Times have changed since John E. Ryan last worked in Washington.

The former chief executive officer of Resolution Trust Corp. returns Jan. 3 to become acting executive director of supervision for the Office of Thrift Supervision.

Mr. Ryan, 61, said his new duties won't be quite as difficult as in his previous stint when he was selling a seemingly endless string of failed thrifts.

Now, his task is to keep a healthy industry on track. "The most challenging aspect is trying to ensure the industry remains safe, sound, and profitable," he said in an interview last week.

He takes over for John F. Downey, who retires Jan. 3 after 30 years as a bank regulator, including eight years with the OTS.

Mr. Ryan, who has been director of OTS' Southeast operations in Atlanta, said he hasn't decided whether he will ask to be Mr. Downey's permanent successor. "Right now the plan is to return to Atlanta," he said.

Mr. Ryan has headed the Atlanta office since the inception of OTS in 1989. He took a leave of absence in 1994 and 1995 to head the RTC. Previously he was acting president of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston. He began his regulatory career in 1969 as an analyst with the Federal Reserve Board. He left the Fed in 1985 as director of banking supervision.

For his part, Mr. Downey said he is proud of the operation that Mr. Ryan is inheriting. "The exam force today is probably as well equipped to do the job as it's ever been."

Mr. Downey said he is glad to have stayed at the OTS long enough for the agency to recover from the thrift crisis. "I'm walking out with some scars, but I leave with a happy ending."

The Federal Reserve Board has shaken up its committee assignments to make room for its two newest governors.

Edward Gramlich, the former University of Michigan public policy dean, will chair the economic committee and serve on the consumer and community affairs committee.

Roger W. Ferguson, a former McKinsey & Co. banking consultant, will serve on the supervisory and regulatory affairs, budget, and reserve bank affairs committees.

Governor Laurence H. Meyer and Governor Susan M. Phillips will continue to chair the consumer and community affairs and the supervisory and regulatory affairs committees, respectively. Fed Vice Chairman Alice M. Rivlin chairs the budget committee and Governor Edward W. Kelley Jr. leads the reserve bank affairs committee.

It isn't often that media hounds credit government officials for being right, but Comptroller of the Currency Eugene A. Ludwig won rare vindication on the front page of the Dec. 22 issue of The New York Times.

The newspaper noted that Mr. Ludwig warned World Bank officials more than three years ago that Asia faced a banking crisis because of deregulation and reckless lending.

According the Times, Mr. Ludwig's alerts were "rare flags of caution at a time when international barriers to the flow of capital were fast disappearing," and investors were "pouring money" into Asia.

Former Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Ricki Helfer's speaking calendar shows she has not lost her independent streak.

Ms. Helfer is scheduled to speak this spring in San Diego on the future of financial services providers at an economic forum sponsored by WesCorp, a corporate credit union based in California.

She sidestepped the question of whether that engagement irks her husband, lawyer Michael S. Helfer. He represents the banking industry in its Supreme Court fight against expansive credit union membership practices.

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