Last week, Cogent Strategies announced the hire of Republican strategist Dave Oxner. Dave comes to Cogent from the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) where he served as managing director and head of federal government relations following a long tenure on Capitol Hill. We recently sat down with Dave to learn a bit more about what makes him tick and to get his thoughts on the financial services outlook for the 116th Congress. Please take a minute to read the recap of our conversation – his answers may surprise you.
Where did you grow up?
Lima, Ohio (NOT pronounced like that place in Peru)
Have a nickname?
How many years have you been “inside the Beltway?”
Is there a TV show you’re binge-watching before you start at Cogent?
The Vietnam War (Ken Burns documentary) and True Detective.
What’s your ideal vacation destination?
Hard to beat the Amalfi Coast.
What do you enjoy doing most in your downtime?
Reading to my two-year-old daughter with a distant second being time on the golf course.
Do you have a drink of choice?
It’s a tie between red wine from Napa and Tuscany.
Being from Ohio, should we assume you’re an Ohio State fan?
Yes, and it’s THE Ohio State. Go Bucks!
What’s your favorite DC establishment?
My wife and I probably go to 20 concerts a year and the 9:30 Club is about as good as it gets anywhere in the US.
Follow-up question: favorite show you ever saw there?
Too many good ones to choose from but back in 2002, I saw Blink-182 play there and only paid $1. Much more recently, I saw Paul Simon play the 9:30 Club and it’s safe to say that was more than $1.
What three things are currently top your bucket list?
1. Playing Augusta;
2. Traveling to the three continents I haven’t hit (Antarctica, Australia, South America); and
3. Seeing the Cleveland Browns win the Super Bowl.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
Weirdly, a lobbyist. When I was in middle-school or high-school I described my dream job as having one foot in policy/politics and the other foot in business. I didn’t really know how advocacy worked back then but it seems I landed pretty close.
When and where did you discover your interest in and knack for financial services policy?
I started my Hill career working for my hometown congressman, the late Rep. Mike Oxley (R-OH), who just so happened to be chairman of the Financial Services Committee. Working for the committee in the immediate aftermath of the accounting scandals and passage of Sarbanes-Oxley set the hook for me. In addition, I was exposed to the industry at a young age when my mother ran a small community bank in Lima.
So, you got your start in the House but you ended your Hill career with Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS). Would you consider yourself a House guy or a Senate guy?
My time in the Senate gave me an appreciation for the institution and its rules, precedents and pace. While I have been called a traitor “Senate guy,” I served too many years in the House not to appreciate the importance of their role in how the sausage gets made.
How do you see the current congressional dynamic affecting legislation in the financial services area?
While divided government has historically provided opportunities to move big policy priorities forward, the 116th Congress does not currently appear to have all those ripe conditions. One exception could be sweeping legislation to modernize our data privacy laws which would significantly touch each and every business sector, including financial services. On the other hand, the jurisdictional committee issues in Congress have always been an obstacle and could again prove to be too much to overcome.
Well if nothing much is going to happen, can we just tune out the noise?
I think businesses who take that approach do so at their own peril. Even without bipartisan interest in attacking the really big challenges our country faces, there will potentially be dozens of other bills that make their way through the House or Senate. The opportunity to influence and affect the content and resolution of those bills is now – not when the mood to compromise improves. Particularly in the case of financial services, a good defense is sometimes the best offense in this climate.
What are some common misunderstandings around financial service issues?
I think many believe that banking, capital markets and insurance issues sit in a vacuum at the House and Senate Banking Committees. But in truth, the policy questions being answered take you all across the Congress: municipal finance/infrastructure issues fall under the Transportation Committee, retirement savings policy is within the jurisdiction of the Committee on Education and Labor, bankruptcy reform for complex banks is a Judiciary Committee matter, funding riders is within the purview of the Appropriations Committee, and so on. To be an effective advocate for a financial services institution requires a unique understanding of all these different policy angles as well as relationships with a broad cross-section of committees.
What is your greatest professional accomplishment?
Like many of my colleagues who served during those years, I have a great deal of pride in my work through both the financial crisis and the legislative response. Knock on wood but that will hopefully be the most difficult and unique set of challenges I will face in my career.
And for the grand finale…
Pizza or sushi?
Twitter or Facebook?
Book or Kindle?
Online or in-store?
Cooking or cleaning?
Sneakers or flip-flops?
Sweet or salty?
Late-night or early-morning?
Boat or airplane?
Coke or coffee?
City or country?
Dave Oxner officially starts with Cogent on March 18. He can be reached at email@example.com.