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FDIC Efforts to Increase Consumer Participation in the Insured Banking System

The FDIC Office of Inspector General has issued its report on FDIC Efforts to Increase Consumer Participation in the Insured Banking System.  By way of background, the FDIC’s 2021 FDIC National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households found that an estimated 4.5 percent of U.S. households were unbanked—meaning no one in the household had a checking or savings account at a bank or credit union.  Additionally, an estimated 14.1 percent of U.S. households were underbanked—meaning someone in the household had a bank account, but they also used nonbank products or services, such as money orders, check cashing, international remittances, rent-to-own services or payday, pawn shop, tax refund anticipation, or auto title loans.

The FDIC defines economic inclusion as the general population’s ability to participate in all aspects of a nation’s economy, to include access to safe, affordable financial products and services.  The FDIC published its Economic Inclusion Strategic Plan (EISP) in June 2019.  Its goal: to “promote[] the widespread availability and effective use of affordable, and sustainable products and services from insured depository institutions that help consumers and entrepreneurs meet their financial goals.” From 2020 to 2023, the FDIC identified an FDIC Performance Goal to increase participation in the insured banking system through the implementation of the FDIC EISP.

We conducted an evaluation to determine whether the FDIC developed and implemented an effective strategic plan to increase the participation of unbanked and underbanked consumers in the insured banking system. Key findings were as follows:

  • The EISP aligned with several strategic planning best practices.  However, the FDIC can strengthen the effectiveness of future EISPs by incorporating additional best practices into the strategic planning process.  These include performing a comprehensive assessment of the landscape; developing outcome-based measures for monitoring and evaluating progress; and identifying the internal risks and resources needed to achieve desired outcomes.
  • The stated goal of the EISP generally supported the FDIC Performance Goal of increasing consumer participation in the insured banking system.  However, the FDIC can strengthen connections between the annual FDIC Performance Goal and the EISP by ensuring that the expressed intent of annual goals related to the FDIC’s economic inclusion efforts matches the goals and objectives articulated in the EISP.
  • The FDIC can improve the implementation of future EISPs by aligning internal resources to achieve program objectives and measuring the outcomes of its economic inclusion efforts. 
  • The FDIC’s risk mitigation strategies to address economic inclusion efforts could more clearly address risks related to implementing strategic objectives, effective controls, and responsive programs to promote economic inclusion. 

Collectively, these actions would help the FDIC make the best use of Agency resources, ensure accountability, monitor progress, and make its strategic plan more effective in promoting economic inclusion.

We made 14 recommendations in the report.  The FDIC concurred with all recommendations and plans to complete corrective actions by December 30, 2024.