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NCUA Board Member Todd M. Harper Statement on the State of the Credit Union Industry’s Diversity

November 2020
NCUA Board Member Todd M. Harper Statement on the State of the Credit Union Industry’s Diversity

As Prepared for Delivery on November 19, 2020

Monica, thank you for your presentation on the state of the credit union industry’s diversity and the results of the 2019 voluntary credit union diversity self-assessment. I am very grateful for everything that you and your team in the Office of Minority and Women Inclusion do to cultivate diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging at the NCUA and within the credit union system. Your work has demonstrated in a very real way that the diverse perspectives, skills and talents of a workforce are valuable. What is more, your work shows diversity is also a strength that the NCUA and credit unions must nurture.

These are just two reasons why I am fully invested in diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. Nurturing diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging is also the right thing to do for our agency, the credit union system and our nation. It is also why when speaking with credit unions, I keep beating the drum for diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging being vital to strategy, sustainable growth, innovation, talent acquisition, employee retention, and increasing a credit union’s ability to add members and create new products.

I also regularly recommend that a credit union begin its investment in diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging by taking the NCUA’s voluntary diversity self-assessment. Credit unions I have visited have used the voluntary self-assessment to establish plans of action, such as the commitment to develop new products and services aimed at addressing the needs of communities of color, increasing investment in underserved areas and improving community marketing and outreach.

One of the best credit union diversity epiphanies that I have witnessed occurred last year. I met with the leadership team of a billion-dollar credit union, and I shared the diversity self-assessment tool with them. Afterwards, one executive told me that merely looking through the items in the diversity self-assessment survey “shifted” his thinking and added that the survey was a “great chance to do a little good in the world.” Unfortunately, not all credit unions are in this mindset, and I have heard from some who fear NCUA examiners will have access to the information contained in the voluntary self-assessment, and that information would negatively affect their exams.

Monica, I view one of my responsibilities on the NCUA Board as making all credit unions more comfortable with taking the voluntary self-assessment. Would you please tell us in detail who has access to the survey data and how it is used? What more would you recommend the NCUA Board do to encourage credit unions to participate in the self-assessment?

Shifting gears, let us drill down on the trends we see in slide 9. On its face, the slide shows the trend lines in diversity self-assessment standards are mostly flat or declining. Monica, is this something about which we should be concerned?

If more credit unions take the assessment on a yearly basis, we will have a better picture of the true state of credit union diversity. We will know where to focus our efforts. One by one, credit unions who embrace diversity, ensure equity, and include all potential members in their work will gradually change the entire credit union system.

Turning now to a few of the other key points in your presentation – the 2018 credit union guide to supplier diversity, the DEI Summit and the DEI Collective. Please know that I remain fully committed to encouraging credit unions, with the resources, to establish supplier diversity programs that conduct proactive outreach to minority- and women-owned businesses and encourage them to bid on procurement opportunities.

And, building on the great success of last year’s DEI summit, my expectation is that the agency would continue hosting an annual DEI event. I know the pandemic has delayed our plans this year, but we had very good feedback after last year’s summit. What are the plans for another summit? In my view, it is important to keep considering best practices and brainstorming, studying how to recruit and retain talent, collaborating on the best methods for collecting data, and learning why diversity is critical to growth and innovation in the credit union system. The DEI summit helps us to achieve these goals.

Five years ago when you first joined the NCUA, the idea of a DEI Collective within the credit union system was just a dream. Today, it is a reality. Monica, what more do you envision for the agency and the industry in the next five years?

Monica, thank you for your determination, vision and outstanding leadership. In the years ahead of us, we will have the chance to double down on diversity and advance equity, inclusion and belonging within the NCUA and the entire credit union system. As we strategize how to further progress in this area, what are some best practices for organizations committed to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging can focus on? Should these efforts be led by the head of the organization or the entire leadership? As you noted, a diverse leadership team and workforce are necessary for any systemic change to take hold. Monica, what more can an organization do to change culture?

Thank you, once again, Monica. You can count on me to continue making all decisions through the lens of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, and I will continue to encourage other leaders in the credit union system to do the same. In doing so, we will be following the timeless call-to-action that John Lennon offered us in his song “Imagine.” “I hope some day you’ll join us. And the world will be as one.”

As a leader in this agency, I commit to do more than hope. I commit to action and to being a steadfast advocate for diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging when I speak and when I act.

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