M. Anthony Lowe was recently appointed FDIC Ombudsman after more than 30 years with the agency. He spoke with MOPIK News writer Liz Wheeler about his expectations for the role and his desire to encourage dialogue between supervisors and bankers.
Q: How would you personally define the role of Ombudsman as it relates to bankers?
M. Anthony Lowe: By definition, a key role of the Ombudsman is to serve as an independent, confidential, and neutral party for bankers to ask questions and review matters of concern. It is important for the industry to have a mechanism, outside of the formal processes, to have these conversations. I look forward to the opportunity to be a resource for bankers and the banking industry.
Q: Having worked at the FDIC for 32 years, you have vast experience with the agency. Which aspects of your prior positions do you see coming into play in this new role?
AL: In prior roles, I have spent a large amount of my time meeting with bankers on issues involving applications, examinations, and other complex matters. I think this experience will serve me well in this role. I want to use my position to ensure bankers feel empowered and encouraged to engage in an active dialogue with our examination personnel, to eliminate ambiguities regarding examinations or findings, as well as to help stakeholders anticipate supervisory expectations going forward. To achieve this, we must make bankers aware of, and encourage them to use, the resources of the Ombudsman’s Office to address any unresolved issues, concerns, or confusion relative to supervisory findings.
Q: What about this new role do you most look forward to?
AL: I always have enjoyed direct interaction with bankers and their trade groups. Face-to-face and unfiltered conversations with bankers and their trade reps reduce the chances for miscommunication or misinformation for all parties. This position will give me more latitude to expand my activities and engagement in this regard.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish as FDIC Ombudsman?
AL: In the near term, my hope is that bankers and their trade groups will continue to feel empowered to discuss areas of concern directly with our supervisory staff. Over time, I hope the relationship evolves to the point where bankers have the Ombudsman’s Office on speed dial, ready to contact us for a neutral review of any matter regarding the fairness and propriety of FDIC decisions and communications.
Q: The Office of the Ombudsman was created in 1994. How do you see that role having changed from then until now? How will that position continue to evolve?
AL: The office has evolved to some degree, along with the banking industry, and will continue to do so. I am currently working with my staff on plans for a nationwide “reintroduction” to the industry that will allow us to reiterate the mission and objectives of the Ombudsman’s Office, and identify key points of contact in each of our regions. We want to be viewed as a value-added resource for bankers. Together with my staff, I will be exploring every opportunity to engage or meet with individual bankers and industry trade groups to build networks and encourage dialogue.