Springboard to Excellence

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ICBA’s in-depth certification programs vault compliance officers to the highest standards

By Ed Avis

Kimberly Anderson, senior vice president and chief administrative officer of Cañon National Bank in southern Colorado, became her community bank’s loan compliance officer in 2003. In early 2004, examiners visited her $253 million-asset bank, an experience that revealed a need—someone with a stronger compliance background.

“I didn’t feel I was qualified, so I asked our external consultant about it, and she told me about ICBA’s certification programs,” Anderson recalls.

Over the next three years, Anderson enrolled in all three of Community Banker University’s in-depth compliance certification training programs. Through hard work in the programs, she earned certifications as a Certified Community Bank Compliance Officer, a Certified Bank Secrecy Act/Anti-Money Laundering Professional, and a Certified Community Bank Internal Auditor.

“I’m a better compliance officer because of those programs,” she says. “I also benefit from the respect I get from our board and CEO, and definitely from the bank examiners. They like to see that I went the longer distance—not just a two-hour class—and that I went through the testing at the end. I think that’s very important.”

Thorough instruction

Anderson is one of about 3,200 community bankers who have received certification from one or more of the programs. The classroom-based programs were designed by experienced, nationally recognized instructors and meet the criteria established by members of ICBA’s certification board. They are designed to raise the standards of professionalism in the industry and to create a “stamp of approval” to help consumers when they are seeking a banker.

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 never been greater.

“The regulatory scrutiny with which examiners are looking at community banks these days is at an all-time high,” says Lindsay LaNore, ICBA executive vice president for Community Banker University. “Furthermore, banks are expected to have programs and policies in place to meet ever-changing regulatory expectations. In today’s environment, this can be a tremendous challenge.”

Achievement of a certification through ICBA and Community Banker University supports a bank’s commitment to ensuring that key employees have the necessary knowledge and understanding in these critical areas, LaNore adds.

ICBA’s compliance certification programs—similar to the training provided by the Community Banker University’s other certification programs covering lending, information technology and bank security—provide up-to-date information about regulatory issues while teaching practical knowledge and skills. The programs involve several days of classroom instruction held at various parts of the country throughout the year. The BSA/anti-money laundering certification program is the shortest of the three programs, taking place over three days. The Auditing Institute, at two weeks, is the longest.

To achieve certification at all three of these programs, participants must complete multiple certification exams.

Each of the Community Banker University compliance certification courses is designed to prepare bank professionals to handle essential tasks covering three related areas of compliance. The Auditing Institute, which leads to a Certified Community Bank Internal Auditor designation for those who successfully complete the coursework, covers topics such as the steps to establish an internal audit function, the phases of a complete audit cycle, and the use of risk assessment to develop an annual audit plan. The Compliance Institute, which is six days of classroom instruction, leads to the Certified Community Bank Compliance Officer certification. It teaches bankers how to develop a compliance program, meet lending compliance requirements, and comply with deposit and marketing regulations.

The BSA/anti-money laundering certification program provides a comprehensive instruction on all of the necessary regulatory requirements and best practices for community bankers to successfully and effectively manage and audit their BSA program.

Andrew Huffman, compliance officer of $319 million-asset First National Bank of Las Animas, in Las Animas, Colo., has also completed all three certifications. He feels each has given him useful skills that he has been able to apply in his job. “I would recommend the compliance program for all auditors, and the Auditing Institute for all compliance officers,” he says. “Although they are two different jobs with different responsibilities, they have a lot in common.”

Sheila Robinett, and deposit compliance officer for the $470 million-asset Community First Bank in Harrison, Ark., agrees that completing all three certifications has been valuable to her and the bank, “which definitely helps me with my different duties,” she says. “Obtaining and maintaining [the certifications] gives me a better understanding of the different areas of the bank so that I can do all the different jobs I have,” she says.

ICBA’s Certification ProgramsICBA certification programs are designed to raise the standards of professionalism in the industry and give consumers a consistent stamp of approval to look for when selecting a banker.

To date, more than 3,200 community banking professionals are certified through Community Banker University, ICBA’s comprehensive professional development program offering community bankers an array of classroom and remote learning opportunities.

ICBA certification program participants gain up-to-date regulatory and operational skills as well as suggestions to take home and put into use immediately in the following six operational areas:

  1. Auditing
  2. Compliance
  3. Bank security
  4. Information technology
  5. Bank Secrecy Act/anti-money laundering
  6. Lending—consumer and commercial.

For more information, visit www.communitybankeruniversity.org. Select “Certification Programs” from the Web page’s top menu bar.

Helpful instructors

Instructors are banking veterans who have solid, practical experience dealing with the issues. “They have excellent instructors, they cover everything very thoroughly,” says Robinett, “and the instructors are always available to answer questions.”

Community Banker University instructors are experts in their respective fields and provide the gold standard of training, LaNore explains. “They are industry consultants who spend countless hours working in banks and assisting the industry. Many have been bankers themselves, and sometimes regulators or attorneys.

“They understand the community banking industry, which allows them to offer real-world, practical guidance to our bankers throughout the certification programs.”

Robinett, who completed the Certified Community Bank Internal Auditor coursework last May, says the program’s instructors helped alert her to fraud issues that she was not previously aware of. “They give real-life examples of situations that have occured at banks,” she recalls. “I made note of different areas that I wanted to review later. This is just so much great information.”

Anderson also remembers learning a great deal when she completed the compliance programs. “I was familiar with the loan side of banking but not the deposit or operations parts, so all of that was new to me,” she says. “These are very intense classes with a lot of information, but I wanted that.”

An informal, but essential, part of the ICBA programs is the networking that occurs during the courses and after hours, community bankers say. The attendees are all facing the same general issues, so productive conversations come naturally.

“Some of us would study together after class, and they had a cocktail hour to meet people and chat,” Anderson recalls. “You tend to get very close to these people.”
Huffman agrees that the connections made during the certification programs last well beyond the course itself. “You attend these classes with people from all over,” he says. “You come home with the ability to bounce questions that come up in your job with all of the other people who attended. It’s a great way to get sample policies, work papers, and find out how others are dealing with the same type of issues that come up in your job.”

Another element of ICBA’s certification programs is the continuing education that is available to community bankers who become certified in an area of compliance. ICBA tracks this education, which takes the form of tests on online and in-person courses and attendance at Annual Current Issues conferences and to allow community bankers to maintain certification.

“I always learn so much at the Annual Current Issues conference and bring back very valuable information,” Robinett says. “They provide excellent resource material that we can take back for future use.”

The bottom line, say those who have completed all three compliance certification programs, is that being certified helps them do their jobs well and prepares them for future steps. “I have been able to apply several things from class to my specific job,” Huffman says. “They have definitely helped my career.”


Ed Avis is a freelance writer in Illinois.

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