Does NCUA’s MERIT have . . . merit?

Computer keyboard and mouse

In recent months NCUA has been talking about a new system of some kind that’s supposed to help with exams, but none of the descriptions I read really helped me understand the system’s purpose. So, I sat in on an NCUA webinar on the subject.

Here are slides from the meeting, in pdf.

Turns out that the Modernized Examination and Risk Identification Tools (MERIT), are designed primarily to streamline the exam process by providing communication and project tracking tools.

There are actually several pieces to MERIT:

  • An Admin Portal allows credit unions to manage users for the tool.
  • MERIT, itself, makes it easy to transfer files securely and track exam progress and results.
  • Data Exchange Application (DEXA) will replace AIRES, and like AIRES is a tool for uploading member account and loan information. Fortunately, the data schema will stay the same as already outlined in the NCUA Letter to Credit Unions 03-CU-05.

Chart of NCUA's new tech tools

In the brief walk-through that NCUA gave in the webinar, the tool appears to be fairly intuitive once you nail down some of the terminology. Here’s what I see being the benefits:

  • Improved information exchange. A common complaint I’ve heard about exams is that multiple examiners will request the same file. Well, here examiners from both the state and NCUA will have access to all the files you’ve provided. This should reduce duplicate requests.
  • Results of exams can be tracked and reported on in the application. This means that when a credit union has worked on or completed working on a particular finding of an exam, it can be noted right in the application. It’s documented there, for interested parties to see.
  • Specific tasks can be assigned to specific people. This is great for credit unions that have multiple people working on action items. Whoever is responsible can receive the assignment for the item, and record progress and completion. It’ll be easy to see and track the status of work and progress.

It appears that the tool should make logistics of working with examiners easier, as all information is in one place. Even when the state is conducting an exam on a state-chartered credit union without the NCUA, the state and the credit union use the tool to move the exam along.

Notably, MERIT doesn’t affect how Call Reports are submitted, and using MERIT in your exam is not required. However, AIRES will be phased out later this year, meaning DEXA will be required. The DEXA files will also require an additional bit of information—mapping loan and share type codes to a standardize loan type similar to 5300 Call Report categories.

The screen shots that NCUA showed looked fine. The user interface looked functional and clean. The real proof will be when you start using the tool, and whether it functions as advertised. I’d be interested in hearing your feedback on it, once you have a chance to use it.