MIAMI-Unfortunately, as credit unions seek to add or upgrade the skills of increasingly critical compliance personnel, there is no one simple approach that is really effective.

Instead, said Bill Klewin, director of regulatory compliance at CUNA Mutual Group, there are three options for credit unions to upgrade the skills of their compliance staff.

"They can buy, build or partner with others," Klewin told the annual meeting of the CUNA Lending Council. "Buying or hiring someone who already has these skills is very expensive because they are in great demand. Building the skills in current staff takes time and is a risk because of turnover. Outsourcing the entire compliance operation does not position credit unions well for the long-term. Most credit unions will likely need to do a combination of all three to meet their needs."

The role of the compliance officer is changing, reminded Klewin, who outlined six skills for every compliance officer:

* Ability to interpret. "There are very few black-and-white rules so the ability to interpret the spirit of the rule as well as the actual language is important. Compliance staff need to be able to work within the gray areas."

* Attention to detail. "This seems obvious because so many regulations require detailed analysis, but it's important to attend to the details while maintaining a view of the big picture."

* Attention to the big picture. "Compliance officers must understand the bigger picture and what the regulators are trying to accomplish with the regulation. They must also have the attention to detail to help them figure out how to implement it."

* Ability to apply rules to real-life facts. "Knowing the regulations inside and out is great, yet staff must have the ability to apply their fact situations to the rules and regulations."

* Risk assessment capabilities. "The ability to assess the alternatives and make a decision based on the risk is critical. Compliance officers must understand the risk tolerance of the credit union as well as litigation environment in their area."

* Communication skills. "Written and verbal communication skills are essential. The compliance officer must have the ability to communicate at all levels in the organization from front-line staff to the CEO and board of directors. Having compliance expertise adds little value if it can't be communicated effectively."

Subscribe Now

Authoritative analysis and perspective for every segment of the credit union industry

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.