June 12, 2020

Today in our special series on financial regulation in the pandemic and beyond, we are honored to have with us the Chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Jelena Mc Williams.

In this conversation, the Chairman shares far ranging insights and updates. She talks about the readiness of today’s banking system for crisis. She talks about how this crisis differs from the last one, and needs a different response. She talks about the sectors and regions most impacted. And she discusses strategies for helping low and moderate income bank customers -- the people who are most vulnerable to both the health and financial disruptions underway. These include ideas on an interagency initiative on small dollar lending and on adapting Community Reinvestment Act to meet this moment.

The Chairman also opens a fascinating window into how the FDIC is conducting off site examinations in the crisis, and especially into the impressive speed with which community banks are adopting the technology needed to handle high-tech flows of information. Despite the terrible impacts of the pandemic, she is hopeful -- as am I -- that we will be able to find some silver linings in how these unprecedented challenges are accelerating technology adoption, by banks and regulators alike, and laying the groundwork for a better financial system.

The Chairman was a guest on Barefoot Innovation late last year. In that episode, she talked in more depth about her own history, including her coming to the United States from the former Yugoslavia and learning firsthand what it is to struggle with lack of money. That longer show is here and is well worth listening to. It explains why the Wall Street Journal once ran an op ed saying this is one of America’s “most inspiring bureaucrats.”

We launched this special series in the midst of the COVID crisis. Since we ran our last interview, a new crisis has swept the country in response to the tragic death of George Floyd. Convulsive shifts are prompting all of us to examine old assumptions and to think anew about how we can do better, together.

I know you’ll be fascinated by my conversation with FDIC Chairman Jelena McWilliams.

More on Jelena McWilliams

Jelena McWilliams is the 21st Chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.  Previously, she was Executive Vice President, Chief Legal Officer and Corporate Secretary at Fifth Third Bank in Cincinnati.  Prior to joining Fifth Third Bank, McWilliams worked in the U.S. Senate for six years, including as Chief Counsel and Deputy Staff Director with the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs and as Assistant Chief Counsel with the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee.  From 2007 to 2010, McWilliams was an attorney with the Federal Reserve Board. Before entering public service, she practiced corporate and securities law at Morrison & Foerster LLP in Palo Alto, California, and Hogan & Hartson LLP in Washington, D.C. McWilliams graduated with highest honors from the University of California at Berkeley, earning a bachelor’s degree in political science and law degree from U.C. Berkeley School of Law.

More for our listeners

Our special podcast series has heard so far from current and former US agency heads — Thomas Curry, Eugene Ludwig, Brian Brooks and Jelena Mc Williams. Up next will be a leading regulator from across the Atlantic — the interim head of the UK Financial Conduct Authority (and another previous guest on the show) Christopher Woolard.

Please, everyone, stay safe.

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