WASHINGTON - Robert H. McCormick is retiring Friday after a 37-year career supervising New York banks.
From failing thrifts to foreign banks shaken by fraud, Mr. McCormick has seen it all since he signed on as an examiner with the New York State Banking Department in 1963.
In an interview this week, the 60-year-old regulator said he has no definite plan other than to slow down. "This is a very demanding job. I put in enormous hours here," he said. "I'm hoping to stay involved [with industry issues] but on a somewhat less frenzied basis."
Mr. McCormick was named deputy superintendent in 1982 and spent most of the last decade leading the agency's oversight of 290 foreign banks, which have $1 trillion of assets, or 70% of the assets held by foreign banks in this country. The Daiwa and BCCI scandals landed in his lap.
"He has been a major reason why a number of foreign banks, weighing the option of a national license over a state license, have decided to stay" with the state license, said Rodgin Cohen, a partner in the Sullivan & Cromwell law firm in New York who represents many foreign banks. "He is constructive in his thinking. He tries to solve problems."
Mr. McCormick said the calls, cards, and e-mails he has received since announcing his retirement have overwhelmed him. "There has been so much of an outpouring of good words and good will from so many places and people that it's been somewhat humbling," he said. "
Asked if he was ever tempted to cash in and take a private-sector job, he replied, "the grass was never green enough on the other side of the fence to make me jump." He said he remained a supervisor because the department gave him a lot of responsibility, and the work was challenging and varied.
When Mr. McCormick began his career, bank examiners did their work by hand on paper, and a photocopier was considered a high-tech tool.
He was steadily promoted, becoming the lead examiner of large institutions by the late 1970s. When savings banks ran into trouble in the 1980s he headed a special task force set up to deal with the problem. During the 1980s he led New York's effort to regulate mortgage brokers, and most states followed New York's lead.
Looking forward, Mr. McCormick predicted the Internet will lead to more consolidation, fewer branches, and greater challenges on both the privacy and security fronts.
"In five years I think we'll see a tremendous increase in true electronic and Internet banking," he said. "With the present generation coming into the business world, I think it is going to continue to expand. I don't know what the exponential rate is, but I think in 10 years certainly we will see a very, very different banking system, if not sooner."
Mr. McCormick does not share the concern federal regulators have been expressing lately on bad loans. "I haven't noticed any serious deterioration in credit quality."
But like every regulator, he quickly added: "We always have to be on guard."