Tracy Thornburg

Compliance Champion of the Year award winner Tracy Thornburg of Rocky Mountain Credit Union

Promote a culture of compliance

Doing so is ‘one of the most meaningful ways we can embody the credit union difference.’

September 25, 2019

Tracy Thornburg has spent her 30-year credit union career as an advocate and a believer in people helping people.

This shows in her relentless pursuit of first-rate compliance programs and exemplary training for credit union staff and board members, her peers say.

Thornburg, assistant vice president (AVP) of compliance and Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) officer at Rocky Mountain Credit Union in Helena, Mont., received CUNA’s 2019 Compliance Champion of the Year award among credit unions with $101 million to $500 million in assets.

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

Thornburg was recognized during CUNA’s 2019 Regulatory Compliance Certification Schools Sept. 8-13 in Dallas.

Tell us about your background and your current role at Rocky Mountain Credit Union.

Tracy Thornburg: My credit union career began in 1987 at Treasure State Corporate Credit Union. From there, I moved on to the Montana Credit Union League as director of compliance, and in 2016 I joined Rocky Mountain Credit Union as AVP of compliance/BSA officer.

My role is to implement and maintain a strong compliance program, including BSA, that protects members and the credit union. I have a strong role in the development and training of staff and board members, on compliance matters, as well as being the lead contact for compliance exams and audits.

I have gained valuable knowledge and continue my professional development through industry certifications. These include Credit Union Development Educator (CUDE), Credit Union Compliance Expert (CUCE), and Bank Secrecy Act Compliance Specialist (BSACS).

In my career, I’ve had and continue to have strong leaders and mentors who taught me that promoting a culture of compliance is one of the most meaningful ways we can embody the credit union difference.

‘Compliance isn’t just your responsibility, it’s everyone’s.’


What are the biggest compliance challenges facing your credit union?

Thornburg: The first two challenges that come to my mind are dealing with marijuana-related business (MRB) activity and all that comes with it, and enhanced due diligence on our business and consumer accounts.

Another challenge for our credit union is using technological programs to reveal and effectively monitor accounts and their activity for BSA-related purposes.

MRBs are a challenge that won’t be going away any time soon. My role is to effectively communicate to senior management the impact and risk these types of accounts bring to the credit union, monitor and report on these types of accounts according to regulatory guidelines, and evaluate programs to enhance and assist in monitoring efforts.

Enhanced due diligence efforts include extensive training for staff, solid policies and procedures, and robust quality control processes.

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

Thornburg: Have you ever spent the weekend cleaning out closets and drawers and felt you’ve accomplished the impossible—only to look around and think nobody but you knows what feat you’ve accomplished? My biggest lesson learned is that success isn’t always what you see!

What advice do you have for other compliance professionals?

Thornburg: Keep your head up and eyes open to all that’s going on around you so you don’t operate in a silo. Compliance isn’t just your responsibility, it’s everyone’s.

Create a “culture” of compliance. This starts with knowing your leadership’s compliance philosophy and views.

Have conversations with your senior management so together you can define your credit union’s compliance culture. From there, you build your programs, help with procedures, train the staff, and more.

Without the support of your leadership, you’re going to struggle to accomplish your goals.

What are the traits of a Compliance Champion?

Thornburg: Integrity, courage, pride, and being approachable and friendly. Someone who gives their time to staff.

Compliance is not a one-person job, so being a team player is a must. Like the saying, “it takes a village,” it takes a cooperative team to be fully compliant.

Anything else?

Thornburg: I’m proud to be a part of the credit union movement and it’s especially gratifying to be nominated by my peers. Thank you.

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