CU regulator sees financial access as crucial issue, but not just for ‘minority populations’

Too many people still lack access to safe, reliable and affordable financial services, and credit unions can play a key role in extending access more broadly to all Americans who need these services to prosper, the chairman of the board of the federal credit union regulator said Tuesday.

For his part, he added, he is committed to removing the obstacles to financial access that all underserved communities are facing.

In remarks to a Chicago meeting of the Defense Credit Union Council (an advocacy group representing credit unions that serve the military), National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) Board Chairman Rodney Hood defined what he meant about financial inclusion, noting that it is more than service to “minority populations.”

“First of all, I am not talking only about minority populations,” he said. “Obviously, there are some serious issues we need to deal with in working to reach, say, African-American families, Latino families, or Native American families. There’s a divide that needs to be addressed.”

Hood said credit unions need to recognize “the other dividing lines” that affect potential credit union members. “For instance, age is one of those dividing lines. We know younger Americans are far more likely to be unbanked than older Americans.

“Or increasingly, where you live is a dividing line. For example, the withdrawal of so many financial institutions from rural communities, especially over the last decade, has posed a serious threat to financial access for the people who still live there. When communities lose financial access, it is almost like cutting off the oxygen supply that is needed to fuel the local economy.”

Hood said that accessibility itself is a dividing line. “Finding safe and affordable financial services that are accessible can be a real challenge for far too many Americans with disabilities, including our Wounded Warriors and veterans,” he said.

He repeated an assertion he made recently that he considers “financial inclusion to be the defining civil rights issue of our time.”

“We know that the lack of access to affordable banking and lending services holds working families back from climbing the financial ladder,” he said. “I’m committed to doing everything we can to recognize and incentivize what’s best in the credit union mission, so that we can remove the obstacles to financial access that all of these underserved communities are facing.”

NCUA Chairman Rodney E. Hood Remarks – Defense Credit Union Council Annual Conference, Chicago, IL