Since joining the Department of Banking and Securities nearly four years ago, I have had the privilege of seeing so much of the department's collective hard work benefit Pennsylvania consumers and business. Those accomplishments have helped the commonwealth maintain its status as a secure and trusted financial services marketplace.
The last four years at the department have seen policy and legislative updates and modernization, as well as a strong, continued focus on consumer financial protection and outreach. If I were to offer a single word to describe all the department's first-term accomplishments, it would be "innovation." Innovation in the industries we supervise through technology, as well as our innovative responses to meet these technological advances.
My colleagues and I have placed an emphasis on being forward-thinking to inform our work and to ensure we are not only planning for future developments, but also serving as a trendsetter in our work. The department is dedicated to being one of the best state financial regulators in the country.
That being said, it is as important to keep past accomplishments in mind as we progress, as it is to look forward. Here are some – but certainly not all – of the department's achievements over the past four years:
- Cybersecurity Team. Cybersecurity threats continue to be an urgent matter for consumers and business. One of the first in the nation, we created a Cybersecurity Team – initially a Cybersecurity Task Force – designed to provide resources to the financial services companies under our supervision to address cybersecurity issues to help ensure the integrity of Pennsylvania's financial marketplace. The Cybersecurity Team's work informed the development of Governor Wolf's online cybersecurity guide for consumers, "Protecting Yourself Online."
- Governor Wolf's Consumer Financial Protection Initiative. In 2015, Governor Wolf announced the administration's Consumer Financial Protection Initiative to focus on educating the public about financial protection and best practices in a concise, efficient way. As part of the "Government that Works" initiative, there are four goals: (1) help protect consumers from illegal, "easy money" types of lending; (2) protect seniors from financial exploitation; (3) help people save for retirement; and (4) establish a state government interagency financial education exchange for consumers to ensure state agencies are working in a coordinated fashion. Highlights from this initiative include:
- Partnering with PennDOT on alerting consumers to the dangers of "easy money" lending;
- Enhancing and expanding our efforts to protect senior citizens from the financial crime of the 21st century – elder financial abuse, a crime that costs Americans billions of dollars each year. For years, we have worked with financial services professionals and firms under our purview. We now work with other groups whose clients include senior citizens, including investment advisers, broker-dealers, lawyers, and accountants – as well as professional boards whose members are licensed through the Department of State -- to identify and report suspected cases of elder financial abuse;
- Production of the "When I'm 65" documentary which helps provide information and tools to Pennsylvanians on how they can better plan for retirement;
- Offering a new consumer outreach program – STaRT (Start Today and Retire Tomorrow) – designed to help Pennsylvanians save for retirement by setting goals and offering tools in achieving those goals;
- Multi-agency collaboration on issues impacting consumers across the commonwealth, including card skimmers and cybersecurity;
- Collaborating with the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections to increase financial capability of inmates and reentrants in an effort to reduce recidivism.
- Financial Services for Consumers and Business. The department created a new business unit, Financial Services for Consumers and Business (FSCB) which took existing staff and infrastructure and created a unit dedicated specifically to the needs of consumers. Requiring no additional staff, funding, or regulatory burden, FSCB consolidated intake and outreach functions to foster a greater ability to respond to consumers and to ensure better service to consumers.
- Annual Consumer Financial Protection Report. The report focuses on how our Consumer Services Office helps consumers with questions or guidance, or to file complaints. The purpose is to offer a snapshot of how the financial services marketplace is becoming increasingly complex, global, evolving, and interconnected. The most recent report can be found here.
- Fintech. We have designated a single point of contact between technology innovators offering financial services (fintech) and the department as the regulator of financial services in the commonwealth. This contact offers a way to reduce regulatory burden, foster business development, and enhance relationships between state regulators and fintech. Questions from the fintech industry can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
- 2012 Merger Update. We have continued our work to optimize the outcomes of the 2012 merger of the Department of Banking and PA Securities Commission:
- Securities Regulations: Earlier this year, the department issued a modernization and update of the rules governing the securities industry in Pennsylvania. Governor Wolf and I want our regulated financial services community to stay updated on changes in regulatory issues, as well as understand the expectations on their work and businesses to comply with commonwealth laws and regulations.
- Compliance 2017. Focused on keeping investment professionals and their firms up-to-date on changes to federal and state securities laws and regulations, Compliance 2017 revived a program last held in 2011 by the former PA Securities Commission. The industry-related topics ranged from the examination process to cybersecurity to top concerns of the industry, among others. The next conference will be held in 2019.
- Enforcement Orders Recap. Since 2015, the department has issued 275 enforcement orders, with fines and assessments totaling more than $4.7 million. The department has also taken part in several multistate settlements.
- Mortgage Servicing. In 2017, Governor Wolf signed into law Senate Bill 751 which amends the Mortgage Licensing Act. Pennsylvania joined 36 other states that have taken on the responsibility to oversee non-bank mortgage servicers, providing significant protections for homeowners who may be harmed by mortgage servicers. The implementation of this law is a victory for homeowners. Mortgage servicing is a critically important presence in a homeowner's life – and one they often do not have a choice in selecting. The protections offered to homeowners under this law will ensure their rights are being protected.
While only just a highlight of the tremendous effort and work of the nearly 200 staff members of the Department of Banking and Securities to serve Pennsylvanians and Pennsylvania businesses, looking back allows us the perspective of how to build upon these foundations we have created and where new groundwork may need to be laid.
It has been a busy four years working on behalf of Pennsylvania's consumers and financial services industries. I am proud of my colleagues' accomplishments and grateful for the opportunity to continue to serve Pennsylvania.
Next: Looking Forward (coming in January)