About a year after joining the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDCI), Sultan Meghji, the agency’s chief innovation officer (CIO), quit his job at FDIC on Feb. 18 and cited “tech hesitancy” in government as his primary motive for doing so.

“Serving in this role was an honor, but my decision to leave was right. The Federal bureaucracy is both hesitant and hostile to technological change. America’s global financial leadership is in jeopardy,” Meghji wrote in an op-ed published by Bloomberg News.

Meghji was the FDIC’s first-ever chief innovation officer. The agency created the position to kickstart a technological transformation of America’s financial system, focusing on modernization, and confronting threats from criminals, terrorists, and especially Russia and China.

Meghji said he explored various technological innovations and developments: artificial intelligence, quantum computing, cryptocurrency, ransomware, foreign hacking, and more, but also reported encountering barriers on virtually every front. The issue is the notion that “20th-century rules can be jury-rigged to cover 21st-century technology,” he explained.

“That’s a dangerous view when dealing with fast-paced innovations. A more flexible regulatory framework is needed to protect Americans’ financial security,” Meghji wrote. “There is widespread doubt about the technology itself — call it ‘tech hesitancy.’”

He also cited a lack of expertise, and little to no continuing education, as issues to be addressed to ensure the protection and leadership of the American financial system.

Meghji outlined a series of reforms he believes deserve swift consideration by the White House and Congress, prioritizing applied digital knowledge over government tenure and improving education and training for staff. They include:

  • Civil service reform: put applied digital knowledge front and center instead of prioritizing government tenure and unrelated qualifications;
  • Education and training reform: rank-and-file employees should be required to improve their skill sets through continuing education;
  • More partnerships with industry and academia; and
  • More 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. The U.S. cannot afford to throw away its global financial leadership. We should be extending our lead, and we’re running out of time,” Meghji asserted.

FDIC declined to comment.

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.