Bert Beaulieu, vice president of compliance at $154 million asset Down East Credit Union in Baileyville, Maine, received a CUNA Compliance Champion Award Grand Winner for credit unions with assets of $101 million to $500 million.
The new honors from CUNA recognize outstanding achievements in credit union compliance management by individuals and credit unions.
Q: What’s your compliance philosophy?
A: The first thing a compliance professional should do is not overreact. All too often regulations are talked about, planned for, and dissected before they ever get published and enacted.
And all too often what starts out as an “impossible to work” task gets watered down to where compliance is much easier than initially expected. The expression “time heals all wounds” is never more true than in the world of compliance.
Q: How have recent regulatory changes affected how your CU runs its compliance program?
A: After the last downturn in the economy—2009 and beyond—running a compliance department was akin to drinking from a fire hose. So many regulations were coming at us so fast that keeping up was almost impossible.
Since then, the situation has quieted somewhat. I see many compliance departments and professionals taking more of a role in the enterprise risk management area. This is a good thing.
Compliance, like most credit union areas, is all about managing risk, and the compliance professional just naturally falls into that category. I believe we’ll see a lot more of the transitioning from strictly compliance activities to more risk management/compliance duties.
Q: What’s one of the biggest compliance challenges you’ve faced? How did you address it?
A: When I was hired to be the compliance department at my credit union, there was a sort of perfect storm taking place.
The credit union had just merged with another credit union. It had changed from a federal to state charter with a new set of examiners and it had converted to a new core processing system, all within a few short months.
This set of challenges was enough in and of itself. The relationship with a new set of examiners in light of all the other challenges made for an interesting time.
The challenge I faced was to bring examiners, the board, and executive management together in a common focus.
I think I might have played a part in the success of the exercise by making everyone understand their roles and desires just a little bit better, and at the same time they were able to not lose sight of those held by the other interested parties.
Q: How can you help make a positive impact on the CU system as a whole?
A: By being involved in the process and understanding that whether you are the regulator or the regulated, the interests of both are never that far off.
In the end, we are here to protect the consumers.
Q: What advice would you offer your compliance colleagues?
A: In today’s environment, with technology evolving ever more rapidly, I’m more apt to ask my colleagues for advice than offer it.
If I could share one piece of advice, it would probably be in the area of your overall compliance program (especially at smaller credit unions): It’s imperative that the culture of your credit union supports the efforts of the compliance department.
With it, you can provide your institution with the robust type of compliance program needed in today’s credit union world.