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Fifth Third exec Jelena McWilliams to become FDIC chair

Former Senate staffer confirmed to replace Martin Gruenberg

President Donald Trump’s remaking of the country’s financial regulatory system is about to take another step forward, as another of Trump’s handpicked choices is about to take over at one of the nation’s top financial regulators.

On Thursday, the Senate voted to approve Jelena McWilliams to take over as the next chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

McWilliams, who previously served as the chief legal officer of Fifth Third Bancorp, will take over for Martin Gruenberg, whose term is set to expire later this year.

Gruenberg has been on the FDIC Board since 2005 and was appointed acting chairman in July of 2011. He became the official chair of the FDIC in 2012.

McWilliams, who also serves as executive vice president and corporate secretary at Fifth Third, previously served as the chief counsel and deputy staff director of the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee.

Prior to joining the Senate Banking committee staff, McWilliams was an attorney for the Division of Consumer and Community Affairs at the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. McWilliams served in that position from 2007 through 2010.

Now, McWilliams will take over the leader of the FDIC board of directors when Gruenberg departs.

McWilliams was confirmed Thursday by a vote in the Senate of 69-24.

Comptroller of the Currency Joseph Otting, who also serves on the FDIC board of directors, congratulated McWilliams on her confirmation and said he’s looking forward to a “breath of fresh air” at the FDIC.

“Chairman McWilliams will bring a long-awaited breath of fresh air, energetic leadership, and a real spirit of collaboration to the agency and the board and to our interagency regulatory process,” Otting said.

“I look forward to a positive relationship and to open and constructive communication as we work closely together to eliminate unnecessary regulatory burden so that the nation’s banks and savings associations can realize their full potential as a positive force for job creation and economic opportunity by serving the needs of consumers, businesses, and communities across the country,” Otting added.

Otting also thanked Gruenberg for his time with the FDIC.

“I also commend the outgoing FDIC Chairman Marty Gruenberg on his tenure and service to the nation, which helped ensure our banking system remains safe and sound, provides fair access, and treats customers fairly,” Otting said. “Chairman Gruenberg saw the FDIC through one of the most challenging periods in its 85-year history. I look forward to serving alongside him as a member of the board through the completion of his term in November.”

House Financial Services Committee Chairman Rep Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, also congratulated McWilliams on her confirmation.

“The FDIC plays an important role in creating an environment favorable for the success of state-chartered banks, and sets the tone and direction of regulatory policies related to the nation’s banking system, making the Chair critical to ensuring a healthy, growing economy,” Hensarling said in a statement.

“It is my hope that we can finally break from the past no-growth polices, and instead lead the FDIC to adopt a more wholesome view of the financial system that not only ensures a safe, sound, and vibrant financial system, but provides true consumer protection,” Hensarling added. “I look forward to working with Chair McWilliams to provide our economy with a vibrant, pro-growth financial system that increases choices and lowers costs for consumers.”

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