The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) is teaming with leaders in the financial services industry and civil rights organizations on a new program designed to increase access to credit and capital by underserved communities.
The new Project REACh–Roundtable for Economic Access and Change–will focus on policy and structural issues at both local and national levels, with the goal of widening the scope of financial inclusion. Acting Comptroller of the Currency Brian P. Brooks acknowledged Project REACh was created in response to the wave of social justice protests that occurred after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis police custody.
“The recent civil unrest across our country emphasizes that too many people have been left out of our nation’s economy,” said Brooks, who hosted the first Project REACh roundtable meeting at the OCC on July 10. “While we applaud others who have made large financial contributions to address immediate needs, Project REACh will focus on policy and structural changes that can help more people participate in our economy and prosper in the same way so many others have.”
Brooks added that one of the structural barriers to be addressed by this endeavor involves the status of nearly 50 million Americans who lack a credit score.
“That does not mean those individuals are uncreditworthy, but it likely means they cannot get a traditional loan,” he stated. “We can fix that and similar problems that will make access to credit easier and more affordable for millions of people.”
Project REACh’s participants from the financial services industry include Citigroup CEO Michael Corbat; JPMorgan Chase Co-President and COO Gordon Smith; Huntington Bank Chairman, President and CEO Steve Steinour; and Michael Weinbach, CEO of Consumer Lending at Wells Fargo. The civil rights organizations participating in the project include the NAACP, National Urban League, and U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
The OCC’s endeavor is part of an increasing wave of attention focused on racial inequities within the consumer credit sector. Last week, Redfin released a report that found 15.9% of African Americans were rejected in their mortgage applications, compared to only 7% of white applicants. Last month, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) proposed a five-point plan to increase homeownership among African American homeowners and narrow the rate gap between white and African Americans. In April, Zillow published a data analysis that determined nonwhite households faced a greater level of housing insecurity related to the economic tumult in the COVID-19 pandemic than their white counterparts.