WASHINGTON - Defining a compliance manager's job led the agenda when the American Bankers Association's staff sat down last week with 13 bankers in charge of regulatory issues.

Bank compliance officers sometimes end up being responsible for everything that happens in the bank, said Robert Rowe, associate director at the ABA's Center for Legal and Regulatory Compliance.

"If you look at the job description for a commercial lender, it's the same for any bank," he said. "But a compliance officer's description is all over the place."

Responsibilities Grow

Bank compliance officers have watched their responsibilities balloon over the past decade. To help them cope, the ABA formed a group of 13 bankers to address compliance officers' concerns.

Fair lending concerned members of the ABA's compliance division most. Mr. Rowe said the committee found that discrimination can be difficult to recognize and prove.

Moreover, "banks want definite notice of what's expected," said Mr. Rowe.

He also said bankers want to work with government agencies to help stem money laundering, but are concerned that the forms they diligently fill out will wind up in a warehouse somewhere, never to be seen again.

Improving Relations

The committee voiced concern over regulatory relations as well. ABA spokeswoman Virginia Stafford said that recent efforts by the agencies seem to be working: Examiners and bankers are getting along better.

Many examiners now undergo sensitivity training designed to help make the whole process easier for everyone, Mr. Rowe noted.

Mr. Rowe said the last major concern the committee discussed involved compliance implications of the '91 bank law.

To help its members cope with the law, the ABA has developed a compliance "toolbox" containing resources and information. Mr. Rowe explained the toolbox as a grouping of essential products and services needed to understand, implement, and manage the regulations. Mr. Rowe said the ABA often updates the toolbox to more effectively deal with changing laws.

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