A 10-year-old’s take on regulatory compliance

Credit union compliance firm reflects on a decade of work in the evolving world of financial regulation

By age 10, most kids are growing two inches and gaining 7 pounds a year. Most companies, on the other hand, have stopped growing altogether. In fact, 96 percent close up shop before they ever reach their tenth year. Leaders for PolicyWorks, a credit union compliance firm celebrating a decade in business this year, say they are proud of the compliance assistance provided to credit unions over that time and energized by future opportunities.

The firm’s vice president of regulatory compliance, Cindy Williams, is not surprised by the demand the company has experienced, particularly from credit unions. With more than 20 years in financial institution compliance, she has enjoyed a front-row seat for the expanded need for regulatory assistance, particularly among credit unions.

Reflecting on the difference between today’s regulatory environment and that of a decade ago, Williams made the following observations.

10 years ago…

  • Compliance officers were viewed as a resource to answer quick questions or provide limited input in a meeting. Now, they are driving the meetings, are often members of senior management teams and are providing strategic guidance to their CEOs and boards of directors.
  • There were one or two major regulatory issuances each year. Now, there are multiple issuances a year to sort through and implement.
  • The Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS) was a regulatory agency, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) wasn’t even a sparkle in anyone’s eye. Now, the OTS has been absorbed by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), and the CFPB is arguably the most powerful regulatory agency overseeing U.S. financial institutions.
  • Online banking was the next big thing. Now, we have technology like mobile banking, P2P payments, bitcoin, blockchain and digital wallets, just to name a few. To each of these, compliance officers must apply countless regulatory requirements, many of which have not kept up with technology changes.
  • Compliance officers probably found it a little easier to sleep at night.

Formed by the Iowa Credit Union League back in 2006 with a couple employees, PolicyWorks has since become a national leader in credit union compliance solutions. Today, with 20 employees and serving more than 1,200 credit unions in nearly every U.S. state, the firm provides a wide range of services – all in the name of easing what continues to be a growing compliance burden for the movement.

Just a few of the milestones PolicyWorks has achieved over a decade in business, include:

  • Responded to more than 23,000 hot line calls and emails
  • Performed more than 650 compliance audits
  • Reviewed more than 15,000 marketing/advertising pieces

Quickly building upon early success in the increasingly complex regulatory compliance environment, PolicyWorks has experienced significant growth as it has partnered with other leagues across the country to provide dues-based compliance services to their members.  At the same time, the company has continued to introduce consulting and audit services needed to help credit unions address compliance requirements.

In 2015, two additional leagues, the Ohio Credit Union League and the California/Nevada Credit Union League, became equity owners of the company.

“Our vision from 10 years ago remains our focus today – we want to be a national leader of credit union compliance solutions.  If we are successful at that, we will ease the compliance burden for our credit union partners so they can devote their time and energy to superior member experiences,” said Justin Hupfer, CEO of PolicyWorks. “We’ve been fortunate to have strong partnerships with many leagues, our sister companies and CUNA. Those relationships have helped us grow and provide greater assistance to credit unions. While we are celebrating our past years of success, we are also looking ahead. We plan to grow our talent, evolve our products and services and collaborate with others to help more credit unions navigate the ever-changing world of compliance.”

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