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NCUA Board Member Rodney E. Hood Opening Remarks and Panel Discussion at NCUA’s 2022 DEI & Access Summit “The Benefits of Equity and Equality”

November 2022
NCUA Board Member Rodney E. Hood Opening Remarks and Panel Discussion at NCUA’s 2022 DEI & Access Summit “The Benefits of Equity and Equality”
Rodney E. Hood

NCUA Board Member Rodney E. Hood addresses the audience during the panel discussion he hosted at the NCUA's 2022 DEI & ACCESS Summit.

As Prepared for Delivery on November 3, 2022

Good morning! It’s my pleasure to welcome everyone to day two of the 2022 NCUA DEI & ACCESS Summit. This event is particularly important to me, as I initiated the first NCUA DEI Summit in 2019, when I was serving as Chairman of the Board. This is now our third gathering, and I couldn’t be prouder of the participation and energy you all have brought with you.

Whenever you serve in a leadership position, you hope the things you’re doing will outlive your tenure and endure for the future – but you also recognize that’s not always going to be the case. So, it’s tremendously gratifying to me that my successor in the chairmanship, Mr. Harper, has continued the DEI Summit as an annual event. And it’s my great hope that, a few years from now when Todd hands over the gavel to whoever follows us, his successor will show the same lasting commitment.

Because these issues matter tremendously. We’re all well aware that we live in a highly diverse and changing society, and we’re also aware there are historical inequities and inequalities that persist among far too many American communities. Addressing those inequities and inequalities, making it possible for everyone to participate more fully in the workplace and in society, is simply the right thing to do.

But the compelling need for a commitment to DEI isn’t simply a moral imperative. It’s also good for business, as we’ve seen from any number of high-quality studies. A 2018 McKinsey study summed up the case for DEI in the workplace by noting that businesses and organizations that embraced DEI principles emerged as high-performing competitors in the marketplace.

The McKinsey study highlighted that those employers with a strong DEI commitment were able to recruit from a more extensive talent pool of potential employees, while experiencing higher retention and lower turnover of existing employees. Meanwhile, those employees reported increased engagement and satisfaction in their workplace roles. DEI-centric companies are also shown to have an edge in decision-making and innovation, and to enjoy enhanced financial performance.

All of that adds up to stronger, more effective organizations that are better suited to the challenge of meeting their mission goals in a competitive marketplace and a changing world. And this lesson doesn’t apply only in the for-profit private sector: while credit unions are non-profit cooperative institutions, they still need to compete in the marketplace when it comes to recruiting workforce talent and appealing to the next generation of credit union members.

And finally, a commitment to DEI is vitally important for our efforts at enhancing financial inclusion in our society, which is an urgent priority. I suspect just about everyone in this room has heard me, at one point or another over the last several years, make the case that the financial services industry must lead the way on financial inclusion. I have argued that — as part of that leadership — we must make a priority of diversity, equity, and inclusion to bring us together and serve as sources of enrichment, strength, and unity.

With all that said, I also want to warn against complacency. DEI is not just a matter of “cosmetic” diversity. I’ve always emphasized that it needs to be about more than box-checking. I think you all know what I’m talking about.

I simply want to emphasize that it’s not enough. Our commitment to diversity and inclusion should go further.

That means that a true commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion will consider the other dividing lines in our society, and how we can cross those lines to better serve others. Are we doing enough to reach seniors who may need more assistance? Or to reach younger consumers who lack reliable access to credit and financial services? What about people who live in under-served rural communities where financial services providers have pulled out? What about the special needs of Americans with disabilities, or of military veterans, active-duty personnel, and their families?

Credit unions should be thinking about all of these dividing lines in our diversity and inclusion efforts, both in terms of recruiting employees and in terms of member services. That was why the NCUA Board launched the ACCESS Initiative in 2020, which was intended to start addressing these dividing lines, and which, I’m happy to report, has had some success in its first two years.

I present these ideas as a challenge, and as a spur to action. That was the goal when we launched the DEI Summit in 2019. I’m proud that this Summit is established as an annual event, but I don’t want it to become something where we all get together to repeat the catechism, and then go back to our offices and do what we’ve always been doing. These kinds of events are a great starting point and helpful for generating ideas – but let’s be sure we’re following them with constructive, purposeful action in our institutions and in our daily lives.

But I promised myself I would keep my own remarks brief today, because, first, you all hear from me on a regular basis, and two, I want to make time for some additional perspectives from our panel discussion. Our panel today is titled, “The Benefits of Equity and Equality,” and we have some guests here who will help us to explore the issues I’ve raised here in greater detail — and perhaps help us to think more constructively about how we can translate these ideas into workable action plans.

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