Stephen Dedene

Compliance as member service

Bank Secrecy Act tops list of compliance challenges, award winner says.

August 28, 2019

Stephen Dedene’s peers laud him for his willingness to walk them through complicated compliance issues, his readiness to meet with industry regulators, and his significant contributions to the credit union movement.

Dedene, vice president of compliance and risk at $1.5 billion asset Credit Union ONE in Ferndale, Mich., was the grand prize winner of CUNA’s 2019 Compliance Champion of the Year award among credit unions with more than $500 million in assets.

This award recognizes credit union compliance professionals who best demonstrate achievement and excellence in compliance management, including leadership and contributions to the industry.

Dedene, who’ll be recognized during CUNA’s 2019 Regulatory Compliance Certification Schools Sept. 8-13 in Dallas, shares the biggest compliance challenges Credit Union ONE faces, his approach to meeting with regulators, and more.

What’s your background and your current role at Credit Union ONE?

Stephen Dedene: I have been at Credit Union ONE for over 16 years. I started while in college as a part-time teller and have had other roles on the member and operational side.

In my current position I am responsible for loss prevention, internal audit, exam management, government/regulatory/legislative affairs, the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA), and debit card fraud and disputes. I have a great team to work with.

I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science and am currently attending Florida State University College of Law in pursuit of a Juris Master’s degree with a concentration in financial regulation and compliance.

‘Do not let anyone tell you compliance is not as important as member service.’
Stephen Dedene

What are the biggest compliance challenges Credit Union ONE faces?

Dedene: The biggest compliance challenges relate to BSA and cannabis, and the need to balance compliance and the member experience.

Related to BSA, I have attended quite a few seminars to learn more about the cannabis industry and the impact on the BSA program. It is not as simple as whether we do or do not accept it.

The bottom line: All institutions serve cannabis-related businesses whether they admit it or not. It’s all about the processes and procedures you put in place to handle them.

The balance between compliance and member experience involves ensuring all stakeholders understand compliance risks, and that I understand what is attempting to be accomplished. This results in constructive dialogue about how to enhance the member experience while minimizing compliance risk.

I don’t want me to say, “you cannot do this,” and I do not want our member experience area to say, “compliance said we cannot do this.”

NEXT: Working with regulators

What’s the best way to work with regulators?

Dedene: Too often I have attended meetings where we all go around a room and talk, and talk, and talk. You look over at the regulators and wonder, is the message getting across or are they bored?

There is nothing wrong with telling a story, but what happens after you tell the story and you leave the meeting? Will they remember your story if they meet with four or five different parties that day?

Provide your story on paper. Write it down, make it specific, and include facts.

Provide them with the visual impact a regulation has and how it can be solved. They may forget the verbal story, but they will leave with the paper one.

What advice do you have for other compliance professionals?

Dedene: Do not let anyone tell you compliance is not as important as member service. I truly believe compliance is member service.

Think of all the consumer compliance laws that impact us. The important word is consumer, not compliance. We provide a member—consumer—service by ensuring that consumers—members—are protected.

That is done by ensuring compliance with consumer protection laws.

Also, don’t feel as if you need to be the decision-maker. Our main job is not necessarily to make all decisions related to compliance but to ensure the appropriate decision makers have the necessary and relevant information, and know the potential impact a decision may have.

All operational areas of the credit union have a role in this, not just compliance.

What are the traits of a Compliance Champion?

Dedene: Have passion about what you do and why you do it. Do not think there are issues too small or not impactful enough to bring up.

If you feel something deserves to be talked about, do so. Speak up and do not be afraid to talk about the issues no one else wants to talk about.

Finally, enjoy what you do. Realize there are a whole bunch of “compliance geeks” just like you. Don’t feel as though the weight of the world is on your shoulders.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Dedene: I am honored and humbled by this award. Thank you.