Compliance revamp mitigates risk

‘Compliance Champion’ shares her approach to the craft.

September 26, 2019

Melanie Riedl, vice president of development and strategic initiatives at $49 million asset University of Louisiana Federal Credit Union in Lafayette, was named CUNA’s 2019  Compliance Champion of the Year  among credit unions  with less than $100 million in assets.

She talks about how she revamped her credit union’s top compliance challenges, how she revamped its lending compliance efforts, and more.

Riedl was recognized during CUNA’s Regulatory Compliance Certification Schools in Dallas.

You revamped your credit union’s lending compliance program. What did that entail?

In 2009, when President Obama called for a revamp of financial regulations, our credit union realized we needed to start with our lending program and look at how we were helping our members with loans.

We spent a lot of time trying to help our members and not always getting to the root of their financial problems. Our delinquency was higher than our peers, and we knew we needed to make some changes.

I researched what our peers were doing and spent a lot of time reading regulations and compliance guidelines on what we could do versus what we should do. I systematically reviewed every policy we had in place—which were all kept in a binder—and updated each one, making all files electronic and posting them on our intranet.

I came up with training for hot topic compliance issues such as Fair Lending, Red Flag and SCRA. All in all, it was about laying out the entire project and working on it a little bit at a time until all policies and guidelines had been reviewed, researched, discussed, and revamped.

In addition, our credit union began working more closely with our supervisory committee to complete loan audits monthly instead of once a year. This has helped mitigate the risk by identifying training opportunities, and/or guidelines that need to be readjusted for compliance and practicality.

What have been some benefits of the revamp?

We have had increasingly more favorable exams, and our delinquency ratio has come down and is closer to our peers. Our lending team is well trained and our members are truly being serviced.

Eight of our 21 employees are Certified Credit Union Financial Counselors, so we can help our members to see the bigger financial picture for themselves. We help them to see that they might not need another loan, but may need to just cut back on some expenses to better themselves in the long term.

What’s the biggest compliance challenges your credit union faces?

Keeping abreast of changing regulations and making sure that when we make operational changes for efficiency that we are not violating any regulations. The only thing consistent in compliance is change.

We have to be diligent in keeping up with change while realizing we cannot make changes right away, but at the pace regulation changes. With CECL, for example, we have been prepping for a couple of years now, but we cannot implement anything too quickly as the final deadline continues to be pushed back.

What advice would you offer other compliance professionals?

I have two pieces of advice I like to give compliance professionals. The first is, get out of your own way. It’s ok if you don’t always know the answer to a question. Put your pride on the shelf and take your time to research and ask for guidance.

The second is to network, network, network. It is so important to work with other credit union professionals who are in your same size asset category so you can bounce ideas off of each other and help each other with day-to-day compliance issues.

What are the traits of a Compliance Champion?

Integrity, helpfulness, and resourcefulness. A compliance champion is a person who advocates for a compliance culture, not just following the regulations but teaching why regulations were put into place and why it is important to the survival of the credit union movement.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I have a passion for the credit union movement that goes beyond what I do every day, and I try to get involved at the local, chapter, state, and national levels as often as I can. I have had the privilege to serve as our chapter’s president, vice president, and secretary; speak at state-level schools and  conferences; help to launch our state compliance peer panel; speak at national conferences; and serve on CUNA council committees.

I am extremely humbled and honored to be named a Compliance Champion, and I’m very thankful to my current and former CEOs who have allowed me to blossom in my role in the credit union movement.