After nearly a decade of financial marketing, we’ve noticed a single question that keeps turning up like a bad penny.

“How do I deal with compliance officers?”

Then again, guess what we hear from compliance officers.

We know that you, they, and everyone else in your organization wants to be compliant. After all, you’re all on the same team. And we know that you’re doing a fantastic job marketing your bank and its products to new and current customers alike. But in the midst of that progress, your compliance officer’s role becomes one, not unlike the parent of two siblings who each want something different for dinner.

Compliance officers need to have a very specific set of skills in order to do their jobs correctly. Each day, they make sure that everyone within your entire organization has been trained to follow its own policies and procedures across all facets of business operations. This is what’s known as institutional compliance. At the same time, they must also ensure that all existing financial regulations (and related ethical codes) are followed to the letter—while constantly uncovering, researching, and implementing new or changing industry regulations, of which the potential to run afoul is significant.

Sometimes, the rules and regulations they must follow are cut-and-dried while, at other times, your compliance officers must make judgment calls that will keep your organization free of issues that may put your bank at risk. And just because something worked before (or you did things a certain way in the past) doesn’t mean that will happen again—because the rules are constantly changing.

If you work with your bank’s compliance officers, we’re sure you’ve been frustrated at times. But so have they. Our goal is to help you—and your fellow employees—build better relationships with your compliance officers, one step at a time. And if you want to tackle all five at once, that’s even better.

1. Allow Your Compliance Officers to Do Their Jobs

Our first tip is the easiest one to actually follow. Simply put, your compliance officer has possibly the most underappreciated role within your bank. His or her main duty is to know the ins and outs of legal and regulatory requirements so that the bank operates with the highest level of integrity. Your compliance officer won’t make decisions based on profit potential or new product awareness, but on staying within the lines.

Although his or her recommendations might not be what you hoped to hear, failure to follow your compliance officer’s advice could be much more costly in the long run.

“Regulators aren’t just more aggressively pursuing institutions who break the law,” said Adrian Morrissey, manager of the compliance division at global, specialist professional recruitment consultancy, Robert Walters. “Higher penalties are being imposed on lawbreakers. Compliance has become a pivotal issue for banks, because failing to do their diligence on customers and transactions leaves a company open to scrutiny and litigation.”

2. Empower Them to Voice Their Expertise

Your compliance officer must be able to speak freely without fear of retribution or ridicule. So, it’s important for you to take time to empower those in compliance, and show them that their questions, opinions, and abilities to anticipate and solve problems have great value.

“Sometimes, it’s hard to feel like part of the team while convincing everyone around you that you’re doing a job that must be done so that your organization can maintain compliance and thrive,” said Brigham Young University-Idaho faculty member and compliance expert, CJ Wolf, in a recently published article at Healthicity.com. “You know what’s at stake, but sometimes it can feel impossible to get everyone on board.”

3. Help Other Employees Want to Comply With Compliance Training

Yes, official legal and compliance reviews should always take place. That’s a no-brainer. But, taking the step to ensure that your other employees have the opportunity to understand the rules and regulations guiding the financial industry will help improve both processes and efficiency.

“If you want 100% compliance (or 100% of your employees to complete the compliance training with a passing score), your training must be usable for all employees,” said Gauri Reyes, principal learning strategist and CEO at Triple Point Advisors. “For example, if using online training for compliance training programs, providing employees with desktop and mobile learning options lets employees choose when and where to learn.”

It’s also important to remember that training must be both ADA-compliant and, in many cases, available in multiple languages. The more your team knows, the less stressful the process will be for your compliance officers.

 

4. Perform Risk Assessments

Risk assessments not only let your compliance officers know where to focus their time, but they engage other bank employees, too

In Compliance 101: A Guide to Building Effective Compliance Programs, Lori A. Brown, Nikita Williams, and Christopher Miles advance the notion that risk assessments allow organizations to maximize the utility of scarce resources by directing them to the most significant compliance issues they face.

So, be sure to schedule risk assessments that not only focus on the most significant issues, but ones that also include those with boots on the ground.

“When individuals who have day-to-day administrative responsibilities participate in identifying compliance risks and developing mitigation plans, they’re more likely to actively participate in the compliance process,” said the book’s authors.

5. Fix What’s Wrong, and Make Things Right

When banks fall out of compliance, a common practice upon catching a mistake is to fix it, ignore the past, and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

“‘Correcting from now on,’ is a terrible attitude to have, when it comes to overpayments, but I’ve heard this from senior level management leaders,” Wolf said. “The whole purpose of a compliance program is to prevent or detect and correct noncompliance.

We get it—nobody likes to give back money,” he said. “But in the case of overpayments, it’s not your money. You’re giving back money that’s not actually your money.”

Help all your employees feel a part of the solution—not just the problem. It will take your entire team to make things right, and that collective expertise might be just what your compliance officers need to assist them in getting your organization back on track.

 

Finally—and this one’s a bonus—never, ever rest on your laurels, for that’s when disaster will strike. “We’ve always done it this way,” is never a suitable course of action.

“As a compliance officer, this is the worst excuse I hear, because if your process is non-compliant, and you’ve “always done it this way,” you might be facing some significant payback issues or other ramifications, given the longevity of the problem,” Wolf said. “Don’t wait until it’s too late.”

If all of your employees feel invested, not only in their positions, but in the organization as well, they’re more apt to take ownership. That culture of teamwork starts with you.