White House aide Ellen S. Seidman is the Clinton administration's choice to head the Office of Thrift Supervision, industry and government sources said Tuesday.

Ms. Seidman, who currently serves on the National Economic Council as special assistant to the President for economic policy, would take over for Nicolas P. Retsinas, who has been serving as temporary director.

Highly regarded by thrift industry officials, Ms. Seidman joined the National Economic Council in March 1993, where she worked on banking issues, among other topics. Before that, she was a senior vice president at the Federal National Mortgage Association, where she was responsible for regulatory policy and economics research and forecasting.

Reached by phone Tuesday, Ms. Seidman declined to comment.

With Congress set to debate the merging of the bank and thrift charters, industry representatives described her as an excellent choice to head the OTS.

Ms. Seidman combines political savvy with a solid knowledge of financial institutions and housing finance, according to Paul Schosberg, president of America's Community Bankers.

"The OTS job really calls for somebody who understands the industry but also understands the political undercurrents that are involved in charter issues," Mr. Schosberg said. "This argues very strongly for someone with qualifications like Ellen's."

"She'll really hit the ground running," added Lou Nevins, president of the Western League of Savings Institutions. "It's a hell of a good appointment. I think she'll do a great job."

"Not only is she very familiar with the relevant financial issues, but I don't know anybody in Washington who doesn't like her," said thrift lobbyist James J. Butera.

Mr. Retsinas was sworn in Oct. 10 on an interim basis while the administration searched for a permanent successor to Jonathan Fiechter, the acting OTS director who resigned Oct. 7 to become director of the World Bank's financial sector development department.

Mr. Retsinas is also an assistant secretary at the Department of Housing and Urban Development and a director of the Federal Housing Finance Board. His temporary appointment at the OTS expires Feb. 10.

The administration is expected to announce Ms. Seidman's nomination in early February, sources said. If nominated, Ms. Seidman must be confirmed by the Senate.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.