FDIC transparency plan seeks to open its inner workings to public

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WASHINGTON — The head of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. on Wednesday launched an initiative to make the agency more transparent and measurable online.

The “trust through transparency” initiative, announced by FDIC Chairman Jelena McWilliams at a community banking conference in St. Louis, will publicize performance metrics online that include data on the FDIC’s turnaround times for bank exams and startup applications.

The initiative is part of a much larger effort by McWilliams, who took office in June, to streamline, clarify and reduce FDIC regulations on thousands of banks.

“Beyond individual institutions, transparency is pivotal to maintaining trust in the safety and soundness of the entire banking system,” McWilliams said in prepared remarks. “It helps to bridge information gaps and allow analysts and investors to monitor the buildup of risk and limit it to acceptable levels through market discipline.”

A new webpage, www.fdic.gov/transparency, has information on nearly every aspect of the agency's operations, including de novo applications, bank exams, supervisory matters and failures.

“The site also contains guidelines and decisions related to appeals of material supervisory determinations and deposit insurance assessments,” she said. “By making these metrics available for comment and criticism by the public, we are holding ourselves publicly accountable to high standards.”

McWilliams noted that the FDIC was also doing a “systemic review” of how it handles Freedom of Information Act requests.

The FDIC also recently solicited a request for information on how it can have more effective and streamlined communication with FDIC-insured banks. And the agency last month asked for public comment on retiring more than half of the 664 risk management supervision-related letters sent to banks between 1995 and 2017.

McWilliams has also personally started a “nationwide listening tour” in which she is meeting with bankers and stakeholders in their locations rather than have them come to Washington.

“To promote real trust, we cannot simply make data available, publish performance measures, and consider the job complete,” McWilliams said. “That is not transparency or accountability. Instead, we must strive to be accessible to financial institutions, consumers, and the general public; understandable to most audiences; and responsive to new ideas and demands.”

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