Citigroup announced the launch of two government-sponsored programs to expand access to credit in underserved communities, reports The Wall Street Journal.
The two pilot programs will begin next year under the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency’s Project REACh, or Roundtable for Economic Access and Change. One program “will issue credit cards to people without credit scores, while the other will make it easier for small businesses owned by minorities, women, and veterans to get credit.”
Citigroup is joining other banks including JPMorgan Chase & Co., Wells Fargo & Co., and U.S. Bancorp who are already working with Project REACh to release their bank-account data to help approve more borrowers for credit cards. According to the report, 50 million Americans lack traditional credit scores, which is the measuring stick that banks use to review credit applications.
Gonzalo Luchetti, who heads Citigroup’s U.S. consumer-banking operations, believes that the initiative will grant access to potential clients with credit issues into the financial markets.
“We’ve been looking at how we can lower barriers for entrance into financial services,” Luchetti said.
Although the program is in its earlier stages, bankers stated that loans issued through Project REACh are performing just as well as those given outside the program and the number of loans will increase in the coming year.
“We’ve done a lot of push-ups to advance this effort,” said Mark Brucker, the chief risk officer in JPMorgan’s consumer bank. “You’re seeing other banks see the benefit of those push-ups and want to get involved.”
Citigroup also announced another program to be established in 20 branches in Los Angeles ”to funnel more loans to small businesses owned by women, minorities and veterans.” The bank will lower its previous thresholds for acceptable credit scores and other underwriting standards.
Several financial institutions are adopting new lending practices to help more borrowers access financial products. Last week, Bank of America announced a program to offer zero down payment mortgages as well as zero closing costs for residents in select cities to combat the racial wealth gap.
The bank said the program, called the Community Affordable Loan Solution, “aims to help eligible individuals and families obtain an affordable loan to purchase a home.”