Grassroots Champion: Heather Bishoff

“The buck stops with me.” That’s how Heather Bishoff believes people who know her would describe her approach to her life and career.

Heather-Bishoff-1Of course, it’s a slight variation on the adage, “The buck stops here,” made famous by President Harry Truman, who kept a sign bearing the words on his desk in the Oval Office. It perfectly encapsulates how the FSI member, who serves as CFO of the financial advisory practice she manages with her husband, Bishoff Financial Group—has conducted her life and career thus far: stepping up and taking ownership of every challenge she encounters.

It was also one of the key factors that led to her success when she decided to take her passionate advocacy for the financial advice industry, education, veterans’ concerns and ‘kitchen table’ issues impacting families throughout Ohio to the next level by running for the Ohio House of Representatives.

In 2011, Bishoff, then a member of the Gahanna Jefferson Board of Education in Columbus, was encouraged by friends and neighbors to seek an open seat in the Ohio House. Her focus on financial accountability within the school district was well known, as were her views on the need for more prudence among politicians in the years following the financial crisis. “I felt that politics were overshadowing good solid financial planning in our government,” Bishoff recalls. “So many of the decisions being made seemed shortsighted and without any thought for the long-term consequences.”

Bishoff notes that she felt some trepidation early on about how clients might react once she began openly discussing her political views during the campaign. Providing an informed voice for advisors, veterans and families in the state legislature was too important to let the opportunity pass, though. She jumped into the 2012 race and easily won her seat in the state’s 20th District as a Democrat.

“I have to admit, I had some concern about putting the [Democratic] party next to my name and possibly alienating some clients,” she says. “It turned out to be a non-issue; I don’t think we lost a single client as a result. In fact, many clients were excited to see someone they know run and become a state legislator. And it made many clients comfortable in sharing their political views, whatever they were.”

Drawing on that lesson, Bishoff says, “I would say to advisors who may be considering running for public office, ‘clients can surprise you.’”

Over the course of nearly five years in the Ohio House, Bishoff, who is an Army Veteran, served on several major committees, including Armed Services, Veterans’ Affairs and Health and Aging. She also served as the Ranking Member on the House Insurance Committee.

Bishoff was not a rookie when it came to advocacy. She and her husband have been FSI members for many years, which helped her put her financial industry experience and knowledge to good use right away as a lawmaker.

Bishoff is especially proud of one bill she sponsored with bipartisan support, and which had direct benefits for Ohio advisors and their clients: the Ohio Family Trust Act, which introduced crucial reforms allowing greater flexibility in establishing successor custodians for UTMA accounts in the state.

In the effort to develop and win passage of the bill, she worked closely with Bradley Brown, a Cleveland area advisor and FSI member who had initially raised the issue with her, as well as with the FSI State Affairs team.

Bishoff was also instrumental in passing legislation that regulated insurance requirements for transportation network companies and transportation network company drivers. The emergence of such companies (such as Uber and Lyft, among others) had ushered in a whole range of complexities for the insurance industry, which she was able to address in the new legislation.

During her time in the House, Bishoff also became an active member of the National Council of Insurance Legislators (NCOIL), an organization comprised principally of legislators from around the country serving on state insurance and financial institutions committees.

On her key takeaways from her service as a lawmaker, Bishoff is proudest of the close bonds she developed with fellow legislators, particularly Republicans. “I am very proud that, while I was in the minority, I was able to get the majority members to join with me on a number of issues. I did not always vote along party lines. It was more important for me to represent my district and constituents, not the party.”

Bishoff resigned her seat last year because she and her husband, Eric, decided to relocate to southern California to be closer to their eldest son (one of the couple’s four children) a Marine recruit stationed at Camp Pendleton near San Diego.

She thinks her experience running for and serving in political office can be a model for advisors throughout the country. Noting that Ohio and other states have outdated laws and regulations affecting the financial services industry, Bishoff says advisors’ voices can be extremely useful—whether they serve as officeholders themselves or are active advocates working with organizations like FSI.

“I know many advisors find themselves with issues that clearly require changes in the laws to resolve, and they often just don’t know where to start in affecting change,” she says. “It takes time, it takes money and it takes human power to make a difference. Bottom line, advisors need to step up and take ownership. Again, the buck stops with them!”

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