Q: § __.21(a) – 4: What is meant by “innovativeness”?
A: “Innovativeness” is one of several qualitative considerations under the lending, investment, and service tests. The community development test for wholesale and limited purpose institutions similarly considers “innovative” loans, investments, and services in the evaluation of performance. Under the CRA regulations, all innovative practices or activities will be considered when an institution implements meaningful improvements to products, services, or delivery systems that respond more effectively to customer and community needs, particularly those segments enumerated in the definition of community development.
Institutions should not innovate simply to meet this criterion of the applicable test, particularly if, for example, existing products, services, or delivery systems effectively address the needs of all segments of the community. See Q&A § __.28 – 1. Innovative activities are especially meaningful when they emphasize serving, for example, low- or moderate-income consumers or distressed or underserved nonmetropolitan middle-income geographies in new or more effective ways. Innovativeness may also include products, services, or delivery systems already present in the assessment area by institutions that are not leaders in innovation—due, for example, to the lack of available financial resources or technological expertise—when they subsequently introduce those products, services, or delivery systems to their low- or moderate-income customers or segments of consumers or markets not previously served. Practices that cease to be innovative may still receive qualitative consideration for being flexible, complex, or responsive.
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