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Supervising the Big Banks

Jennifer Eccles never expected to be at the public-sector epicenter of the financial system.

After graduating from Wellesley College, Eccles worked in the Banking and Industry Studies section at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. In earning her Berkeley MBA she had planned to leave banking—and the public sector—behind. "I really thought I'd end up in corporate finance," she says.

But through a series of banking industry-related jobs and a move to Washington, D.C., for her husband's naval career, Eccles has become a senior advisor at the federal agency charged with regulating over $10.4 trillion in banking assets—about 69 percent of the nation's total. For the past 18 years, she has held numerous positions at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, an independent bureau of the Department of the Treasury, ranging from creating bank supervision policy to helping to implement it.

The financial crisis sent shockwaves through the regulatory agencies. In its aftermath, Eccles helped her unit create heightened expectations for corporate governance and oversight at the nation's largest and most complex banking institutions—soon to be enforceable guidelines.

The guidelines require, for instance, that each bank clearly define the amount and type of risk the board and management are willing to assume in a written statement. The guidelines also emphasize the necessity of strong audit and risk management programs, as well as the willingness and ability of bank boards of directors to provide credible challenge to management.

"We said, 'given the vital role of these large, complex financial institutions in the economy and their role in the global financial markets, they just can't be managed in anything but a strong way going forward,'" Eccles says.

And though she once envisioned working in the corporate world, Eccles is now a strong proponent of public service. "At the end of the day," she says, "I can go home and feel good that I've made a difference in helping to ensure the safety and soundness of our national banking system."

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Jennifer Eccles, MBA 86

Jennifer Eccles, MBA 86

Senior Advisor to the Senior Deputy Comptroller for Large Bank Supervision, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency,
Washington, D.C.