Milwaukee Biz Blog: Ensure safety, grow economy

DFI doing its part to be more accountable

Gov. Scott Walker has directed state agencies to make every effort to ensure that state government works to be more efficient and accountable to taxpayers. For the Department of Financial Institutions (DFI), that means efficient supervision of state-chartered financial institutions which operate in a very competitive environment. Ensuring the safety and soundness of those institutions is one of DFI’s core responsibilities.

But the role of regulator includes more than just ensuring that the businesses that comprise the financial services sector follow the laws. It also includes working to create a healthy environment in which our stakeholders can be successful in providing the products and services that their customers – the citizens of Wisconsin – want and need.

The equation is really quite simple. Consumers need products and services such as mortgages, car loans, savings accounts and credit cards that fit their lifestyles. Businesses need loans to start or grow their companies, and services such as credit card processing to take care of their customers. Filling those needs are the banks, credit unions and other financial services businesses that DFI oversees.

DFI’s role in this equation is to keep the financial services industry strong through regulatory oversight, facilitate the availability of products and services that their customers need, and ensure that consumers are protected. But just how do we accomplish those things? Let me give you a couple of examples:

  • Wisconsin community bankers for years have expressed concern over the growing regulatory burden that has been placed on them by the federal government. Community banks comprise the vast majority of banking institutions in Wisconsin. They are primarily the hometown banks that provide financial products and services needed by the businesses and consumers in their local markets. They also provide jobs to local residents and support local school and non-profit organizations. In other words, they are important institutions that help fuel the local and state economies. DFI has been working with the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) – an organization of banking regulators from all 50 states – to make sure the voices of our community bankers are heard and that federal regulators understand it is important to differentiate between community banks and the very large national and multinational banks.
  • The state-chartered credit union and banking industries’ second-quarter capital levels were recently reported as continuing to increase. Increased industry capital – coupled with industry investments in risk management, personnel and other infrastructure improvements – will better position the industry to respond to future customer demands. These very positive developments will allow the industry to request – and DFI to approve or permit, where appropriate – new products and lending authority to help support new and expanded business activity and job growth. That’s potentially good news for the Wisconsin economy, its citizens and taxpayers.

As we move forward, DFI will continue to seek ways to make the department more efficient and accountable to taxpayers and stakeholders, while also doing our part to grow the economy for the good of businesses and consumers alike. Those are things that are important to Governor Walker and to all of us here at DFI.

Lon Roberts spent more than 40 years in the private sector as an attorney before being appointed DFI Secretary in February 2016.

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