Community banks are key economic drivers in smaller towns, and regulators are trying to simplify rules for them while making sure they maintain standards for financial strength, the head of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said Tuesday in Milwaukee.

The number of banks in the U.S. has shrunk by 35 percent in the past 10 years as the industry has consolidated, and that can strain some local economies, Jelena McWilliams, chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., told about 450 bank executives and business people gathered at the Pfister Hotel for the Wisconsin Bankers Association’s annual Bank Executives Conference.

McWilliams said a growing number of counties in the U.S. now have only one bank.

“My whole approach at the FDIC is that community banks are not complex, and we shouldn’t try to regulate as if they were complex financial institutions,” McWilliams said. “So, it’s kind of keeping it simple while maintaining safety and soundness.”

McWilliams, who started a five-year term as FDIC chairman last year, said she is concerned about the number of mergers that are eliminating community banks, especially in rural areas.

Read more in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.