Credit union regulator exhorts conference to advance diversity, equity, inclusion

Credit unions should advance diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging by embracing those concepts across their institutions – members, employees, and other credit unions, the board chairman for the federal credit union regulator said Tuesday.

In opening remarks for the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Summit 2021 sponsored by his agency, NCUA Board Chairman Todd Harper said credit unions can advance DEI across the industry, internally and externally. “Over the last several years, we have seen efforts within the credit union system to embrace and solidify the principles of DEI as a pillar of the credit union movement. These are worthy efforts, and I encourage these efforts to continue,” he said at the opening day of the three-day virtual conference.

Harper said that he has made advancing economic equity and justice a priority at the agency, noting that the NCUA has funded underserved grants in 2021 through the Community Development Revolving Loan Fund (CDFI). “It’s also why the agency is looking at the causes of appraisal bias,” he said. “And, it’s why in leading the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC, which Harper chairs), I have asked staff to look into the exam standards and peer groups used for measuring the performance of minority depository institutions.”

Harper said it is also why he has urged credit unions to decrease their reliance on overdraft fees, which he said studies have shown are a tool of financial exclusion rather than inclusion.

“By enhancing support for minority depository institutions, enforcing fair lending laws, advancing initiatives to close the wealth gap, and increasing the levels of diversity and inclusion when it comes to credit union leaders and board members, we can ensure that the cooperative nature of the credit union system lives up to its mission of meeting the credit and savings needs of consumers, including – and especially – those of modest means and in communities of color,” Harper said.

NCUA Chairman Todd M. Harper Opening Remarks at the NCUA’s 2021 DEI Summit