutions’ ability to purchase tax credits that have been awarded by the state to new or expanding companies, or to nonprofit entities providing certain services to their constituents. These tax credit purchases can inject capital at a time when it is most needed. For example, a recent tax credit investment Regions made to help advance a south Alabama land development led to a multi-billion investment from an international manufacturer.
In addition to supporting our customers through traditional banking channels, these economic development opportunities are valuable tools to help us invest in our communities.