Dodd-Frank Act shifts thrifts regulator to new office

Tuesday - 7/26/2011, 9:20am EDT

Tim Ward, deputy comptroller, Thrift Supervision, OCC

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By Jory Heckman
Federal News Radio

It's closing time for the Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS), but this just means a change of address for most of its 1,000 employees.

Under the Dodd-Frank Act, the OTS will now work under the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC).

"Around 645 federal savings associations - that's what the technical name for a thrift is - are transferring to the OCC's supervision," said Tim Ward, deputy comptroller of thrift supervision at OCC. "Staff from the OTS who are responsible for that supervision are coming to the OCC as well," he said.

According to Ward, 674 of OTC's employees have joined the rank of the OCC. "They had to physically pack up and move to the OCC's office," which occurred over the July 15 weekend, he said.

In recognition of the personnel shift, the Dodd-Frank Act also transfers responsibility of thrift supervision to the OCC, which previously only supervised national banks before the switch, Ward said.

Former OTS and OCC employees had their first joint meeting almost two weeks ago, which they titled "One Team, One Mission," Ward said.

"The mission has not changed. Responsibility for oversight of the federal savings association is the same as it was before, it's just being carried out by the OCC rather than the OTS," he added.

He said that the reorganization effort has been a yearlong project.

"We had multiple conference calls, we had multiple meetings with OTS staff to get them ready for what they were going to encounter when they came to the OCC," Ward said. "This year, we held 17 outreach sessions for the thrift industry, and we had over a thousand thrift executives come to those sessions. We introduced them to key management staff from the OCC so that they would get those relationships started."

While the transition has been going well, he said that they have had to face some difficulties inherent in the process.

"I think there's always challenges when you face an integration of two organizations - working through staff issues, to how they're going to carry out their day-to-day activities, what their new position title will be, what their role will be - all those are human resources-type issues that you would have in any integration," he explained. "In the end, we have a well-mixed organization."

The launch of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, another Dodd-Frank provision, was set up to reorganize department responsibilities, Ward said. "They [the CFPB] are responsible for writing the regulations that relate to financial institutions and how they interact with consumers. Previously, that rule writing responsibility was divided between the Federal Reserve Board and OTS. Now the CFPB will be writing all of those rules," he said.

The OCC, however, will still be the primary supervisor for institutions with $10 billion or less in assets; the CFPM will supervise institutions with more than $10 billion in assets.

Once the reorganization is complete, Ward said that the OCC and former-OTS employees should all be working under one roof.

"The OCC has space in a couple of buildings in Washington, D.C., right now, and we've integrated OTS staff into that space. Throughout the country, we're doing the same thing," he added. "As leases expire, we're co-locating staff as quickly as possible because, as a team, it's important that we work together."

The OTS officially ceases to exist 90 days after July 21, the one year anniversary of the Dodd-Frank Act.

Jory Heckman is an intern with Federal News Radio.

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