SVB Failure Starts Aggressive Regulation Talk in Washington, IMBs Take NoteNCUA Gets Serious About Credit Union Third Party Vendor Management

November 20, 2019
It did not take long after the Silicon Valley Bank failure for politicians in Washington to rush to the next available microphone and lament the “loosening of bank regulations”. Instinctively the finger pointing began, and in many quarters ended up in the direction of the prior administration’s policy to generally roll back stringent business regulations and allow free market decisions to govern various industries. Chief among the complainants (no pun intended) was Sen Elizabeth Warren, who emerged out of the 2008 crisis as an architect and advocate for the Wall Street Reform Act and the creation of the vaunted Consumer Financial Protection Bureau ( CFPB), which she briefly directed. Just yesterday in DC’s The Hill publication, Sen Warren was reported as blaming the the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank on Republicans in Congress, which in 2018 helped pass a law to ease bank regulations put in place following the 2008 financial crisis. “No one should be mistaken about what unfolded over the past few days in the U.S. banking system: These recent bank failures are the direct result of leaders in Washington weakening the financial rules,” Warren is quoted as saying. According to The Hill piece, Warren, who voted against the 2018 bank deregulation bill, said that the crises would have been avoided if the banks were required to hold more liquid assets because the bill exempted banks with less than $250 billion in assets from rigorous Fed stress tests. Warren and other Democrats say the old rules could have caught the issues at SVB sooner. Given that politicians generally “never let a crisis go to waste,” many now suspect that the banking industry is about to be slammed with heightened regulatory scrutiny, tighter operational rules, more audits and exams, and larger and very public fines, penalties and consent orders. What does this mean for independent mortgage bankers (IMBs)? It means that they have to get back to the compliance mindset they were frightened into adopting between 2008 and 2018, and before the bottoming out of interest rates led everyone to believe that easy money was here to stay and that self-regulation meant hiring more loan officers. Keep those risk management officers and compliance directors close by folks, we are all in for a bumpy ride on the regulatory

The National Credit Union Administration, based in Washington, was an early advocate for vendor management policies.  As early as 2001, the NCUA issued a guideline suggesting that credit unions manage third party service provider risk carefully. The suggestion had no real weight however.

After the CFPB issued its Bulletin 2012-3 bringing third party vendor management much more into the compliance forefront, the NCUA  supported the effort but had no real power to enforce similar rules.  I had the pleasure of meeting with NCUA officials in Spring 2012 to discuss the topic and explain what I was creating to help the industry manage closing table risk from third party settlement professionals. While they liked what they saw they could not do much other than wish me luck.

Today news broke in the Credit Union Times that the NCUA’s Inspector General is investigating the issue of vendor risk to credit unions.  The IG indicated that “the agency faces “unique challenges” because it is the only banking regulator without power to supervise.”

Of course many credit unions outsource more than closing table functions to vendors.  The use of CUSOs, credit union service organizations, to act as the “back office” for credit union lending establishes a significant reliance on third parties for a great deal of the mortgage lending process.

The IG told Congress that, “credit unions regularly hire vendors and these relationships pose various potential risks to credit unions, as they must relinquish a certain level of control over products and services to the third party vendor as an inherent part of the relationship.”  The NCUA is seeking authority from Congress for the power to regulate and supervise third-party vendors.  Not everyone agrees, however.

Some in the credit union community do not want additional oversight, which is a common reaction when an unregulated business practice suddenly is caught in the cross hairs of regulatory scrutiny. As we found when we started Secure Insight back in 2012 as the first closing table vendor management tool, change does not come easily.  People who have had unfettered access to the mortgage process without any regulation, or with little regulation, understandably balk at being the subject of risk management scrutiny.

In the end what is best for consumers is best for business.  It is therefore very likely the credit union industry will see enhanced scrutiny of third party vendor relationships in the near future, coming into line with existing regulations governing banks and mortgage lenders generally.

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