Speaking at the Credit Union Leadership Conference held virtually on Wednesday, NCUA Chairman Rodney Hood reflected on the ongoing pandemic and the death of George Floyd, noting that the two events have taken on added significance for credit unions.
Hood said that because the two events highlight inequities that have long existed within the communities credit unions serve throughout the United States, “it’s truly remarkable to reflect on how dramatically these two disparate events, in such a short period of time, have forever changed our country, and how many of us — likely most of us — have been gripped with uncertainty as a result,” Hood said.
Hood went on to provide an overview of where the credit union industry stands amid the events and detailed the actions that the NCUA has taken in an effort to help credit unions, including regulatory relief and flexibility to support credit unions as they respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Because credit unions are cooperative, member-owned financial institutions that reinvest profits, they have the needed flexibility to do what they do best: care for their members directly and individually,” Hood explained. “Over the last several months, I’ve been heartened by the many stories I’ve heard of credit unions going above and beyond to continue providing quality and affordable financial services to members experiencing economic hardship due to the pandemic.”
Hood said that the months ahead “will undoubtedly challenge the credit union system in unprecedented ways,” but it is important to remember that credit unions have historically played a vital role in helping their members — and by extension, their communities — succeed financially.
Hood also spoke about the need to find solutions in communities that are vulnerable to the current economic and financial disruptions – particularly poor communities and communities of color — resulting from the virus, coupled with the death of George Floyd.
“So what can we do to remedy those inequalities? One of the things I passionately believe is that financial inclusion is the civil rights issue of our time,” Hood stated.
However, there are “endless numbers of studies and surveys, stretching back at least three decades, making the strategic business case” for diversity, equity and inclusion, Hood said. Unfortunately, organizations and executive leaders far too often treat diversity “as simply a human resources” issue, he said.
Hood said that DEI cannot be achieved by merely “checking the boxes.” A commitment to a strong DEI program must include all of the organization’s strategic planning and operations, and for the financial services industry in particular, diversity is vital when it comes to reaching and serving a wider range of people, Hood said.
“I believe it’s time we make genuine change. And it begins with an authentic and sustained commitment to financial inclusion,” he said. “But we can’t simply sit back and wait for someone else to fix it.”
The full transcript of Hood’s statements can be accessed on the NCUA website.