Taylor to Bring Different Style To the FDIC

After decades of working behind the scenes to regulate the nation's banks, William Taylor is finally moving to center stage.

The Federal Reserve's director of bank supervision was nominated by President Bush on Tuesday to take over the industry's toughest and most visible job: running the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and perhaps the Resolution Trust Corp., if Congress doesn't spin off the RTC as a separate agency this fall.

FDIC Chairman L. William Seidman resigned last week, effective Oct. 16. Mr. Taylor's reaction was characteristically brief: "You've got to be honored at a time like this, and the little guy from the West Side is honored."

It was also a reminder that, in both personal and regulatory style, he's very much different than Mr. Seidman, who sparkles in the limelight.

While no shrinking violet, Mr. Taylor prefers the central bank's secretive approach to Mr. Seidman's outspoken style. He's also regarded as being more hardnosed toward the industry than Mr. Seidman. Once, when asked whether expanded powers would help banks - as popular wisdom would have it - he replied, "The solution to world hunger is not eating someone else's lunch."

Seidman Relished Policy

Mr. Seidman works as hard at shaping national banking policies as he does on industry regulation. He's been so aggressive at promoting his views on Capitol Hill that congressmen often seek his counsel before acting on banking legislation.

Many doubt that Mr. Taylor will accept the political role Mr. Seidman carved out, but they don't hold that against him.

"Taylor will probably maintain a lower profile to the extent that the job permits him to," said James D. McLaughlin, the American Bankers Association's director of agency relations. "That may mean that other members of the board will be seen and heard more often."

A Problem Solver

"Bill is one of these very intense people," said Mr. Taylor's former boss at the Fed, Jack Ryan, who is now a regional director for the Office of Thrift Supervision in Atlanta. "He is just very tenacious. When he picks up a problem, he won't let go until he solves it."

Mr. Seidman will be a tough act to follow because he's viewed by many as the glue that held the banking system together during its worst crisis since the Depression. But Mr. Taylor's supporters believe his quiet confidence and extensive regulatory experience make him Mr. Seidman's perfect successor.

"The banking industry needs someone who can step into Bill Seidman's shoes on Oct. 17," said Timothy P. Hartman, chairman of NCNB Texas National Bank, who has known Mr. Taylor since 1976. "Bill Taylor has got the hands-on experience we need; he will not need an internship."

What Mr. Taylor may lack in style, he makes up for in substance, said John D. Hawke, a partner at Arnold & Porter in Washington and a former Fed general counsel.

His Experience Counts

"While he may not have as much political charisma as Seidman, I think he is going to be well regarded because of his experience," Mr. Hawke said. "Taylor has a lot of strengths that Seidman didn't have in the area of bank supervision."

Over the years, the FDIC and the Fed have battled over a variety of regulatory issues, such as which agency should regulate the subsidiaries of state banks. What's more, the FDIC has long advocated repeal of the Bank Holding Company Act - the very law that gives the Fed authority to regulate banks.

Mr. Taylor is expected to change, not the FDIC.

"The fear that the FDIC is going to become a mini-Fed is miscast," said Gilbert T. Schwartz, who worked at the Fed from 1974 to 1985 and is now a partner at the Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom law firm in Washington. "They guy is going to be head of the FDIC; he is not going to say what's in the best interest of the Fed."

"Ultimately, you're a creature of the structure you inherit," said Donald F. Billings, a Fed veteran of eight years who is now a senior manager at KPMG Peat Marwick. "I don't think Bill's views will change, but they will be more widely known, and they will be subject to more public testing."

Mr. Taylor, 52, grew up on Chicago's West Side. After graduating from Cornell College in 1961, he joined the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago as an examiner. After a decade, Mr. Taylor took a break from government to try banking and then real estate development. But in 1976, he returned to the Fed and made it his life work. He's been the Fed's top cop since February 1985.

Mr. Taylor has a reputation as a solid regulator and administrator. He was tapped by the Treasury in 1989 to run the RTC's Oversight Board and to help launch the thrift bailout agency.

Awaiting Mr. Taylor is the deposit-insurance fund crisis, but managing a way out of trouble is something he relishes.

PHOTO : WILLIAM TAYLOR is described as a crisis-tempered problem solver.

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