HELP FOR HOMEOWNERS: The California Reinvestment Coalition's Kevin Stein and Divya Rao discuss a new survey that identifies several problems plaguing struggling homeowners, including unequal access to housing assistance and loan modifications that get lost when banks sell their mortgage servicing rights. Stein and Rao recommend that regulators take several steps to protect borrowers. Among their suggestions: settlement agreements with banks over shoddy mortgage servicing and lending practices should set aside a portion of the penalty to go toward securing troubled borrowers housing counselors and legal advocates. They also urge federal agencies to come up with a solution for family members who risk losing their homes when their loved ones pass away because of red tape. Reader Seth Hoskins had another suggestion: "Homeowners must bolster homeowner protection," he wrote on Twitter. "My opinion. = )"
TELLER-TO-SELLER SOLUTION: If banks want their tellers to successfully tout products and services, they need to start recruiting people with sharp sales skills, according to Diebold's Brian Porter. They should also encourage better salesmanship by raising teller pay, tying compensation to performance and carving out clear career paths for branch staff, Porter writes. "Banks that change the way they hire may take on larger expenses in the short-term," he says, "but these investments will ultimately pay off in terms of both profits and reputation."
Also on the blog: Lynn David argues that many banks have failed to ensure that their employment practices comply with federal and state regulations and identifies a few specific areas for improvement.
Bain partners Karim Ahmad and Gerard du Toit recommend that banks start incorporating mobile payments into their long-term digital strategies or risk getting left behind.
BankThink deputy editor Sarah Todd argues that financial inclusion efforts need to identify and remove the obstacles that can keep low-income people from accessing useful services. The Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund, which gives people registering in government programs the opportunity to sign up for affordable, low-fee bank accounts, offers one useful template. "People often mistake those who are in financial difficulty as people who need education," says the CFE Fund's chief executive Jonathan Mintz. "But what they really need is opportunity. Laying out the appropriate banking opportunities, savings opportunities and debt-reduction opportunities are all well-absorbed by people in need."
Credit Suisse's $2.6 billion settlement with U.S. authorities ruffled the feathers of many Twitterati, who argued that a bank that pleads guilty to helping Americans evade taxes ought to face tougher consequences. Deputy BankThink editor Sarah Todd rounded up several astute reactions to the deal, including that of Robert Jenkins, a former member of the Bank of England's Financial Policy Committee. "No one goes to jail," Jenkins wrote on Twitter. "No material impact on the business. Shareholders pick up the tab. So where is the deterent (sic)?"
Kathlyn L. Farrell of Treliant Risk Advisors argues that banks will never achieve regulatory excellence until they start making the people in charge of product business lines take ownership of compliance.
The current debate about designating nonbanks as systemically important financial institutions suffers from widespread misconceptions about their business models and risk, according to Christopher Whalen of the Kroll Bond Rating Agency.
Why aren't more women in banking and finance sitting on the C-suite? Gender bias and organizational culture play a big role, according to Suffolk University professor of management Jodi Detjen, but so do a few self-defeating assumptions. Detjen urges women to stop striving for perfection across all areas 100% of the time and to talk with their partners about the equal division of home and family responsibilities.
Healthcare lenders should brace themselves for short-term chaos spurred by the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, according to Timothy Lupinacci of the law firm of Baker Donelson. Lupinacci recommends that lenders safeguard themselves against the risk of defaults and bankruptcies by carefully assessing their borrowers' preparedness for the changing landscape of medicine.