ORLANDO — The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau wants banks to collect all customer complaints in one unified, company-wide database, a lawyer at Santander's Sovereign Bank said on Thursday morning.

"Surprisingly, most banks don't have a central [complaint] database … I think the CFPB will expect that," Scott Feinstein, a senior vice president and legal counsel at Sovereign, said during a panel discussion at the annual Card Forum and Expo. The bank is owned by Spain's Banco Santander.

Feinstein told American Banker after the panel that the CFPB has not yet mandated that banks create such databases, "but I wouldn't be surprised if it is" required.

Examiners from the new consumer protection agency visited Sovereign within the past month, staying for about a week, according to Feinstein. He said that the officials asked questions about how Sovereign tracks complaints for different products, including mortgages and cards, which he interpreted as meaning that the CFPB wants banks to take "a holistic view" of customer complaints.

"We have survived our first CFPB exam — I had heard horror stories …. [but] it wasn't as bad as all that," he joked during the panel discussion. He also praised CFPB officials, including Marla Blow, the agency's deputy assistant director for card markets, "who I think gets it," he said.

Feinstein told the audience of assembled bankers and card industry executives that he has heard that the CFPB has hired about 50 enforcement attorneys, "which should warm the cockles of your hearts."

He spoke on the panel with former Treasury Department adviser Susan Ochs, a contributor to American Banker's BankThink and a senior fellow at the Aspen Institute. She told the audience that banks should get ahead of the CFPB and preemptively scrutinize their practices so well that they put the agency "out of business."

A CFPB spokeswoman was not immediately available for comment. Blow, who spoke at a panel on Thursday afternoon, declined to comment afterwards.

The annual conference is sponsored by American Banker and its publisher, SourceMedia.

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