DEFINITION of Primary Regulator

Primary Regulator is the state or federal regulatory agency that is the primary supervising entity of a financial institution. In most cases, this is the same agency that issued the initial charter allowing the financial institution to operate. Banks and other financial institutions must file quarterly call reports that indicate their income and overall condition to their primary regulatory authority.

BREAKING DOWN Primary Regulator

For national banks, the primary regulator is the Comptroller of the Currency. State-chartered banks and bank holding companies initially report to the Federal Reserve Board. State banks answer to the banking departments of their respective states.

Primary Regulators

Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. The OCC charters, regulates, and supervises all national banks and federal savings associations as well as federal branches and agencies of foreign banks. The OCC is an independent bureau of the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

Credit Unions. The National Credit Union Administration supervises and insures Federal credit unions and insures all state-chartered credit unions. 

State-Chartered Bank. Two Federal agencies share responsibility for State banks. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation insures State-chartered banks that are not members of the Federal Reserve System. In addition, the FDIC insures deposits in banks and savings associations.  

For state-chartered banks that are members of the Federal Reserve System, the Federal Reserve Board is the primary regulator.  Additionally, state-chartered banks are supervised by state banking regulators.  

The OCC is by far the largest primary regulator with the responsibility for the most institutions.  The OCC notes that it has the power to: Examine the national banks and federal thrifts. Approve or deny applications for new charters, branches, capital, or other changes in corporate or banking structure. Take supervisory actions against national banks and federal thrifts that do not comply with laws and regulations or that otherwise engage in unsound practices. Remove officers and directors, negotiate agreements to change banking practices, and issue cease and desist orders as well as civil money penalties. Issue rules and regulations, legal interpretations, and corporate decisions governing investments, lending, and other practices.

The Office of Thrift Supervision was merged with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) as of July 2011 to create one regulatory agency. Previously, the OCC regulated all federally chartered and state-chartered savings banks and savings and loans associations.

Links to the various primary regulators can be found here.