NU Online News Service, March 4, 9:00 a.m. EST ? Washington, D.C. officials say the District’s new agency combining its Department of Insurance and Securities Regulation with the Department of Banking and Financial Institutions will improve the city’s ability to serve the financial services industry.[@@]

D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams signed the measure establishing the merged entity on Monday. The new agency, which is titled the Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking, will be headed by Lawrence H. Mirel, currently the commissioner of Insurance and Securities.

William P. White, director, captive insurance for the agency, says the move “goes back to wanting to create an environment where D.C. can become more of a financial services center.”

D.C. is “not trying to displace anyone,” he adds. “We are just trying to pull together some resources that are already in the infrastructure right here in D.C.”

Officials expect the merger would create a comprehensive approach to regulating financial services, products and transactions, many of which have banking, insurance and securities features. They say the goal is to better protect the citizens of the District of Columbia and enhance the city’s economic development by having a single regulator for both traditional and non-traditional financial products.

“The structure of the financial services industry is changing rapidly,” Mirel says. “To properly regulate the industry, we need a consolidated regulatory agency, just as they have in leading financial countries such as Great Britain, Germany and Japan.”

By merging the two agencies, he said, “the District will demonstrate that it is ready and able to regulate modern financial services organizations.”