The major federal agencies regulating banking and Wall Street have a giant "Help Wanted" sign in the window, representing a crucial opportunity that may not come again for a long time.
First on the list of agencies that will be looking for help is the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), the agency that insures bank deposits and watches over bank solvency. FDIC Chair Sheila Bair steps down this summer at the end of her five-year term.
Appointed by George W. Bush and described by Portfolio as "a longtime Republican who made her Capitol Hill debut in 1981 as an aide to then-Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole," Bair emerged as a hero to consumer advocates during the financial crisis. She risked controversy by calling for foreclosure relief back in 2008, supported creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and has long been a champion of consumers.
The CFPB, created by the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory reform law, is also in need of long-term leadership. The initial set-up of the bureau has been handled outstandingly from within the White House by Elizabeth Warren. Selection of Warren as permanent head of the bureau would delight consumer advocates, and those who want to weaken CFPB are reportedly already trying to head off that possibility.
There are lots of other positions to be filled in these and other financial agencies, critical jobs whose occupants will draft the necessary regulations and handle the day to day work of implementing and enforcing them. Among these are the staffs of the newly created Offices of Women and Minority Inclusion, whose directors have been selected (a process we're analyzing right now at The Greenlining Institute and will have more to say about soon) but whose staffs need to be rounded out.
This is a perfect opportunity to break out of the revolving door I wrote about in January, in which a small number of elite financial industry execs and academics cycle back and forth between government agencies, the industries those agencies regulate, and the academic institutions that study the whole process. To break that cycle, all of these financial regulatory agencies should open up their recruiting and selection process, seeking out talent from all communities and backgrounds.
It may not be visible inside the beltway, but there's a vast talent pool out there: People working at community organizations that assist and counsel struggling homeowners, folks who've learned the ins and outs of an often dysfunctional system from the ground up - a view those elite executives never see. For the new financial regulatory system to work, those views and voices need to be included.