Tuesday, September 20, Chairman Todd Harper published a letter to federally insured credit unions announcing that the organization would be entering Phase 3 of its onsite operations plan, originally announced back in June 2020 in the midst of the global pandemic.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, NCUA had ceased operations of onsite examinations as a public health and safety measure. In July 2021, Harper announced that Phase 1 of its plan was being implemented. The phase allowed staff and contractors to volunteer to work onsite at credit unions that month. They would also “respect a credit union’s preference to not have examination staff onsite during this phase,” while reserving the right to come onsite regardless if they deemed it necessary.
Phase 2 began in April 2022. Per the letter published then, the agency would continue to “conduct examination steps offsite when feasible and appropriate,” though they did not elaborate on what was appropriate.
As of October 17, onsite examination and supervision activity will resume in all locations.
“Given the lessons learned from offsite examinations conducted during the pandemic, examiners will seek to strike the right balance between onsite and offsite examination and supervision work. Examiners will continue to conduct some examination steps offsite when they can be completed efficiently and effectively in credit unions that can accommodate the offsite work,” wrote Harper.
What the letters do not address is why a return to onsite examinations is necessary or advisable, either from a supervisory or budgetary standpoint.
Former NCUA Executive Director Mark Treichel, however, suggested that the decision is supported by examiners and credit unions alike. NCUA staff as they miss the collaboration and dialogue with credit union management. “I’ve also spoken to a lot of credit unions who are really looking forward to the examiners coming back onsite because they feel that NCUA has asked for substantially more documents than they do normally, and that the communication, albeit while everybody is trying to communicate as best they can, that doing it remotes just leads to breakdowns in communications and a more challenging examination,” Treichel said.
NCUA will also reopen its facilities to the public, allowing them to meet with agency personnel.