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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

McWilliams highlights upcoming CRA examination updates for MDIs, encourages partnerships between community banks and fintechs

Federal Issues Agency Rule-Making & Guidance FDIC CRA Fintech Community Banks

Federal Issues

On October 2, FDIC Chairman Jelena McWilliams spoke at the National Bankers Association’s annual convention to discuss the agency’s objectives regarding minority depository institutions (MDIs). McWilliams highlighted recent FDIC initiatives, including past and future roundtable discussions between large and minority banks regarding potential partnership opportunities. McWilliams noted that many large banks are unaware of how these partnerships can count for Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) credit. Therefore, the FDIC is updating its examiner instructions for CRA performance evaluations to identify activities involving MDIs. McWilliams also reminded attendees about the upcoming inaugural meeting of the agency’s new MDI Subcommittee to its Advisory Committee on Community Banking, which will focus on issues, tools, and resources unique to MDIs. One of the subcommittee’s goals, she noted, is to “identify additional opportunities to provide regulatory relief for MDIs with less-complex balance sheets while maintaining safety and soundness.” Concerning the FDIC’s franchise-marketing process for failing MDIs, McWilliams commented that “[g]oing forward, when a new marketing initiative begins, we will provide a two-week window exclusively for MDIs,” and will also contact all qualified MDIs on the bid list and provide technical assistance.

Earlier, on October 1, McWilliams delivered keynote remarks at the Federal Reserve Bank in St. Louis, in which she warned community banks that their ability to survive and thrive depends on their ability to innovate and adapt to changing technology. Specifically, McWilliams discussed the growth of digitization, open banking, machine learning/artificial intelligence, and personalization, stressing that banking technology is advancing at a “relentless pace.” Consequently, “we all must challenge ourselves to think about what that means for the future of the banking industry, and community banks in particular.” McWilliams noted, however, that community banks’ inability to keep pace with innovation is due to both cost and regulatory uncertainty. “The cost to innovate is in many cases prohibitively high for community banks. They often lack the expertise, the information technology, and research and development budgets to independently develop and deploy their own technology.” She suggested that community banks partner with fintech firms that have already developed, tested, and rolled out new technology, and emphasized that her goal is for the FDIC to lay “the foundation for the next chapter of banking by encouraging innovation that meets consumer demand, promotes community banking, reduces compliance burdens, and modernizes our supervision.”

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