Are you tired of leading the ‘No Department?’

Regulatory compliance often tops the list of burdens standing in the way of the creativity or change in mindset needed to foster true innovation. And yet, it doesn’t have to be this way.

Compliance officers will tell you their teams often suffer from the stigma of leading the “No Department.” That’s because their guidance can often be viewed as stifling to new ideas. There are several factors that perpetuate this idea. With some adaptation of the way things have always been done, that can change.

  • Insist on a seat at the product development table

It’s not unusual for a product development team to get its idea nearly all the way ironed out before checking on its alignment with regulatory requirements. More compliance officers and others working in such a capacity need to take the initiative to prevent this from happening. Keep your ear to the ground and insist on regular invitations to product and marketing meetings. That will give compliance a seat at the table as new ideas are hatched.

  • Stick with it

If a new or tweaked product will not clear specific mandates, encourage the product team to keep trying. Help them find an alternative. Keep working, be flexible and don’t give up. An answer is out there.

  • Give yourself time

To lessen the “silo effect” that comes from operating in a different department, meet regularly with product and marketing teams to understand what is coming. This allows you time to review campaigns well ahead of when they are due.

Another thing you can do is proactively communicate new or proposed rules, or even rulemaking chatter, to the various department heads within the credit union. When you see something looming for a particular area, share it. The result is better visibility for your expertise.

  • Consider your vendors

A common problem that has faced many credit unions in recent years is a lack of readiness on the part of their software partners. One well-known example is the collection of vendors that were not ready to handle HMDA changes in time for the rules’ effective dates. As a result, compliance teams around the country have had to make some tough decisions, including advising their lending teams to put a temporary halt on impacted loans.

Credit unions adding or tweaking their products to serve members in new ways can easily experience the same. When a necessary vendor partner is not yet in a position to help bring the product to launch with full compliance, the credit union’s regulatory watchdogs can find themselves delivering the bad news to an eager product team.

Remember, the movement is fortunate to have a wide array of experienced and agile service providers. It just comes down to being patient, doing the research and finding the right match for the credit union’s budget and needs.

Compliance is Innovation’s Insurance Policy

Nothing drives credit union people forward faster than the assurance their project is poised to improve – not hinder – the financial lives of members. Strategic compliance consultation gives innovators that confidence. When all the regulatory I’s have been dotted and T’s have been crossed, product and marketing folks can move full steam ahead. They don’t have to stop at every milestone to check in with the regulatory police.

When credit union leaders look at compliance from this perspective, they begin to see it less as a stifling force and more as an insurance policy. It’s there to protect the credit union from going down a path that is not in the best interest of members – or worse, one that will get the cooperative into legal or regulatory trouble.  

Jason Skemp

Jason Skemp

As PolicyWorks’ Director of Audit Services, Jason Skemp is responsible for the delivery of PolicyWorks' compliance review services provided to credit unions nationwide. Jason works extensively with individual credit unions ... Web: Details