Lending Perspectives: With credit unions’ mortgage success comes responsibility

Fair lending includes providing loan application assistance in a non-discriminatory way.

In 2006, I attended a roundtable in Las Vegas to discuss how credit unions could build market share in mortgages. At the time, credit unions had about 2% of the market nationwide. “Two to 10 in 10” was the rallying cry; 10% market share in 10 years.

At the time, it seemed like a Big Hairy Audacious Goal for sure, yet credit unions have seen their market share hit 10% and settled in the 9% range the last several years.

Credit unions have certainly been helped by the financial crisis, as more borrowers sought us out because we never participated in the pick-a-payment loan business or did anything else that created the mess in the housing market. We also have to give an assist to some of the big banks that have, for the most part, abandoned affordable housing and mortgages, preferring to make jumbo loans to wealthy customers with the promise of additional cross-sold products.

Yet with this market share comes profound responsibility, and a commitment to fair lending is without a doubt in my mind the biggest responsibility—and potential pitfall. Ask a lot of lenders about fair lending, and you’ll get this response: “We don’t discriminate; we want to make loans.” They believe that having strong policies prohibiting discrimination, paired with fairly routine and consistent training, are sufficient to ensure fair lending. Yet when it comes to fair lending, forgive the pun, it’s not that black and white.

 

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