Chief innovation officer quits at FDIC; claims ‘tech hesitancy’ among agency’s workforce

The chief innovation officer at the federal insurer of bank deposits – who was hired about a year ago after a search of more than two years by the agency – resigned Friday, citing hesitancy and hostility among the federal bureaucracy, according to an opinion piece he published Tuesday.

In the column published on Bloomberg Opinion (subscription required), Sultan Meghji – now the former first chief innovation officer (CINO) at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) – said his decision to leave was right. He claimed that the bureaucracy at the agency dislikes change, lacks expertise, has little or no continuing education, and exhibits “tech hesitancy,” which he defined as widespread doubt about technology.

He called for reforms in hiring, education and training, more collaboration with companies and universities outside of Washington, and collaboration with international partners. “Achieving these reforms will require political will. The alternative is to let China build a more advanced financial system, while letting it and other hostile regimes increasingly undermine our own,” he asserted.

A founder of a St. Louis-based financial technology firm providing services to banks and credit unions, Meghji was named to the position that former FDIC Chairman Jelena McWilliams announced in October 2018. When he was named to the job, the agency said he would lead its drive to promote adoption of “innovative technologies across the financial services sector.”

“Under his leadership, I am confident we will find innovative ways to utilize technology to modernize our bank supervision, enable community banks to adopt technological solutions, and bring more underserved people into the financial fabric of our nation,” McWilliams said at the time.

McWilliams left the agency Feb. 4, after serving three-and-half years of a five-year term.

Why I Quit as FDIC Innovation Chief: Technophobia (subscription required)