On May 9, the OCC updated its Comptroller’s Handbook to include a new booklet titled “Student Lending.” Despite banks having to alter their private student lending strategies as a result of the 2008 financial crisis, the OCC’s booklet maintains that banks can still benefit from the wider array of consumer products and the broader business model that the private student lending industry offers. The new booklet contains information related to banks’ participation in the private student lending industry, including, but not limited to:
- Inherent credit, interest rate, liquidity, price, operational, compliance, strategic, and reputation risks in the industry.
- Unique aspects of private student loans, such as the “significant time lag between loan advances and repayment, and the student borrower’s lack of certainty in finding a stable, reliable primary source of repayment after graduation.”
- Regulatory expectations for safe and sound operations, cautioning that banks should adhere to the credit underwriting and documentation standards as stated in 12 CFR 30, appendix A, “Safety and Soundness Standards.”
- Risk management practices, reminding banks that use third parties to market, solicit, or originate private student loans to have in place risk management frameworks that include due diligence in selecting third parties, written contracts that have been vetted for duties, obligations, and responsibilities of all parties (compensation parameters included), and ongoing monitoring and quality assurance programs.
Designed for examiners to use in their examination and supervision of banks involved in the private student lending industry, the booklet outlines two sets of examination procedures: (i) primary examination, when an examiner’s objective is to “assess risk level, evaluate the quality of risk management, and determine the aggregate level and direction of risk of the bank’s student lending activities”; and (ii) supplemental examination, when examiners “determine whether student lending marketing activities are consistent with the bank’s business plans, strategic plans, and risk appetite, and that appropriate controls and systems are in place before the bank rolls out new products or new-product marketing initiatives.” Finally, the booklet advises examiners reviewing banks’ student lending activities to “remain alert for lending practices and product terms that could indicate discriminatory, unfair, deceptive, abusive, or predatory issues.”