At 43, you might think that Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) Board Chairman nominee Jelena McWilliams qualifies as the youngest ever to be considered for the post leading the nation’s bank deposit insurance fund.
But while she is definitely younger than the average FDIC chairman at appointment, she wouldn’t be the youngest, if (more likely when) she is confirmed to the seat.
Still, she would be the youngest leader currently of a federal financial institution regulatory agency, and the only woman leader among the five agencies: the FDIC, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), the Federal Reserve Board (now that Jerome Powell has been confirmed by the Senate), the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA).
McWilliams was questioned by the Senate Banking Committee Tuesday in a nomination hearing that largely offered no visible roadblocks to her confirmation. Indeed, former committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) welcomed her back to the committee, where she had served as a staff member.
The title for “youngest” FDIC chairman (at least in years) is a tie at age 38 – between Kenneth A. Randall (appointed April 21, 1965) and William M. Isaac (appointed Aug. 3, 1981). Randall, who was appointed by President Lyndon Johnson, served for nearly five years at the helm of the agency. Isaac, appointed by President Ronald Reagan, stayed on the job for a bit longer than four years.
Since the first FDIC director to serve in 1933 – Walter J. Cummings, who was 54 at the time of his appointment – the average age for a chairman is just about Cummings’ age, or 53.4 years.
In that sense, McWilliams comes in under the average.
Where she does come in youngest is among the three women who have served as chairman: McWilliams will be the youngest at appointment. Ricki Tigert Helfer, the first woman to serve – appointed by President Bill Clinton – was 49 when appointed in 1994. Donna Tanoue, appointed in 1998 (also by Clinton) was 44. Sheila Bair, who served for more than five years at the FDIC helm (longer than the other two women leaders), was 52; she was appointed by President George W. Bush.
At the other end of the scale, Ray Gidney was the oldest, taking office (for 11 days as acting chairman) in 1957 at age 70. For oldest, permanent chairman, it’s a tie at 66 between Erle Cocke Sr. (appointed in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy) and George A. LeMaistre (appointed in 1977 by President Jimmy Carter).
McWilliams can lay claim to some other exclusives, however. She is the only woman named by President Donald Trump to lead a federal financial institution regulatory agency so far – and the youngest. The other regulatory agency leaders, all appointed by Trump, are: Federal Reserve, Board Chairman Jerome Powell (65 this year); NCUA, Chairman J. Mark McWatters (63 this year); OCC, Comptroller of the Currency Joseph Otting (59 this year); CFPB, Acting Director Mick Mulvaney (51 this year).