Too Big to Serve: Americans who prefer to use payday lenders, check cashers and other alternative financial service providers over banks are often making a rational choice, according to New School professor Lisa Servon: "As banks have grown larger and their numbers have shrunk, the largest ones have focused so single-mindedly on profit that they have sacrificed their customers in the process." Efforts to help more low- and moderate-income Americans access bank accounts are somewhat misguided, she writes; the focus should first be on improving megabanks' customer service and making sure their product offerings are affordable. One American Banker reader has an alternative solution: "Postal banking solves the problem," writes commenter masaccio. On Twitter, Jason Rudman, whose bio identifies him as KeyBank's senior vice president of consumer payments and deposits, suggests that banks can properly woo working-class Americans when they are "big enough to make an impact but nimble enough to focus."
Postelection Priorities: Those counting on the new Republican-controlled Congress to push through reform of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac should prepare themselves for disappointment, writes analyst Christopher Whalen. He also says that's no big loss, since there are more pressing issues at hand: for one thing, lawmakers should "reopen the Dodd-Frank law and reverse the limitations on loan terms and pricing that bar roughly a third of all Americans from achieving homeownership."
Also on the blog: Bank of the West regional banking executive Andy Harmening encourages the banking industry to follow the lead of tech companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter and be transparent about the gender and ethnic makeup of their workforces. "Showing the data is essential to shining a spotlight on the subject of diversity and will be valuable for measuring progress in coming years," he writes.
Some banks say that new capital and liquidity requirements constitute an unfair burden, but these reforms also provide a window of opportunity for already-healthy lenders to get even further ahead of the competition, according to Accenture's Juan Pedro Moreno and Steve Culp. Cindy Fornelli, a former deputy director of the Securities and Exchange Commission, agrees that the financial industry should adjust its perspective on regulation, writing that "a simple change in mindset moving away from monolithic thinking may help create certainty, unlock innovation and make empty sound bites obsolete."
The midterm elections brought a spot of good news for climate-change activists, according to Coalition for Green Capital chief Reed Hundt: "candidates supporting the creation of state green banks won in nine out of nine states." A green bank, of course, is "a state-charted nonprofit lender that helps to finance clean energy projects."
Foreign banks are even more confused about the Volcker Rule than domestic lenders, Mayra Rodríguez Valladares explains in the latest installment of her series on the challenges that banks face in achieving compliance with the law. Attorney James P. Scanlan argues that a rule that allows banks and other organizations to be held liable for unintentional discrimination under the Fair Housing Act is too vague about how to determine what alternative practices would produce a more equitable effect. And Mortgage Bankers Association head David Stevens gives a round of applause to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's latest risk-sharing deals, which shift part of the liability for losses on mortgage-backed securities to investors.