On October 13, FDIC Chairman Martin J. Gruenberg spoke at the Seventh Annual FDIC Consumer Research Symposium in Arlington, Virginia. In prepared remarks, Gruenberg discussed his views on the importance of engaging with the independent research community to better understand “consumers’ capabilities, knowledge, and preferences for financial services, as well as their experiences in the financial services market.” According to Gruenberg, the FDIC’s current supervisory approach focuses on methods to “identify, address, and mitigate the risk of consumer harm” at supervised financial institutions, and include the following: (i) an examination process to evaluate whether an institution minimizes the risk of consumer harm by having appropriate policies and procedures and other measures in place to ensure its products and services are compliant with applicable law; (ii) a process to identify how consumers use the information in the context of a given product when establishing which disclosures to prioritize in a risk-based exam; and (iii) a system to analyze data collected through Call Reports, HMDA, and the Community Reinvestment Act designed to identify potential areas of risk and gain insight into supervised institutions’ operations.

Additionally, Gruenberg noted that research helps the FDIC identify opportunities to expand consumers’ access to mainstream financial services. According to recent FDIC data, 7 percent of households are unbanked and an additional 19.9 percent are underbanked—in total, 90 million Americans, or about 27 percent of households. The data, Gruenberg emphasized, “is regularly cited by financial institutions, non-profit organizations, and public officials as providing a basis for understanding the scope of economic inclusion challenges in their communities and as a starting point for considering approaches that can enhance economic inclusion.”