Compliance Challenged?

ICBA MEMBERSHIP PROGRAMS | Professional Development

ICBA’s free online compliance training rides to the rescue

By Judith Sears

As many community banks scramble to keep up with increasing regulatory oversight, the need for compliance training—and the pressure on time and resources to provide it—has loomed larger.

Recognizing this, ICBA this year began offering its members free access for six months to 50 of its top online compliance courses through the ICBA Online Education Center. Member banks have responded enthusiastically by enrolling in thousands of courses.

Like many community banks, the First National Bank of New Mexico in Clayton, N.M., has covered its annual compliance training requirements by enrolling all 66 of its employees in relevant ICBA online courses (complimentary registration for community banks remains available through Sept. 30).

In addition, the $195 million-asset First National Bank of New Mexico has offered its employees access to other position-specific ICBA courses. “There are a variety of options in the free courses, and we were able to get a number of different topics that were specific to each person’s role and responsibility,” says Paula Padilla, the bank’s assistant vice president, customer service and compliance training.

In particular, Padilla has been pleased with ICBA’s training courses for tellers. “Hands-on training has been the rule for tellers. Historically, there’s not been a lot of structured training,” she says. “It’s helpful to have a universal curriculum to ensure that all tellers receive the same information.”

Not surprisingly, Bank Secrecy Act compliance training courses have been a top priority for community banks enrolling in the free compliance courses. “BSA compliance includes so many sensitive and important issues that have to be handled correctly every time,” says John Beller, executive vice president of the Bank of Cave City in Cave City, Ark.

The $95 million-asset Bank of Cave City has required its 38 employees to take all of ICBA’s BSA courses. “The ICBA courses cover Bank Secrecy Act thoroughly, and we want to make sure that all of us in the bank understand this critical area of regulatory compliance,” Beller says.

ICBA’s lending-related courses have also been in great demand. “That’s where there’s been so much change in regulations,” explains Robin Freidank, internal auditor and compliance officer for HNB National Bank, a $415 million-asset bank in Hannibal, Mo. “We got our lending area signed up for almost every single lending course!”

Community bankers give a thumbs-up to the range and quality of ICBA’s courses available through the Online Education Center and are thrilled to have critical training resources available that ease their own time commitment. “I was very happy that the courses included a lot of stuff that we were needing to go over with our employees,” says Freidank. “It’s freed me up so that I don’t have to make sure the training was conducted by us.”

Padilla believes that the training has improved First National Bank of New Mexico employees’ comprehension of practices that they may have previously treated as perfunctory. “Many times you hear people say that they don’t understand why they do what they do,” she says. “These courses provide some clarity and purpose for why we do things.

“The information is very thorough, and the employees felt they learned in greater depth about the regulations and how these are tied to our policies and procedures.”

ICBA’s online courses include curriculum tests, a convenient and concrete way to document an employee’s training progress and participation. That can be invaluable when regulators want to know how a bank knows an employee has actually mastered training materials.

Freidank adds that since HNB National Bank is growing it has become even more important to document the bank’s training activities. “We are up to 12 branches now, and with our size, the regulators will take more of a look at us,” she says.

Course tests also provide a useful tool for employee evaluation. The Bank of Cave City plans to include test results in annual employee performance reviews. “We believe this gives us some real accountability in the process,” Beller says.

The self-paced nature of online training provides a flexibility that accommodates the busy routines and limited resources of community banks. “We are all able to engage the material as we have time to do so,” Beller says, “which means our managers and supervisors have very little active managing to do.”

At the same time, the ICBA online course software includes administration tools that make it easy for supervisors to monitor staff engagement. “We can view each participant’s activity and proactively manage his or her progress,” says Padilla.

For today’s community bank, tending to regulatory compliance is an inescapable fact of life, which now affects all aspects of a bank’s operations. “It’s not something we can segregate within the organization by designating a few folks to manage it,” says Beller. “Everybody in the bank has to deal with it.”

ICBA’s free online compliance training courses are making it a little easier and more affordable for member banks to gain the regulatory expertise they need to thrive.

Judith Sears is a writer in Denver.