Compliance will cost U.S. financial institutions about $30 billion through 2012, driven by a “tidal wave” of regulatory changes, says Lisa Fraga, vice president of banking and credit union services at Wolters Kluwer Financial Services, citing TowerGroup statistics.
Riding the crest of this wave will be the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act regulations, many of which go into effect July 21, she says. Fortunately, help is available.
Wolters Kluwer Financial Services offers a wide range of compliance solutions, both off-the-shelf and customized. ComplianceOne, the company’s core compliance documentation and workflow solution, helps users meet reporting requirements imposed by today’s alphabet soup of agencies, statutes, and regulations.
Similarly, Symitar’s Episys core system offers both off-the-shelf and customized compliance solutions to meet credit unions’ individual needs.
“Our primary goal is to represent the client’s needs and wishes in what we design,” says Mark Cauley, Symitar’s director of product management.
But even well-established software has undergone significant modifications. “In the past 12 to 18 months,” says Cauley, “we and our credit union clients have had to deal with the positive member contact and response opt-in requirement. Credit unions told us this was the costliest to implement in terms of time.”
Then there were changes to Regulations Z (Truth in Lending) and E (Electronic Fund Transfers), he adds, with often ambivalent or contradictory opinions about what they required. “We had to wait for firm rulings coming at a late date, which created difficulties for both us and our clients. Both regulations were like floodwaters—everybody was trying to keep their heads above them.”
As a result, says Cauley, “compliance has to bubble to the top of the pile of what we and our clients are working on. We have to deliver what the regulatory environment says we should.”
Fraga says that even though many credit unions lack dedicated compliance staff, “they’ll still have to address the effects of new legislation. Credit unions have to think about hiring third-party or in-house help, or outsourcing compliance issues to an expert.”
Cauley offers three tips for dealing with compliance challenges:
1. Plan and budget for more disruptive compliance burdens down the road—“disruptive” meaning issues that take you away from other pressing matters. It’s better to over-budget resources for this, he says. “If the disruption is less than you planned for, you now have unexpected resources to apply to other concerns.”
2. Create an active dialog with regulators and legislators. Let them know you’re not disputing the regulations but need time to absorb and implement them. Doing so in a rush benefits nobody.
3. Increase scrutiny of the technology you invest in. If you’re dealing with a new company, does it have the ability, capacity, and talent to do what you need it to do, especially in an environment where new regulatory requirements are coming non-stop?
This is where vendor due diligence comes into play (“Vendor management made easier”).
Not following that advice can be costly. “The worst-case scenario today is reputational damage if a credit union fails to meet compliance requirements,” says Fraga.
That’s because whereas regulators regulate quietly, and usually don’t publicize sanctions they impose, new laws bring attorneys general into the act, who will file class- action suits. Those suits and their defendants will become publicized, to the detriment of any financial institutions named in them.
“Start planning now for the new regulations to come,” Fraga advises. “Changes to Reg Z will have a similar impact as the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act did from a software and documentation perspective, and Dodd-Frank will, too. If you don’t have on-site resources and staff, find reputable outside help.”
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