WASHINGTON - The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency announced Monday that it named Jonathan L. Fiechter to head its economics and international divisions.
Mr. Fiechter is a World Bank executive and former acting director of the Office of Thrift Supervision. In addition to his role as senior deputy comptroller for the 77-person economics division and the 22-person international group, he will be one of two senior advisers to Comptroller John D. Hawke Jr.
"I don't think there's anybody in the regulatory community who enjoys more respect than Fiechter," said Konrad S. Alt, public policy chief at Providian Financial Corp. "I think he will provide a lot of leadership for the agency and for the national banking system."
"I know him as a guy who's got terrific judgment, great experience, and high regard on the Hill," Mr. Hawke said. "It's an all-around win for us."
Mr. Fiechter, who assumes the post Feb. 21, began his 25-year government career as a Treasury Department economist in 1971. He joined the OCC's economics department in 1978, then moved on to the OTS in 1987. He was acting director of the thrift regulator from 1992 to 1996, a difficult period during which the thrift industry was burdened by the cost of its own cleanup.
In an interview Monday, Mr. Fiechter said one of his top goals was to "take the lead" within the OCC on the Basel Committee's reworking of the 1988 risk-based capital rule. "I had been part of the initial working group back in 1986 and 1987," he said, "so this is a coming back to something I'm very familiar with."
Mr. Fiechter said he also looks forward to helping the OCC implement the new financial reform law. In particular, he said, he wants to help federal regulators determine how they will share power in the supervision of giant financial services holding companies.
"How do we all ensure that we have an effective supervisory system for these $800 billion-asset institutions out there, on the one hand, but not overwhelm them" with excessive rules or confuse them with multiple regulators? he asked. "Coincidentally, my last assignment before I came to the World Bank was as chairman of the [Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council], trying to figure out who was going to be the lead regulator when you had multiple regulators at a place like Citigroup."
In September, America's Community Bankers was rumored to be considering Mr. Fiechter for its top slot, a position that ultimately went to Diane M. Casey. Mr. Fiechter was reportedly unhappy with the bureaucracy at the World Bank.
The international division chief's position opened up Oct. 15 after the resignation of Susan Krause, who was Mr. Fiechter's deputy at the OCC in the mid-1980s. She recruited him to succeed her as the agency's international chief.
The economics division slot opened with the resignation of James D. Kamihachi, who is leaving Feb. 18 and will take some time off before looking for a new job. "The OCC just couldn't do better than to have somebody of Jonathan's caliber in this position," he said.