GOP presidential hopeful Buddy Roemer is different from everyone else vying for the top of the Republican ticket for several reasons. First, he was a Democrat before he was a Republican. Second, he’s running his campaign as a protest against corrupt campaign finance, eschewing the unlimited donations that Super PACs enable, which have come to be the defining feature of this primary race. Most important to MyBankTracker, however, is a tidbit gleaned from the New Yorker‘s Talk of the Town piece on the candidate this week: Buddy Roemer is a banker.
And most interestingly, Buddy Roemer is a banker who is disgusted by Wall Street’s campaign finance-enabled stranglehold on Washington.
Roemer founded Business First Bank six years ago, and it already has six locations across Louisiana, where Roemer was Governor two decades ago.
While the bank focuses on small business lending, it also has some consumer-facing products — checking accounts, CDs, credit and debit cards.
Running a business, running for office
Roemer trails so far behind in polls that he isn’t even included in most of them. And he’s been left out of the debates (his participation reduced to dictating tweets to staffers while watching the telecast.)
But private sector bona fides are as important in earning the trust of Republican voters as political experience, perhaps more so. Romney’s time at Bain Capital, a private equity firm, has come under fire in recent weeks; Herman Cain’s experience as CEO of Godfather’s Pizza was central to his campaign. So looking at Roemer’s bank is a worthwhile exercise in vetting politicians by examining their business acumen, not their policies.
Business First Bank was founded in 2006 by Roemer and is based in Baton Rouge, La. According to the New Yorker, the bank has $750 million in assets. As its name suggests, the bank focuses on business banking, but it also manages to offer some competitive personal banking products, including checking and CDs.
The bank’s checking account has a $12 monthly maintenance fee, which is steep, but that can be waived simply by going paperless. Overdraft is slightly above the national average, at $32.99, but anyone wishing to avoid the fee can opt out of the service.
Business First Bank offers a debit card with its checking account, free of charge. And, being such a small bank, Business First Bank cannot provide an ATM network of their own. Instead, they refund their checking customers up to $10 worth of non-bank ATM fees, and charge no fees of their own.
They also offer some competitive savings products, despite the low-rates environment. Their 5-year CD offers a 2.2% APY, which is actually above the Federal Reserve’s target inflation rate, unlike so many others. For those seeking shorter-term products, Business First offers a 13-month CD at 0.75% APY and an 18-month CD at 0.80% APY. Their longer-term savings products have lower rates than the market, but offer bump-ups, which will come in handy should the Fed raise their target rate above zero.
If we were a small business in Baton Rouge or Lafayette, La., Business First Bank might get our vote.