Assessing the proper response to a compliance scenario occurring at another credit union is a great way to prepare your staff should the same or a similar issue arise locally, says Mark Baron, CEO of Fieldstone Credit Union.
Baron, who oversees compliance for the $44 million credit union in Bradley, Ill., regularly poses questions to his employees based on situations other credit union professionals have detailed on CUNA's Compliance Community. And he benefits from the exercise as well.
Baron is the runner-up for CUNA’s 2017 Compliance Champion Best in Class Award among credit unions with $100 million to $500 million in assets.
The award recognizes credit union compliance professionals who best demonstrate leadership, achievement, and excellence in compliance management, and have made a significant contribution to the industry.
Credit Union Magazine recently asked Baron to share what makes him tick.
CU Mag: Why is being an active member in CUNA's Compliance Community and sharing compliance knowledge with others important, not only for yourself, but also for your credit union colleagues?
Baron: Every week I learn something new via the listserv and the blog. I think that by everyone sharing their knowledge, we are all helping each other to be better at our jobs, which helps make our credit unions more successful. No matter how much you think you know about a topic, there is someone else who knows a different aspect about it, which helps you to have a better overall view of the issue. It also helps us think about situations that have never occurred. Periodically, I will read about something that happened at another credit union, and I’ll ask our supervisors or full staff, “What would you do in this situation if it happened here”?
CU Mag: You’re a credit union CEO who also handles compliance issues. Is that a difficult task? Or does it make you a better CEO?
Baron: I think it makes me better at my job. I am grateful that I was able to go to CUNA’s Regulatory Compliance Certification School many years ago; I still have the materials from the school and for years afterwards I would often reference them. Much of a CEO’s job for a credit union our size entails reviewing contracts with vendors and answering questions from co-workers. Knowledge of compliance issues, laws, and regulations helps a great deal in that.
CU Mag: What’s the best advice you’ve received or given regarding compliance?
Baron: You don’t have to know all the answers, but you do need to know where to go for the answers and know when it is time for an attorney’s advice. (We utilize not only a local attorney, but also the extremely helpful advice of the legal team at the Illinois Credit Union League.)
CU Mag: Which regulation or subject area would you most like to see overhauled, and why?
Baron: Real estate lending, especially the laws that became effective in 2014. To have that many laws on the same general topic (real estate) kick in at once, with different regulations having different definitions of the very same terms, was just ridiculous. I know someone who retired as a long-time CEO simply because the person became fed up with the nonstop regulatory changes after the CFPB was formed and decided to flex its regulatory muscles on a nonstop basis.
CU Mag: What topic should compliance professionals place squarely on their radar for 2018?
Baron: Therein lies the problem—it’s not just any one issue. It used to be that each year, there were one or two regulatory changes to have to know about. Now it is nonstop.
CU Mag: What’s the most inspiring thing about showing up for work at Fieldstone Credit Union every day?
Baron: The camaraderie and the laughing and joking that regularly takes place. I have been in countless financial institutions where you feel like you walked into a morgue. Although people are polite, the staff voices are barely audible. No laughing, no having a good time, no teasing taking place between co-workers or between staff and members. Just silence. It's completely different at Fieldstone. We’ve had many members comment about how friendlier and easygoing it is here, compared with other institutions. When I hear the staff laughing and joking, it is music to my ears.