NCUA's Hood: Industry must take up 'difficult conversations' on race

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Rodney Hood, chairman of the National Credit Union Administration, is calling on the industry “to have difficult conversations” following the death of George Floyd and to find ways to promote inclusion within the communities CUs serve.

In a statement Tuesday, Hood called Floyd’s death “yet another instance of abuse of authority and violence against a black man.” Demonstrations erupted nationwide — sometimes turning violent and destructive — after Floyd died in police custody last week in Minneapolis.

Hood, who is the first African American to lead a federal banking regulator, noted he understood the anguish that has boiled over.

“As an African-American man, I am shocked and appalled, and share the heartbreak of many in the black community,” Hood said. “I am all too familiar with the anger and frustration that comes with the everyday challenges and realities surrounding race.”

Hood said he felt moved to speak out because of his personal experiences with discrimination. He said he has sometimes been the only man of color during professional events and has found others were surprised when he was a speaker during a panel discussion.

The chairman previously discussed those challenges during the regulator’s inaugural summit on diversity, equity and inclusion last fall.

The financial services industry has notoriously struggled with ensuring racial diversity, especially within the top ranks of management. Less than 3% of credit union CEOs were African American as of August 2018, according to the African-American Credit Union Coalition.

In his statement, Hood recounted discussions his father had with him regarding how to handle police encounters.

Rodney Hood, chairman of the National Credit Union Administration

“I vividly remember the conversations with my father about how to engage with police when pulled over, and my mother performing safety checks on my car before I went out on the weekends to ensure the signal lights and brake lights were all functioning properly,” he said. “In 2020, I find myself having similar conversations with my young African-American cousins.”

Under Hood, the agency has prioritized issues of diversity and inclusion. Besides hosting the DEI summit, NCUA has also recently formed a Culture, Diversity and Inclusion Council to review its internal culture and increased the percentage of women and minorities in senior staff roles last year.

The agency has also encouraged credit unions to fill out its diversity self-assessment, though the response rate still remains low.

In Tuesday’s statement, Hood encouraged others to “make a difference — one conversation and relationship at a time.”

“True inclusion within our financial regulators, financial institutions and communities is a goal we all must strive towards,” Hood said. “Diversity is important, but without cultural change that encourages true inclusion, it risks being little more than checking the right boxes.”

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Racial Bias Diversity and equality NCUA
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