Taking on ‘the challenges I was looking forward to’

//August 3, 2009

Taking on ‘the challenges I was looking forward to’

//August 3, 2009

New Banking and Insurance head eyes the declining commercial real estate marketSince attorney Neil N. Jasey retired from Prudential Financial a few years ago, he’s helped lead a Newark prep school where low-income students spend one day per week working at a job.

“It really gives the kids an opportunity to see what’s possible with their lives,” he said.

Last week, Jasey embraced a new vocational challenge of his own when he became interim state commissioner of the Department of Banking and Insurance — at a time the banking industry confronts enormous economic and regulatory challenges, and the nation is mulling an historical health insurance overhaul.

When Gov. Jon S. Corzine tapped East Orange native and Princeton University graduate Jasey for the Banking and Insurance post, he found someone familiar with both real estate and insurance after his 29 years with Newark insurance giant Prudential.

Now, Jasey said he will build on his knowledge of banking, in which he gained some exposure with Prudential, but which hasn’t been his specialty. He said he looks forward to learning more as he leads the department.

“These are the challenges I was looking forward to,” Jasey said of his whirlwind first week in Trenton. In an interview after his second day on the job, Jasey said his first priority was “getting to know the staff as quickly as I can.”

And he said he was thrilled to work in the public-service arena in a position that draws upon his professional background.

Jasey, the husband of Assemblywoman Mila M. Jasey (D-South Orange) replaces Steven M. Goldman, who left to join a New York law firm.

The department faces a series of difficulties, including the decline of the commercial real estate market, on which many banks depend.

In the July 17 announcement of his interim appointment, Jasey, 61, said he wanted to join his efforts with others in the department “during these challenging and potentially transformational times.”

By “transformational,” Jasey said he meant President Barack Obama’s plans to make major changes in how the financial services industry is regulated, from regional banks to those considered “too big to fail.” State officials will be alerted to changes at the federal level, Jasey said.

When asked how the decline in real estate values affects banks in the state, Jasey said the problems in the economy pose a continued challenge for New Jersey.

“I think what’s happened has put a real stress on the financial services industry,” he said.

At Prudential, Jasey began as a real estate lawyer and worked his way up to deputy general counsel. He retired from Prudential in 2004, and has spent the past five years working with two nonprofits. He is a trustee of Christ the King Preparatory School, in Newark, and president of the board of Family Connections Inc., in Orange, which provides mental health and social services to minority and low-income families in northern New Jersey.

Jasey grew up in East Orange and graduated from Princeton and Columbia University School of Law. He lives in South Orange with his wife, and they have three children, who work as a doctor, a teacher and a small-business owner.

Corzine said when he appointed Jasey that he was excited to be able to appoint someone as talented as Jasey to lead the department.

“I am confident that Mr. Jasey’s experience and dedication to service will serve the department and all of New Jersey well,” Corzine said.

Jasey anticipates Corzine will submit his appointment to the position permanently to the state Senate after it convenes in November.

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