5 ways you can provide more inclusive banking

Clayton J. Mitchell, Niall Twomey, Kate Gutierrez-Wilson
5 ways you can provide more inclusive banking

Finding the right path to improve inclusive banking efforts while also supporting fair lending and Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) risk management is challenging for many financial services organizations. Rather than viewing the process as an extended series of hurdles to overcome, though, organizations can view inclusive banking as a proactive, strategic opportunity to boost performance while also increasing corporate and social responsibility expectations.

Incorporating an intentional, focused inclusive banking plan requires a strategic focus on the internal and external factors that help make products and services more accessible and affordable to all potential individuals and businesses.

Here are five areas your organization can focus on to improve and expand its inclusive banking efforts:

1. Break down barriers among internal collaborators

Break down barriers among internal collaborators - Collaborate

More consistent and frequent collaboration among involved departments and stakeholders can help strengthen inclusivity efforts. For example, is the fair lending team communicating regularly – or at all – with the CRA and product development teams? Are those teams communicating regularly with the board of directors or C-suite? If they’re not, then your organization might be missing out on a steady flow of information that fosters new insights and influences improved or future strategies.

2. Identify potential relationships that can help improve inclusive banking efforts

2. Identify potential relationships that can help improve inclusive banking efforts - Identify

Many geographies have organizations that are already devoting time and resources to support underserved communities and improve performance in majority-minority census tracts (MMCTs). Identifying opportunities to form partnerships, sponsorships, and collaborations can benefit all parties. Organizations that can help might include:

  • Minority- and women-focused chambers of commerce and business resource groups
  • Organizations focused on supporting specific communities or under-resourced individuals, such as housing authorities and community action groups
  • Fintechs offering a product or service that serves underbanked communities

3. Regularly review products and services for accessibility

Regularly review products and services for accessibility - Review

Financial services organizations might have physical branch locations available, but do they also have processes in place that allow everyone fair and equal access to all products and services in that community?

Organizations should study offerings and distribution channels to determine how they might be adjusted and expanded to be more inclusive. For example, if the point of entry on a home equity loan isn’t attainable for potential customers at all locations equally across the communities that an organization serves, changing the requirements might be warranted.

4. Align policies and procedures to meet continually changing regulations

Align policies and procedures to meet continually changing regulations - Align

Financial services organizations can build comprehensive internal strategies that incorporate new laws, regulations, and initiatives to give employees up-to-date policies and training.

In recent years, for example, the Federal Housing Administration and Department of Housing and Urban Development added protections for sexual orientation and gender identification related to housing discrimination. Organizations need to communicate that information to make sure their customers do not face discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

5. Engage with the community as a whole

Engage with the community as a whole - Engage

When financial services organizations communicate with the communities they serve, they can receive more insights, build more trust, and recognize new opportunities.

Communication can take many forms, from focus groups and marketing efforts to participation in community events and business functions. These ways of connecting with communities help organizations learn about surrounding demographics and customer needs. For example, organizations can include employees that speak different languages to support the needs of diverse customer bases.

The importance of representation and accessibility is also critical. Banks can be intimidating for many people, even more so for those who don’t see themselves represented within the organization’s operations. How community members are treated and their ability to conduct business in a variety of languages can affect whether they are able to see themselves reflected in their financial services organizations.

Crowe can help you identify opportunities through inclusive banking

Financial services organizations can take advantage of multiple avenues to implement effective inclusive banking strategies. These strategies are designed to support business growth and management of fair and responsible banking laws and regulations.

However, it’s important to realize that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Social responsibility plans must align to the organizational strategy and composition of a bank's customer base, with different approaches tailored for different segments.

Crowe specialists combine deep industry experience and regulatory knowledge to help organizations accurately assess and build proactive plans that help serve all customers.

Explore our fair lending risk and compliance services

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Want to learn more about how your organization can improve its inclusive banking efforts? Schedule a consultation. We’d be happy to help.
Clayton J. Mitchell
Clayton J. Mitchell
Managing Principal, Fintech
Niall Twomey
Niall Twomey
Principal, Financial Services Consulting
Katie Gutierrez
Kate Gutierrez-Wilson
Financial Services Consulting