Regulatory overhaul for nonbanks may be on the horizon as calls for change grow

The news: M&T Bank CEO René Jones urged industry watchdogs to hold alternative lenders to the same regulatory standards as traditional banks in a letter to shareholders.

More on this: The regional US bank’s head questioned the effectiveness of current regulations.

  • Jones asked how effective the watchdog can be if nonbanks and traditional banks aren’t overseen by the same regulatory standards.
  • He singled out nonbanks’ growing share of the lending market and said the “pace of this disintermediation from the regulated banking industry has accelerated.”
  • Jones also took aim at the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), a law seeking to ensure that banks serve low to moderate income savers. Alternative lenders aren’t required to adhere to the CRA despite holding what he claimed was around 60% of the market share.

Watchdog inconsistency? Customer complaints within the banking industry spiked in the last year, per a Deloitte report, much of it driven by product innovation like buy now, pay later (BNPL) financing and digital currencies.

  • Financial products like these are often sold to consumers by entities regulated as nonbank lenders at the state level, but in many cases, they’re working in partnership with a federally supervised bank.
  • The shifting US banking landscape has created a complex patchwork of legislation. That means regulators sometimes treat banks and alternative lenders differently, which could leave consumers unwittingly unprotected against things like fraud.

What’s next? The pace of banking innovation has left regulators grappling with how to govern the new lending ecosystem effectively.

  • Remarks from industry leaders like Jones raise the prospect of stronger consumer protection laws and regulations in US banking that extend to alternative lenders, like a modernized CRA.
  • More regulatory guidance is needed to address a lack of clarity and consistency among US regulatory agencies on the treatment of new digital products like crypto and BNPL.
  • The gap in regulation has hurt both borrowers and traditional banks. Updated regulations are needed to level the competitive field and to address the evolving banking landscape.