Late last year, JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s Indiana chairman, Dennis Bassett, told IBJ that in a few weeks he’d ride off into retirement, “get up, feed the horses and smile.”
Well, that sure didn’t last long.
Gov. Mike Pence on Thursday announced that 65-year-old Bassett would become director of the Indiana Department of Financial Institutions, starting March 10.
He replaces David Mills, who retired at the end of January.
The Department of Financial Institutions regulates about 90 state-chartered banks with assets of $40 billion, along with 44 credit unions with assets of $10.5 billion. It also oversees payday lenders and various forms of consumer credit.
Bassett’s appointment is both surprising and, perhaps to some, uncomfortable. The department that oversees regulation of Indiana-chartered financial institutions is to be run by the man who until recently was the most powerful banker in the state.
On the other hand, the stature of the Indiana Department of Financial Institutions arguably has diminished over the years, with the dominance of nationally chartered banks and federal banking rules that permeate to the lowest levels of banking.
“I don’t recall anyone of [Bassett’s] stature having headed DFI” in recent times, said George Farra, a former investment banker and now a principal of Indianapolis investment firm Woodley Farra Manion Portfolio Management.
Pence cited Bassett’s four decades of banking experience, which “will be invaluable to the administration."
“I’m confident he will serve Hoosiers with the highest integrity as director of the Department of Financial Institutions,” Pence said in a statement.
Bassett could not immediately be reached for comment.
Mills was appointed director in 2009 by former Gov. Mitch Daniels. He was named to the post after retiring as a senior vice president and deputy credit officer at the former National City Bank, now PNC.
The gregarious Bassett played a key role over the years at Chase’s Indiana predecessor, Bank One. He ran the bank here after JPMorgan Chase bought Bank One in 2004.
The Danville, Ill., native started his banking career in Indianapolis in 1973 as an account officer at the former Indiana National Bank. He started working for Bank One in the late 1990s, and at one point left to run Huntington Bank in Indiana. Jamie Dimon, who headed Bank One and now successor Chase, recruited Bassett to run its Indiana operations in the mid-2000s.
Bassett is one of the city’s most prominent civic leaders. He is a Butler University trustee and Central Indiana Corporate Partnership board member, among other commitments.