The Federal Credit Union July-August 2012 : Page 26
The Way of the Regulatory Compliance Ninja By Rick Taylor JiJi Bahhur Shari Pogach Bernadette Clair Steve Van Beek Michael Coleman 26 THE FEDERAL CREDIT UNION JULY–AUGUST 2012
The Way of the Regulatory Compliance Ninja
A look at NAFCU's talented regulatory compliance team.
Being a ninja isn't about wearing black, dropping down from a ceiling and slicing up everything in sight. It's about having an unparalleled set of skills to draw upon when needed – and having the discipline, focus and agility to use those skills with great effectiveness.
This is precisely what NAFCU had in mind when it began offering members the opportunity to "be a compliance ninja" in its current credit union compliance GPS advertisements.
NAFCU knows what it takes to be a compliance ninja because its ace regulatory compliance team members are ninjas themselves – this is a team whose peerless expertise has expanded and sharpened over the years as the regulatory challenges facing NAFCU members have mushroomed to intimidating proportions.
Whether it's fielding specific compliance questions from members over the phone or via email, teaching at NAFCU's Regulatory Compliance School, leading educational webcasts or writing for NAFCU's Compliance Blog, Book of Answers, the BSA Blast, TFCU's own Compliance Central or other publications, this team's unique skill set is always on full display.
Led by Steve Van Beek, NAFCU director of regulatory compliance, the compliance team includes three regulatory counsels – JiJi Bahhur, Bernadette Clair and Michael Coleman – and Shari Pogach, a regulatory paralegal. For this article, TFCU interviewed each team member to learn more about what makes NAFCU's talented compliance ninjas tick.
Steve Van Beek, NAFCU's director of regulatory compliance
TFCU: Can you also talk a little about how you came to NAFCU? Didn't you start as an intern?
Steve: Officially, I've worked at NAFCU almost five years. Interning at NAFCU was a great experience as I had just finished doing a practical legal clinic for law school that focused on the regulatory process. Having that background made the transition pretty smooth. After my internship, there was a job opening in the compliance department and things just worked out. Since then, I've been focusing on helping credit unions comply with the numerous regulatory changes that have occurred over the past five years.
TFCU: As director, you manage NAFCU's Compliance Assistance Program. What can you tell us about it?
Steve: First off – NAFCU is very fortunate to have JiJi, Bernadette, Mike and Shari provide great support to our members. We run a multi-faceted compliance assistance program because every credit union is unique. Some credit unions might need to talk to someone on the phone, whereas another might enjoy our compliance conferences, webcasts and publications. The feedback we get from members helps shape how our division operates. For example, we often get requests to blog or write a Compliance Monitor article on a particular topic. This helps us and helps members. We know we are writing about topics that are important to them.
TFCU: Are there any resources that NAFCU's compliance team offers that you wish NAFCU members took more advantage of?
Steve: Our members are really tuned into what we provide, but I think there are some gems that credit unions could use more for ongoing research. For example, each month we write questions and answers for the Compliance Monitor. Then we put them into a resource we call the NAFCU Book of Answers, which now extends over 250 pages of Q and A's – organized by topic. We are in the process of reviewing and editing the Book of Answers to ensure the past Q&A's are still accurate.
TFCU: What do you see as the biggest regulatory compliance hurdle facing credit unions?
Steve: Truthfully, it isn't one regulation or one issue. It's this comprehensive pressure from multiple angles that makes life difficult for compliance officers at credit unions of all sizes. When regulators start to talk to each other (and Congress) and begin to understand the cumulative burden being placed on credit unions, that will be a good day for compliance officers. Until then, I have confidence in the skills of the professionals that are working at credit unions.
JiJi Bahhur, NAFCU regulatory compliance counsel
TFCU: What's a typical day like for you?
JiJi: On a typical day, the Regulatory Compliance division responds to numerous calls and/or emails from member credit unions. One minute I may be dealing with a small credit union, and the next, a billion dollar credit union. We are also working on the daily blog posts, articles and other compliance-related projects, such as updates to the GPS and online trainings. The constant demand makes a full day's worth of work pretty intense, but the day goes by very quickly.
TFCU: Prior to coming to NAFCU, you were in-house counsel/director of compliance for Washington Gas Light FCU in Springfield, Va. Can you talk a little about how that experience has impacted your work with NAFCU?
JiJi: Working at Washington Gas Light FCU, I had the opportunity to acquaint myself with not only the rules and regulations affecting credit unions, but also how a credit union functions operationally. That has been a big asset with my work at NAFCU, as it prepared me for the constantly changing regulatory environment and many of the issues our members are contacting us about.
TFCU: Based on the calls you get, which compliance issues are the most pressing for credit unions these days?
JiJi: Although we receive questions on almost all regulatory topics, Regulation Z and other lending topics seem to be the heavy hitters. We also see a lot of questions specifically on advertising and adverse actions. While Regulation E brings us plenty of questions as well, we can see it becoming more of a demand with the remittances deadline approaching in early 2013.
TFCU: Shortly after coming to NAFCU, you co-hosted a webcast on share insurance disclosures with Steve Van Beek – what was that experience like for you? How do you feel about the webcast format as a way of addressing questions about specific issues?
JiJi: It was a great experience. I never found being in the spotlight a comfortable situation, which is why I volunteered to moderate that particular webcast. I looked at it as an opportunity to acquaint myself with the logistics of how the webcast is shot and how the speaker communicates to his or her "live" audience. As a previous webcast-attendee prior to coming to NAFCU, it was great to be on the other side and see how things really work.
TFCU: What part of your job have you found to be the most rewarding?
JiJi: The most rewarding part of my job is being able to provide solid answers to compliance officers. When I first entered the credit union industry, it wasn't easy to wrap my head around the details of some of these regulations. Being able to assist compliance officers on a daily basis is gratifying in itself.
Michael Coleman, NAFCU regulatory compliance counsel
TFCU: When you consider all of your numerous job responsibilities as a NAFCU regulatory counsel, what ends up being the most time consuming?
Michael: I spend most of my time answering NAFCU members' compliance questions. And since that is one of my primary responsibilities, it makes sense that I spend a lot of time helping our members.
Our division receives a fair volume of compliance questions from our members. More often than not, the questions we receive have already stumped the compliance professionals at our member credit unions, so it can take a little bit of time to answer the more complicated questions. Even when I am not writing a response to an email, or talking with a member on the phone, I am likely thinking about how to answer a compliance question.
TFCU: Do you notice any patterns or commonalities in the many compliance calls you get?
Michael: There are definitely patterns in the compliance questions that we receive, primarily when there has been a recent change to a law or regulation. As you would expect, when our members have to comply with an additional regulatory burden, this generates compliance issues, and of course, compliance questions. For example, when NCUA recently changed the required Equal Housing Lender poster (which needs to be placed in credit unions offering real-estate-related loans), the agency made the change effective immediately. We received a lot of calls from NAFCU member credit unions trying to comply with this change.
TFCU: You recently became a NAFCU Certified Compliance Officer (NCCO) after attending NAFCU's Regulatory Compliance School. Did you put in a lot of late nights studying?
Michael: NAFCU's Regulatory Compliance School is an incredible experience, and is invaluable to anyone who is new to credit unions, as I was when I attended. It provides comprehensive instruction on just about every important compliance subject. That being said, Regulatory Compliance School is intense, especially for those attendees who are taking the NCCO certifying exams. I absolutely spent some late nights studying NAFCU's Credit Union Compliance GPS in preparation for the exams. I am very proud to have completed the NCCO program, and would like to say congratulations to all the other recently certified NCCOs!
TFCU: In what way, if any, has working at NAFCU affected the way you see the regulatory process in Washington?
Michael: I grew up in the Washington, D.C., area and have always kept an eye on the lawmaking and regulatory process that goes on here. Or so I thought. Working as a regulatory compliance counsel here at NAFCU has been an eye-opening experience. The regulatory environment for financial institutions, including credit unions, is obviously very complex. There are multiple regulators and credit unions face a large regulatory burden. NAFCU's Regulatory Affairs, Legislative Affairs and Political Affairs divisions work tirelessly on behalf of NAFCU members to ease the regulatory burden. I have a profound respect for what they do, and I look at the regulatory process now in a whole new light.
Bernadette Clair, NAFCU regulatory compliance counsel
TFCU: Like JiJi, you worked at a credit union prior to joining NAFCU. What has the change been like to go from a compliance specialist at Congressional FCU in Oakton, Va., to becoming regulatory counsel at NAFCU? Was it a challenging adjustment?
Bernadette: In some ways, there are a lot of similarities – whether you're working inside a credit union or as regulatory compliance counsel here at NAFCU, each day brings new and often complicated compliance questions. It was a big adjustment for me both personally and professionally, but I think challenges help you grow as a person.
TFCU: As regulatory counsel, how do you balance handling the huge influx of compliance calls with your other duties, such as writing for NAFCU publications and preparing for education events like NAFCU's Regulatory Compliance School? Does it ever feel like "expert juggler" is part of your job description?
Bernadette: "Expert juggler" should definitely be part of the job description! Helping member credit unions with their compliance questions is of paramount importance and is pretty much a full-time job. As a result, time management is critical to making sure everything gets done. I've found that the keys to keeping my sanity are flexibility, prioritizing short and long-term projects, and staying organized.
TFCU: The NAFCU Compliance Blog, which you contribute to, is hugely popular. What are your thoughts on writing for a blog as opposed to other types of writing you do at NAFCU?
Bernadette: The blog is a great way to highlight information in small, manageable pieces. And the writing style is more relaxed, which allows you to connect with folks who may not be used to wading through regulatory complexities day in and day out. The disadvantage is that the blog isn't a substitute for digging into the regulations yourself. It's a helping hand for figuring out what may need to be on the to-do list, but you still have to get into the weeds yourself to understand how any given compliance issue impacts your credit union specifically.
Shari Pogach, NAFCU's regulatory Paralegal
TFCU: As NAFCU's regulatory paralegal, what do your job responsibilities include?
Shari: I write the quarterly BSA Blast and the BSA quizzes, provide written material for the Compliance Monitor, perform research, review and edit materials and publications authored by the attorneys, prepare sections of reports to the membership, assist with the preparation of presentation materials, and monitor and track litigation.
TFCU: You have been with NAFCU for a long time – how long? What can you tell me about the changes you've seen?
Shari: I started as a temp in December 2006 and joined NAFCU officially in March 2007. As an organization and as staff, we have become much busier with the economic turmoil and resulting regulatory upheaval. But NAFCU continues to be a "lean and mean" organization, operating efficiently and effectively to get the credit union message across.
TFCU: Is it fair to say that as more regulations come down the pike, there is more work for NAFCU?
Shari: Most definitely, the work is constant and ongoing. We as a staff must continually hone our ability to disseminate regulatory changes to the membership as rapidly as they occur so our credit union members are able to adapt operationally as efficiently as possible.
TFCU: What part of your job have you found to be the most rewarding?
Shari: Being part of a team that does its absolute best for NAFCU's members, knowing that our work is appreciated, and personally being able to write and contribute to publications that are useful for our members.
Rick Taylor is TFCU's editor and NAFCU's senior writer.
''Truthfully, it isn't one regulation or one issue. It's this comprehensive pressure from multiple angles that makes life difficult for compliance officers at credit unions of all sizes.''
– STEVE VAN BEEK, NAFCU DIRECTOR OF REGULATORY COMPLIANCE
''The constant demand makes a full day's worth of work pretty intense, but the day goes by very quickly.
– JIJI BAHHUR, NAFCU REGULATORY COMPLIANCE COUNSEL
Every Compliance Resource You Could Need . . .
Whatever your credit union's particular compliance need, NAFCU offers a resource to help. In addition to the 2012 Credit Union Compliance GPS manual and unlimited compliance help that's just a phone call or e-mail away, NAFCU offers the following:
NAFCU's Certified Compliance Officer (NCCO) Program – The prestigious NCCO certification program was designed by NAFCU for credit union professionals, but can also be obtained by anyone seeking an understanding of the rules and regulations impacting credit unions. For more information, visit: www.nafcu.org/ncco
NAFCU's Regulatory Compliance Seminar – Oct. 23–26 in Seattle. Attendees will learn about the latest challenges and changes impacting credit union operations. Session presenters include NAFCU's esteemed Compliance Team: www.nafcu.org/seminar
Compliance Monitor – NAFCU's electronic monthly newsletter which features articles on the latest compliance issues, detailed Questions & Answers, Notable Blog Posts and more: www.nafcu. org/compliancemonitor
NAFCU's Online Training for Volunteers and New Staff – Convenient, online program includes BSA and fiduciary duty training for your board: www.nafcu.org/onlinetraining
NAFCU's Compliance Blog – Daily insight from NAFCU's Regulatory Compliance staff to learn ways to approach regulatory compliance and share knowledge and experiences: www.nafcucomplianceblog. typepad.com
BSA Blast – NAFCU's electronic quarterly newsletter which highlights the latest Bank Secrecy Act issues: www.nafcu.org/bsablast
NAFCU's Regulatory Alerts – NAFCU's Regulatory Affairs team summarizes proposed federal regulations and solicits comments from NAFCU-members in order to provide detailed comment letters to regulators: www.nafcu.org/2012RegulatoryAlerts
NAFCU's Final Regulations – NAFCU's Regulatory Affairs team summarizes finalized federal regulations from the NCUA, the Federal Reserve, the CFPB and other regulators impacting credit unions: www.nafcu.org/2012FinalRegulations
''More often than not, the questions we receive have already stumped the compliance professionals at our member credit unions . . . ''
– MICHAEL COLEMAN, NAFCU REGULATORY COMPLIANCE COUNSEL
NAFCU's Ultimate Compliance Weapon?
NAFCU's updated 2012 Credit Union Compliance GPS is a must-have resource for anyone interested in laws and regulations affecting credit unions.
Put together by NAFCU's compliance team, the manual is the core text used in the instruction for credit union staff aspiring to be designated as NAFCU Certified Compliance Officers (NCCOs). All participants also received early access to the revised GPS for use on site.
The 2012 edition has been updated to include a new section on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. It also has an expanded Bank Secrecy Act section and updated links to regulatory citations and documents on the CFPB website and NCUA's revamped website.
The manual is available to NAFCU member and nonmember credit union professionals alike. For more information, including how to order, visit: www.nafcu.org/gps/