Q: § __.21(a) – 3: “Responsiveness” to credit and community development needs is either a criterion or otherwise a consideration in all of the performance tests. How do examiners evaluate whether a financial institution has been “responsive” to credit and community development needs?
A: There are three important factors that examiners consider when evaluating responsiveness: quantity, quality, and performance context. Examiners evaluate the volume and type of an institution’s activities, i.e., retail and community development loans and services and qualified investments, as a first step in evaluating the institution’s responsiveness to credit and community development needs. In addition, an assessment of “responsiveness” encompasses the qualitative aspects of performance, including the effectiveness of the activities. For example, some community development activities require specialized expertise or effort on the part of the institution or provide a benefit to the community that would not otherwise be made available. In some cases, a smaller loan may have more benefit to a community than a larger loan. In other words, when evaluated qualitatively, some activities are more responsive than others. Activities are more responsive if they are successful in meeting identified credit and community development needs. For example, investing in a community development organization that specializes in originating home mortgage loans to low- or moderate-income individuals would be considered more responsive than an investment of the same amount in a single-family mortgage-backed security in which the majority of the loans are to low- or moderate-income borrowers. Although both of these activities may receive consideration as a qualified investment, the former example would be considered to be more responsive than the latter.
Examiners evaluate the responsiveness of an institution’s activities to credit and community development needs in light of the institution’s performance context. That is, examiners consider the institution’s capacity, its business strategy, the needs of the community, and the opportunities for lending, investments, and services in the community. To inform their assessment, examiners may consider information about credit and community development needs and opportunities from many sources, including
• demographic and other information compiled by local, state, and Federal government entities;
• public comments received by the Agency, for example, in response to its publication of its planned examination schedule;
• information from community leaders or organizations;
• studies and reports from academic institutions and other research bodies;
• consumer complaint information; and
• any relevant information provided to examiners by the financial institution that is maintained by the institution in its ordinary course of business.
Responsiveness to community development needs and opportunities in an institution’s assessment area(s) is also a key consideration when an institution plans to engage in community development activities that benefit areas outside of its assessment area(s). Q&A § __.12(h) – 6 states that an institution will receive consideration for activities that benefit geographies or individuals located somewhere within a broader statewide or regional area that includes the institution’s assessment area(s) even if they will not benefit the institution’s assessment area(s), as long as the institution has been responsive to community development needs and opportunities in its assessment area(s). When considering whether an institution has been responsive to community development needs and opportunities in its assessment area(s), examiners will consider all of the institution’s community development activities in its assessment area(s). Examiners will also consider as responsive to assessment area needs community development activities that support an organization or activity that covers an area that is larger than, but includes, the institution’s assessment area(s). This is true if the purpose, mandate, or function of the organization or activity includes serving geographies or individuals located within the institution’s assessment area(s), even though the institution’s assessment area(s) did not receive an immediate or direct benefit from the institution’s participation in the organization or activity. For example, suppose an institution were to invest in a statewide community development fund that was organized with the purpose of providing community development loans throughout the state in which the institution is located. Examiners would consider this investment when evaluating the institution’s responsiveness to community development needs and opportunities in its assessment area(s) even if the fund had not provided a loan within the institution’s assessment area(s).
This Interagency Q&A, and others, was released in July 2016.
The 2016 Q&As consolidates and supersedes all previously published “Interagency Questions and Answers Regarding Community Reinvestment,” and were noted as being effective immediately. They may be found here: http://www.ffiec.gov/cra/qnadoc.htm