Financial Services Group

Experience. Expertise. Wisdom.

The financial services industry is the engine to the global economy as well as one of the world’s most highly-regulated industries. Our Financial Services Group includes a stellar team of former bankers and insurance and financial regulators with deep knowledge of Florida, Washington and international markets. With dynamic forces constantly impacting the industry, our firm’s professionals have decades of experience successfully addressing a variety of regulatory and industry challenges. From the state capital to the nation’s capital to international financial institutions, Ballard Partners brings together a rare combination of capabilities that can only be achieved by navigating through crisis after crisis over time. The wisdom derived from those experiences is what makes our Financial Services Group a unique asset to our clients.

Practice Areas:

  • Fintech
  • Insurtech
  • Property & Casualty insurance
  • Life insurance
  • Health insurance
  • Securities
  • Banking
  • Credit unions
  • Consumer Finance companies
  • Money transmitters
  • Financial technology “fintech” sandbox
  • Virtual currency
  • Blockchain
  • Insurance agents & agencies
  • Financial Services Commission
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As a former banking executive, legislative leader, and statewide elected official, Jeff Atwater had a direct and lasting impact on Florida’s financial, regulatory and business landscape.

After serving two years in the Florida State House, and eight in the State Senate (the final two as President), Jeff was twice elected statewide as Florida’s Chief Financial Officer and State Treasurer, a Cabinet level position which impacted all public policy.

Jeff brings this experience to Ballard Partners, chairing the firm’s Financial Services Industry Practice to help clients weather the constantly changing currents in the insurance, banking and securities industries.

As Florida’s CFO Jeff focused on creating a viable and attractive market in the Sunshine State for new capital investments throughout the insurance industry from windstorm, property, and auto, to workers compensation, health and life insurance.

Florida, with the fifth largest public pension investment portfolio in the country, is frequently recognized for outstanding management and investment returns. As Treasurer and Trustee of the Florida Retirement System, Jeff worked closely with the State Board of Administration on portfolio allocation policy and review of investment managers.

He also helped moved Florida from the bottom quartile into America’s top three states for fiscal transparency by implementing a new financial ERP system with new performance metrics for companies seeking to obtain state contracts and grants.

Prior to elected office, Jeff served as President and CEO of the Barnett Bank of Broward County and President of Bank of America of Broward County. Most recently he served as CFO and V.P. of Strategic Initiatives for Florida Atlantic University.

Jeff, a fifth generation Floridian, holds an undergraduate degree in Finance, and an MBA, from the University of Florida. Jeff and his wife Carole have four children and reside in Palm Beach County.

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With over 15 years of government affairs experience, Abby L. Vail is a seasoned advocate providing political, strategic and policy direction to clients before the Legislative and Executive branches of government.  Her portfolio is focused on representing clients in all aspects of the financial services industry including insurance, banking, consumer finance, securities, and fintech. Abby most recently served as Chief of Staff of the Florida Office of Financial Regulation where she played a key role in the passage and development of the Financial Technology Regulatory Sandbox and served as the Office’s representative in the American Consumer Financial Innovation Network (ACFIN).


Abby previously served as a Vice President of External Affairs for an international health care company leading government affairs, procurement, business development and political grassroots activities.  She also served as Senior Cabinet Aide to Former Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, advising the CFO on oversight of Cabinet agency policies and initiatives.  Abby began her career at the Office of Insurance Regulation, leading the agency’s policy agenda during a period of major property & casualty insurance reform following the 2004-2005 hurricane seasons.


Originally from Tampa, Abby graduated with a Bachelors in Communications, Master of Business Administration, and Juris Doctorate from Florida State University. She resides in Tallahassee with her husband, Jason, and two children.

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Oscar Chemerinski, based in Tel Aviv, is the Co-Managing Partner of our firm’s office in Israel. Prior to joining Ballard Partners, Chemerinski served as the Director of the Global Corporate Coverage Group for the International Finance Corporation, the private sector arm of the World Bank Group. He was responsible for developing, managing and expanding relationships with strategic clients across the globe. Prior to that he served as Director for Manufacturing, Agribusiness and Services for Latin America and Africa, and Global Director for Agribusiness, with overall responsibility for strategy, portfolio and investment operations.  Oscar also has extensive experience as an advisor to Boards, CEO’s, equity funds and investment banks on emerging markets, cross-border financing and economic development. Oscar is fluent in Spanish, English, Hebrew, Portuguese and French, and received his MBA in Finance and International Business from the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business.

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Tola is a seasoned governmental relations professional with over 18 years of experience at the state and federal levels.  A 14-year veteran of Capitol Hill, Tola most recently served as Chief of Staff to U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, a member of the House Financial Services Committee.

Over the years, Tola has developed relationships with key members of Leadership and members of the Congressional Black Caucus and the New Democrat Coalition.  In addition to his service with Rep. Lawson, Thompson also worked for ten years with former US Rep. Carrie Meek, a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, where he managed a broad legislative portfolio that included telecommunications, education, labor, health, and agricultural appropriations.

Tola previously served as Assistant Vice President and Director of Governmental Relations at Florida A&M University where he worked across almost every facet of government to develop and ensure execution of the university’s legislative agenda. He has also worked to successfully pass new legislation to provide high quality educational options for low-income K-12 students in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Louisiana, and Florida.  He received his bachelor’s in journalism from Florida A & M University.

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