OCC Nominee Takes Softer Stance on ‘Relationship Banking’ in Prepared Testimony

In prepared testimony submitted ahead of her nomination hearing tomorrow, Saule Omarova, President Biden’s nominee for comptroller of the currency, said her top priority if confirmed “will be to guarantee a fair and competitive market where small and mid-size banks that invest in their neighbors’ homes and small businesses can thrive, and where every community—regardless of wealth, geography, or history—has access to safe and affordable financial services.”

Omarova—who is currently a professor at Cornell Law—added that “a critical part of that task is preserving and fostering the relationship banking that drives economic growth and creates local jobs and prosperity.” She also raised concerns about the dwindling number of community banks in the U.S., as well as big tech companies that are becoming direct competitors with community banks.

In her prepared testimony, Omarova appeared to distance herself from policies she has previously advocated during her academic career that would transform the existing banking system bank—including those that would have community banks “pass through” their deposits to the Federal Reserve and effectively making them utilities. The American Bankers Association has pointed out this would undermine the critical role community banks play as financial intermediaries in their local communities. ABA has also raised concerns about some of Omarova’s other policy positions including her support for ending the dual banking system and her opposition to regulatory tailoring.

A number of lawmakers—including Jon Tester (D-Mont.), a key Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee—have expressed reservations about Omarova’s nomination.