Let’s face it, in that great deluge of new regulations and guidance, we’re all at best “treading water”. Many CEO’s and officers have asked, “Do you have some suggestions to give us on keeping compliant”. As with any discipline, there’s never an easy answer. Here are various suggestions that successful compliance officers have offered over time that seem to work for them:
Read and stay up to date. Information is now at a premium but we have numerous means of efficiently capturing it. Use all available resources. This includes state and national trade association periodical, webinars and list serves. Vendors have devoted whole web sites to providing timely information that can be obtained through any search engine (ex., Google, Bing). Regulatory agencies including NCUA, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Federal Reserve, Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC) provide summaries and white papers that allow various perspectives on laws and regulations.
Consistently review and audit policies and procedures. Never be satisfied. No matter how well you believe your policies and procedures to be written, regularly test them to determine shortcomings or hidden problems. Policies and procedures should always be “works in progress”.
Make sure that senior management buys in to your program. You can be the best Compliance Officer, have perfect policies and procedures and receive accolades from examiners but if you don’t have senior management support, your next step may always be disastrous. It is important for all of senior management (CEO, COO, CFO, EVP Operations, EVP Lending, etc.)to not only buy in but also encourage compliance efforts as part of an effective business strategy. The key here is “education”. The more information that you can provide, the more comfortable these executives can be with your recommendations and suggestions.
Be proactive! Three words: Anticipate; Speculate; Extrapolate. Anticipate regulatory changes by studying trends and watching how supervisory and regulatory professionals are reacting. This leads to the second area of consideration – speculate. Make a determination (speculation) based upon past and recent regulatory trends. The brings us to “extrapolate”- to use known facts as the starting point from which to draw inferences or conclusions about something unknown. Once the trends and facts align, we can usually determine what will be coming in the way of regulation or guidance.
Don’t depend wholly on exams and audits to gauge your programs effectiveness. The biggest mistake made by many compliance professionals is to assume that because an exam or audit did not pinpoint or spotlight a particular inaccuracy or omissions, it’s “not important” or “OK”. Coming across problems or issues that examiners/auditors failed to find is a benefit for us in that it evidences the effectiveness of our internal system and showcases our ability to cure this items expeditiously.
Set up and maintain a program! Organize your activities, data and networks. Know absolutely who is
“key” in accomplishing your compliance goals. Make sure that staff is aware of the importance of compliance issues with regard to their individual areas. Of most urgency is setting up a database of rules, regulations, their timing and implementation as well as the consequences of failure if they are not achieved.