Compliance: Start from a place of ‘yes’

Compliance: Start from a place of ‘yes’

‘I challenge my fellow compliance officers to choose right over easy.’

September 5, 2019

Sherry Joseph, vice president of risk management and compliance for $3.8 billion asset SECU in Linthicum, Md., was named best-in-class winner (runner up) for CUNA’s 2019 Compliance Champion Award among credit unions with more than $500 million in assets.

She has spent her entire 30-year career in the financial services industry, starting as a contact center representative and moving through multiple disciplines, including lending.

Sherry Joseph

Sherry Joseph

In early 2007, Joseph began her tenure at SECU as home equity lending manager. She quickly made the leap to managing lending compliance, and then progressed to manage all regulatory compliance for the credit union.

The Compliance Champion Award recognizes credit union compliance professionals who best demonstrate achievement and excellence in compliance management, including leadership and contributions to the industry.

Joseph will be recognized during CUNA’s 2019 Regulatory Compliance Certification Schools, Sept. 8-13 in Dallas.

What are the biggest compliance challenges SECU faces?

Sherry Joseph: Our biggest challenge is that we are subject to the same rules as the big banks. Although credit unions did not cause the financial crisis, we must adhere to rules that were promulgated with the largest of banks in mind.

We don’t have an army of compliance officers like the large banks do. But what we do have is a brilliant and dedicated compliance team.

We actively engage in the advocacy efforts of our local credit union association, where we regularly attend meetings with the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, NCUA, and Maryland state regulators and legislators.

It’s important to have our voices heard and actively participate in the regulatory and legislative process.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned about compliance during your career?

Joseph: Continuous learning is so important. We all know how important it is to comprehend the rules and regulations that apply to our operations. It’s equally critical to understand our business processes.

I encourage anyone who has not previously worked in other business areas to seek out opportunities to learn more. For example, contact center representatives and branch employees know nearly everything there is to know about the organization, and it can be quite insightful to shadow them for a few days.

Also, it’s important to seek out comprehensive external training and certification opportunities to further develop the bench strength of the compliance team. Focus on any specific areas of opportunity for your team—such as training on lending, ACH, etc.—and present the benefits to management to get buy in from a budget perspective.

CUNA compliance and risk management certification conferences bring great value by highlighting important emerging trends and risks, and offering priceless networking opportunities with other compliance professionals, vendors, consultants, and regulators from across the nation.

‘Although credit unions did not cause the financial crisis, we must adhere to rules that were promulgated with the largest of banks in mind.’


What advice would you offer other compliance professionals?

Joseph: In the compliance world, it is all too easy to say “no, we can’t do X” because of regulations. To be truly successful in compliance, it is important to work as a right-hand partner to each business unit and dig deep to find ways to comply while also meeting business objectives and serving our members how, when, and where they want to be served.

I challenge my fellow compliance officers to start from a place of “yes” and to choose right over easy. Often, regulations do not provide enough details and do not consider technological advancements.

It is important to dig deeper to find answers and truly understand the spirit and intent of a rule.

To gain clarity, I often go back and read the preamble of the original proposed rule and the comments in the final rule in a Federal Register that was published many years ago. I have even found a solution to a problem in a footnote of a several hundred page rule.

Tenacity and perseverance are key.

What are the traits of a Compliance Champion?

Joseph: Compliance Champions are strong in mind, brave in character, genuine in personality, and positive in attitude. We are passionate and hardworking, and are engaged and outspoken participants in our profession.

We are conscientious of how our work and the decisions we make impact the credit union, our business partners, and the members we serve.

Anything else?

Joseph: I am blessed to work with a brilliant, hardworking, and dedicated team of compliance and risk management professionals. I could not succeed without each and every one of them.

We are lucky to work for a credit union that recognizes our talents and invests time and money in our professional development. Compliance is complex, and the value compliance officers bring to the credit union may go unnoticed because there are no hard statistics that show how much we have saved the credit union in civil money penalties, reputation risk, and other damages.

I encourage leaders in the credit union industry to invest in the professional development of their compliance team to ensure they are well equipped to protect and build value for the organization and the members we serve.

I appreciate the opportunity to talk about these important topics and I am very honored to have been selected by CUNA for this compliance award.

Learn more: Compliance as member service