Marilyn Burow credits her rise from filing clerk to president of First National Bank and Trust Co. in Ellendale, N.D. - population 1,798 - to her time as compliance officer.
That's when she learned the bank's workings inside out, said Ms. Burow, now a member of the executive committee of the American Bankers Association's compliance division.
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"Compliance officers know a bank better than anyone else who works there," she said.
In 1965, when she started at the bank, she would have thought anyone crazy who predicted that she would eventually be president and CEO.
Now she looks back at her favorite jobs back then, like running the chek proofing machine and preparing the metal plates for the Addressograph, and laughs.
Learning about compliance, partly by reading and attending workshops helped her gradually learn more about banking iin general than her co-workers knew, Ms. Burow said.
"Other people stayed with their assigned areas," she said. "Loan offiers stucks with loans. I had to know about all operations."
Ms. Burow praised the family-owned bank for supporting her self-education efforts, which she feels are vital to running a bank.
Compliance is no longer a minor part of a bank's operation, she added.
Ms. Burow said that compliance officers have to go above and beyond their job descriptions to learn banking laws because exams reflect how well the officers know their field.
All that reponsibility is now accompanied by recognition, she added. Because of the extensive information compliance officers need to know, Ms. Burow said, the position is gaining a better reputation and more people are making a career out of it.
"It's less of a dirty job now." Ms. Burow said her wide-ranging experience in many departments at $34 million-asset First National also gives her a better understanding of the whole institution.
She said she feels comfortable with many non-CEO tasks, such as determining operational errors, questioning and reconciling accounts, and looking over bookkeeping.
But she acknowledges that a president shouldn't really have to know all areas. "In a bigger bank it would be impossible."
It is hard for the officers of small banks - First National has 20 employees - to keep abreast of regulations, Ms. Burow said.
"I'm amazed that anyone who works in a small bank can keep up with three-fourths of all the changes," she said.
Ms. Burow said she remembers when only one new regulation came out each year - she'd read the Federal Register and be done until the next year. But a lot has changed since then.
Trying to keep up with fair-lending and CRa regulations is her most challenging compliance task, she said, and regulations such as those implementing the Real Estate Settlement Practices Act, with short phase-in periods, make life very difficult for small bankers.
At meetings of the ABA compliance division and elsewhere, Ms. Burow said, she hears complaints about senior managers who just don't want to hear that something is going wrong.
"I have real sympathy for those who don't have support," she said.
One way to address this problem is for senior managers to attend compliance workshops, she said.
It's not vital that bank presidents know bookkeeping, Ms. Burow said, but everyone at a bank should understand compliance.
"You have to get people involved" before there is a problem, she said.
And there will be problems, she added, "until management takes the view that compliance is important."
Title: President and CEO, First National Bank and Trust Co., Ellendale, N.D. Birthplace: Hardin, Mont. Home: Ellendale Family: Husband, Richard Burow, and daughters Bobbi Jo, 24, and Wendy, 20 Career at First Nationall:
1965-1967: Filing and
posting clerk in
1967-1970: Ran proofing
machine and worked as a
1970-1977: Bank secretary
cashier, security officer,
and student loan and real
estate loan officer
officer and security
1984-present: Bank director
1988-present: President and
CEO Community activities:
Member of group in
Ellendale trying to save a
vintage opera house
Chairman of a group that
raises funds for a local