GAO: FDIC, NCUA, OCC ‘don’t know’ if ‘banking access’ efforts are working; performance measures recommended

Regulators’ efforts aimed at increasing banking access to low-income, less-educated, and minority households should include performance measures to determine their effectiveness, the congressional watchdog recommended Monday.

In a report, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said federal regulators have developed the programs to draw attention to unbanked groups of banking services available to them, but the regulators don’t know if they are working.

The GAO charged that some regulators “lack outcome-oriented measures of their efforts to increase banking access or their measures do not cover all their key initiatives.”

The GAO cited several examples to back up its charge. The agency said an FDIC public awareness campaign was aimed at building awareness of the benefits of bank accounts. “Yet, its measures indicate only whether a task was completed and do not incorporate information on the outcomes (which could be used to assess the activities),” the GAO said.

Meanwhile, the GAO said, the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) measures how long it takes to process credit union charters, which the GAO said helps the credit union regulator assess timeliness “but does not provide information to assess agency performance in facilitating access to credit union services.”

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), the GAO said, launched an initiative to increase access to credit, including small-dollar loans. But the national bank regulator “did not incorporate performance measures for a key initiative to enhance banking access,” the watchdog reported.

“By using outcome-oriented performance measures for their efforts to increase access to banking services, FDIC, NCUA, and OCC could better identify opportunities for improvement across all key initiatives and set priorities accordingly,” the report stated. The agency recommended that those three agencies establish “outcome-based performance measures” reflecting the full scope of their efforts to achieve strategic objectives related to access to banking services.

The agencies generally agreed with these recommendations, the GAO said.

Regulators Have Taken Actions to Increase Access, but Measurement of Actions’ Effectiveness Could Be Improved