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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

FDIC Chairman discusses innovation in banking

Federal Issues Fintech FDIC Bank Regulatory Nonbank

Federal Issues

On June 29, FDIC Chairman Jelena McWilliams spoke at the “Fintech: A Bridge to Economic Inclusion” conference on technology’s role in creating and facilitating a more inclusive financial system. McWilliams noted that while the proportion of U.S. households that were banked in 2019 was 94.6 percent, 7 million households still reported no banking relationship. Moreover, she noted that “the rates for Black and Hispanic households who do not have a checking or savings account at a bank remain substantially higher than the overall ‘unbanked’ rate.” McWilliams discussed the FDIC’s multi-pronged approach to tackle the issue of financial inclusion, which includes: (i) looking at financial innovations in the private sector; (ii) taking steps, including hosting tech sprints, to identify solutions; (iii) coordinating with Minority Depository Institutions and Community Development Financial Institutions; and (iv) conducting targeted public awareness campaigns on the importance of having a banking relationship. In explaining the initiatives, McWilliams pointed out that encouraging the use of alternative data that is not usually found in consumer credit files can “help firms evaluate the creditworthiness of consumers who might not otherwise have access to credit in the mainstream credit system.” She also discussed the use of artificial intelligence, updating brokered deposits rulemaking, and establishing a public/private standard-setting organization for due diligence of vendors and for the technologies they develop. According to McWilliams, “FDiTech is also leading tech sprints to identify data, tools, and technology to help community banks meet the needs of the unbanked, including how to measure impact.” (Covered by InfoBytes here.) McWilliams concluded her remarks by explaining that “[a]lthough the FDIC has limited ability to address directly the issue of unbanked Americans, there are things that [it] can do – and which [it is] doing – to foster innovation across all banks and to reduce the regulatory cost of and barriers to innovation.”