Technological advancements are changing the ways credit unions comply with fair lending laws.
“Pentagon Federal Credit Union is too large of an institution to worry about manual HMDA submission processes or inefficient customer support teams,” said Peggy Lawlor, senior mortgage services reporting analyst for Pentagon Federal Credit Union, in a QuestSoft release.
HMDA RELIEF has provided the $15.8 billion PenFed in Alexandria, Va. with summary performance reports and rate spread analysis reports by race, ethnicity and gender. Fair lending fields are also collected and available for analysis, which are especially important with upcoming CFPB rules. PenFed also sources ComplianceTech's LendingPatterns fair lending compliance products.
“HMDA RELIEF and my QuestSoft customer service representative have me sitting pretty come March 1 each year,” said Lawlor, referring to PenFed’s HMDA deadline.
Without the kind of technology offered by HMDA RELIEF, Lawlor said she would not be able to compile HMDA reports and other fair lending requests due to the size of PenFed, which currently serves 1.2 million members.
“It keeps me current with the latest regulations, which makes my life so much easier,” she said. “It makes all aspects of the fair lending process so much easier and the staff at QuestSoft is always up on the latest changes to all of the Mortgage regulations and is always one step ahead as far as implementing changes to the software ahead of FFIEC deadlines for the various changes.”
Fair Lending Risk Check, a web-based service owned by the regulatory compliance company TRUPOINT Partners, is another technology currently used by almost 20 credit unions.
“We hear every day that financial institutions are simply overwhelmed and they don’t know where to turn,” said Trey Sullivan, president and CEO of the Charlotte, N.C.-based TRUPOINT Partners.
The HMDA requires lenders to ask for race, ethnicity and gender. After a credit union gathers this information, TRUPOINT’s Fair Lending Check examines and aggregates the data, Sullivan said.
“Our fair lending analysis platform allows credit unions to perform statistical and comparative analysis of their loan portfolio in seconds. Our system automatically aggregates the control group—white non-Hispanic men—and compares them to all other borrower types,” Sullivan said.
He added that the software can easily allow client institutions can determine their denial disparity index, origination disparity index, fallout disparity index and product and price disparity index.
“These are key indicators used by the regulators to determine if a lender is treating similarly situated borrowers the same,” he said.
Pam McCollum, mortgage services compliance manager at the $1.6 billion University Federal Credit Union in Austin, Texas, said TRUPOINT’s fair lending products prompted her credit union to lower its minimum mortgage FICO score.
The community chartered credit union’s previous minimum FICO of 660 affected some groups more than others, she said.
“It helped us identify where we were too risk averse,” she said, adding that the tools also helped UFCU set a new minimum FICO of 640.
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UFCU does a brisk mortgage business thanks to the active Austin real estate market, she said. As of August, the credit union was on target to exceed last year’s mortgage volume of $394 million.
McCollum said UFCU hasn’t had a fair lending exam or off-site contact from the NCUA yet, but added that she thinks every credit union with high mortgage volume should anticipate one eventually.
“I welcome that. It doesn’t bother me,” she said. “I think everybody has anxiety about it, but I feel like we are well positioned in that respect. Not that we wouldn’t have exceptions, but TRUPOINT got the juices flowing in terms of how we think about fair lending.”
Along with TRUPOINT’s analysis, McCollum said UFCU implemented fair lending training and wrote new consumer protection policies and procedures to ensure compliance by front-line employees.
With consumer loans, lenders are not allowed to ask for race, ethnicity or gender information. Instead, Sullivan said NCUA examiners request consumer loan information, and then assign an ethnicity code and gender based on a surname. The consumer loan portfolio can then also be checked for possible discriminatory practices.
As a result, TRUPOINT pins the same identifiers to consumer loans and runs its own analysis with Fair Lending Risk Check, Sullivan said.
“We take that data and do the analysis so credit unions have the report long before the examiner comes in and they’re prepared. A credit union can pull disparity loans and make sure the decision is legit,” he said.
In addition to lowering risk for financial institutions, Fair Lending Risk Check claims to improve an institution’s knowledge and its management of compliance.
“Additional features include activity logs, task lists, document management, and comprehensive reporting all serve to simplify Fair Lending compliance,” said a TRUPOINT press release.