Prepared Remarks of CFPB Director Richard Cordray at the Consumer Advisory Board Meeting
Thank you for joining us as we at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau meet with our Consumer Advisory Board. We always look forward to our dialogue with our CAB members, who share with us their perspective, their expertise, and their actual experience on the ground. We are all here because we care deeply about how people are being treated in the consumer financial marketplace.
We are particularly glad today to be welcoming seven new CAB members; a new chair, Bill Bynum; and a new vice chair, Maeve Elise Brown. With our new CAB members, we now will have further opportunities to hear different perspectives and expertise. I thank them for joining us and I thank all of you for your public service.
As we meet here today, we recognize that perhaps no single aspect of life in America has changed more in the past generation than the relationship between people and their technological devices. It is a fast-moving and exciting phenomenon. The information age is transforming leisure, the workplace, and indeed all of modern society. It is likewise inevitable that these changes will have vast consequences for the consumer financial marketplace.
The worthy challenge for any system of financial regulation is how to make sure our oversight of the marketplace can keep up with these far-reaching shifts. We must grasp both the pace and the direction of fundamental change. And we have to understand and encourage the tremendous benefits of innovation without undermining the equally important goal of protecting consumers in the marketplace.
Just consider how quickly the technological revolution is unfolding all around us. In the United States today, about 90 percent of adults now own a cell phone and thus have ready mobile access to remote and instantaneous communications. A generation ago, hardly anyone did. Consider also that in America today, almost 50 million people now have tablets. For many people, they are a ubiquitous part of life, and they give us ready mobile access to information of all kinds.
By accessing the Internet, downloading certain applications, or using text messaging, people can now complete most of their transactions and a great deal of their financial management by using their phones and other mobile devices. Consumers are using their devices to pay bills online or send funds to other consumers or businesses. More and more they are engaged in mobile banking, using their phones as tools to access their existing accounts at a bank or credit union or some other type of financial institution. One study by the Federal Reserve found that one-third of cell phone users and more than half of smartphone owners are using mobile banking services. And according to one independent researcher, approximately 74,000 consumers per day began using mobile banking services last year.
In this modern age where people can manage their money on the go, there is great potential to provide access to more consumers, to help them build financial capability and allow them to take greater control of their financial lives. At the same time, using mobile devices for all sorts of banking services can make some transactions cheaper or faster or both. But we need to make sure that the legal and regulatory framework can keep up effectively, so that all consumers can be well served and remain protected, whether they are opening their wallet or scanning the screen on their smartphone.
We recently issued a Request for Information that touches on a wide array of issues related to mobile banking and financial management services. We want to know more about how emerging technologies are affecting the opportunities and challenges that consumers are facing. The inquiry also specifically addresses how the use of mobile payment products can be used to improve the financial lives of underserved consumers. We also want to know how technological innovations can offer everyone opportunities for real-time money management. And we want to know how financial institutions are using technologies to better serve consumers. The public comments period for this request closed just yesterday, and we look forward to digesting all the public input along with the feedback we get from CAB members today. And, of course, as new developments occur we may decide to seek further input from the public on these issues over time.
At the Consumer Bureau, we have our sights set firmly on the future. We know consumers are heading in the direction of using more and different kinds of technologies for financial services and products. To this end, we ourselves are leveraging technology to create tools to help consumers navigate the consumer financial marketplace. For example, we have our “Ask CFPB” resource, which provides more than 1,000 expert answers to commonly asked questions about consumer finance. Our “Paying for College” set of tools is designed to help families consider their options with this life-altering decision point and assess the costs and risks in terms that are easy to understand. And we are developing other tools, such as “Owning a Home,” for people handling other momentous but rare financial decisions such as how best to go about shopping for a mortgage. These tools are user-friendly, easy to navigate, and presented in plain language that consumers can understand and rely on. And one of the beautiful aspects of modern technology is that it will enable us to continue to update and improve these tools as we get more and more public feedback on their usability.
We are also making particular progress with our public Consumer Complaint Database, which is playing a tangible role in producing a shift in the financial industry toward more emphasis on excellent customer service. Our Home Mortgage Disclosure Act database is an easy-to-use, online tool that enables consumers to explore public information about the mortgage market. And our Project Catalyst is an initiative designed to encourage consumer-friendly innovation and entrepreneurship in markets for consumer financial products and services.
The Bureau oversees all consumer financial markets, ranging from mortgages to bank accounts to credit cards to student loans, and many more as well. These markets are worth trillions of dollars, and there is no doubt that modern technologies will continue to play an increasingly important role in how consumers interact with money and credit. The job of our new agency is to do all we can to ensure that financial products and services actually are helping consumers rather than harming them, and that is why we look forward to a frank discussion of these issues today.
In short, at the Consumer Bureau, we are not content just to watch technology unfold before considering and taking appropriate action as it affects consumers in the financial marketplace. We intend to move forward alongside industry, keeping an eye out to protect consumers as these new technologies develop, not simply after-the-fact. We appreciate all of you joining us here today to engage in what I am sure will be a most interesting and productive conversation. Thank you.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is a 21st century agency that helps consumer finance markets work by making rules more effective, by consistently and fairly enforcing those rules, and by empowering consumers to take more control over their economic lives. For more information, visit www.consumerfinance.gov.