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OCC marks first anniversary of financial inclusion project

Federal Issues OCC Underserved Consumer Finance

Federal Issues

On July 15, the OCC marked the one-year anniversary of Project REACh, an initiative launched by the agency last year to promote greater financial inclusion of underserved populations. As previously covered by InfoBytes, Project REACh (Roundtable for Economic Access and Change) brings together leaders from the banking industry, national civil rights organizations, and various businesses and technology organizations to identify and reduce barriers to accessing capital and credit. While the project’s scope in its first year included a national workstream and a regional effort centered on Los Angeles, acting Comptroller Michael Hsu announced that Project REACh will soon expand its regional focus to Washington, D.C., Dallas, and Detroit in order “to replicate the success of the project’s national workstream.” In prepared remarks, Hsu emphasized that addressing economic inequality needs to be “transformational, not transactional,” pointing out that “the financial system can perpetuate inequality” as “traditional credit scores, traditional overdraft practices, and predatory lending make it expensive to be poor, while wealthy clients can borrow and access a wide range of financial services at lower cost.” Hsu explained that Project REACh’s structure and approach allows for collaborative problem identification and problem solving and creates opportunities for business and community representatives to incubate ideas and pilots “that can later be implemented on a broader scale than possible by any one institution.”

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