EagleBank: Banking on Politics

EagleBank’s Joanne Parker and John Vogt. | Photo by Paul Simkin.

EagleBank is best known in Georgetown as a local community bank, specializing in providing its customers with personal care. The bank is also well known for its involvement with D.C.’s booming restaurant scene, serving over 100 area restaurants including the Black Restaurant Group (behind BlackSalt), José Andrés’s growing ThinkFoodGroup empire and local Georgetown spots like the Peacock Café, J.Paul’s and Paulo’s.

After successfully tackling commercial and personal banking on a community level, to the tune of over $3 billion in loans in and around the District, EagleBank is looking to provide banking services to Washington’s most celebrated multi-billion-dollar industry: politics.

With the hiring of John Vogt as senior vice president and Joanne Parker as assistant vice president, EagleBank is pivoting to where the big money is in Washington, the political arena. As the 2016 election season heats up, EagleBank is looking to steal the business of super-regional banks like SunTrust and PNC and – even bigger – national fish like Bank of America and Wells Fargo, by taking a community-oriented approach to the commercial banking needs of D.C.’s trade associations, political committees, unions, lobbying firms and advocacy groups.

It all starts with Vogt, a 30-plus-year political and policy veteran who worked as an operative on the Hill, at the Treasury Department under President George H. W. Bush and as the head of the Washington office of the now-defunct Bond Market Association. (The Bond Market Association was a part of the trade association merger that resulted in the formation of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association or SIFMA.)

After bouncing between Tennessee, West Virginia and New Jersey growing up, Vogt visited Washington on a trip with other promising youths on a Hearst Foundation fellowship. The group met President Carter, Vice President Mondale and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. Vogt was most impressed by a day spent shadowing Senator Howard Baker of Tennessee on the trip. He told the senator that he was applying to Georgetown University, to which Baker replied, “If you go there, why don’t you come and work for me?” Vogt ended up at Georgetown and that’s exactly what he did.

Years later, with a young family at home and Jack Abramoff in the news, Vogt made a career change, starting Chain Bridge Bank near home in Mclean. “A community bank is what I’m built for,” he says. He cherished life as a part of the McLean community, volunteering to coach his kids’ Little League teams, becoming treasurer of the McLean Community Foundation and teaching financial literacy and setting up a student-run bank at their school.

Vogt was having fun, but started itching for a new challenge. Upgrading his credentials at Barclays, where he got licensed and registered as a broker-dealer and investment advisor, he found himself missing the “people-ness” of community banking. His office at Barclays was housed in the same building as EagleBank Vice Chairman Bob Pincus’s office, and Pincus kept after him to meet. The subject: banking for the political sector, something Pincus had been intimately involved in during the 1980s and ’90s.

One conversation led to another. Vogt ended up joining EagleBank’s enterprise banking team in early 2015, along with Parker, who had previously worked as chief financial officer of the Republican Governors Association.

The freshly hired duo is in charge of bringing in business from the big money players in Washington, regardless of political affiliation. With inside knowledge of how political operations work, Vogt and Parker are hoping to bring EagleBank’s customized and personalized brand of commercial banking to D.C.’s countless political organizations.

Parker says, “We can go in anticipating what they [clients] might need off the bat and understanding where they’re coming from with a lot of the things they’re asking for, and their wants and desires.” As for their political affiliations, Vogt says, “Bankers keep their mouths shut. We are a bank for organizations of all sizes and all entities.”

The work itself isn’t very sexy, but Vogt and Parker hope that their know-how, networks and experience make EagleBank a more attractive place for political organizations to bank. As campaigns ramp up for the coming elections, EagleBank is launching a campaign of its own: a bid to take business from the bigger banks, using its trademark tailored approach.

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