WASHINGTON -- The sheer size of the Truth-in-Savings Act makes it hard for a small compliance division - let alone one individual at a small bank -- to put it into action.

But a host of services have sprung up to help reprogram computers and train employees.

"The bankers right now are reeling, but they are getting there," said Matt Chapman, chairman and chief executive for CFI Proservices, a consulting firm in Portland, Ore., that sells a variety of services to help with Truth-in-Savings.

"The implementation of this law is the most difficult I have ever seen."

Hard to Keep Up

Three bank consultants -- Bankers Systems Inc., Bankers Training and Consulting Co., and CFI Proservices -- are helping where banks' resources on Regulation DD have fallen short.

"As fast as this stuff changes, its almost impossible to keep people up on its," said David Mills, a vice president of compliance for Synovus Financial Corp., a Columbus, Ga.-based holding company that operates 31 banks.

"We found it very economical to use some of the services on the market."

Faced with the task of training employees at a wide variety of banks, with assets ranging from $50 million to $1 billion, Synovus turned to Bankers Training and Consulting Co., a St. Louis division of Westcott Communications, for help.

Multimedia Training

Synovus used a combination of a video and a PC-run testing program to train its employees. "It is flexible enough for a small bank but also can work for a large bank or holding company," Mr. Mills said.

Bankers Training offers a Regulation DD package as part of its Compliance Instructor Library, a series of computer programs and training manuals to which a bank can subscribe.

Regulation DD includes a teaching program on the computer and a comprehension test. The company also sells two videos to explain Truth-in-Savings, one that explains the law in great detail for management and one that gives an overview for other employees.

But the strength of the program for Mr. Mills was the testing. The test gives immediate feedback to compliance officers to let them know if employees are comprehending the regulations.

"The tests show you which areas seem to be missed the most and then you can target the training," Mr. Mills said. "It cuts the cost of compliance because you can narrow the problem."

The cost to Synovus for the PC system is $1,000 per year for three years.

The training videos, which cover topics in addition to the Truth-in-Savings law, cost $395 for short tapes and $495 for longer ones.

|Flexible Disclosure'

Reliability was the major factor in Mount Greenwood Bank's decision to purchase its employee training and software program.

Mount Greenwood, a $120 million single-branch bank in Chicago, bought 17,000 copies of standard disclosure forms from Bankers Systems in St. Cloud, Minn. The cost was 17 cents each.

"They create very flexible disclosure statements," said Karen Huffman, assistant vice president in charge of operations for Mount Greenwood. "They also have an in-house legal department, so they are very good at answering questions."

Seminars Also Used

Mount Greenwod did most of its training within the company, but sent six employees to seminars put on across the country by Bankers Systems.

Bankers Systems has conducted five seminars in the past year, with more than 11,000 people in attendance. The company also offers two videos for management and front-line personnel.

Riverside Bank in Minneapolis, a four-branch bank with assets of $100 million, chose CFI Proservices to help reprint its disclosure materials.

Kate Barr, senior vice president of the bank, said it chose CFI because the consultant's software was easy to integrate with the bank's.

Riverside also liked CFI's approach to compliance.

"Our theory of compliance requires that the rules be in the software," Mr. Chapman said. "You can't rely on people who are selling the products to customers to know all the information. They have too much else to think about."

CFI sends a team to an institution to help train employees. On site training is the best method because the complicated rules require feedback for employees, Mr. Chapman said.

"If you look at compliance as apart from the banks main operation -- it isn't going to work," he said.

Small Banks and Big Ones

All three consulting companies sell most of their products to smaller banks, which often do not have the resources to tackle the entire task themselves.

While planning for Truth-in-Savings "we remarked how difficult it would have been if this had been a smaller bank," said Andy Will, compliance officer for Norwest Corp. in Minneapolis. "It would have been a monumental task."

But Mr. Chapman said that the size of the law has led record numbers of large banks to look for outside help.

Large banks also have turned to outside help to save money on research, Mr. Chapman said, and then they modify the program with their own internal staff.

"I think we are getting many larger banks because of the number of people they have to train," said Nora Rinehart of Bankers Training and Consulting. "A lot of the larger banks are buying 12 to 15 copies of our tapes."

|A Great Opportunity'

"Part of our general focus is to service large holding companies and expand our customer base," said Kurt Stentz, a spokesman for Bankers Systems. Truth-in-Savings "was a great opportunity to implement that."

Norwest has spent "in excess of $300,000" to put its Truth-in-Savings compliance program into place, Mr. Will said.

Riverside Bank spent about $7,000 on its program, according to Mr. Barr.

Neither figure includes the pay of employees being retrained. Mr. Will said this could equal as much as twice the other costs of the Truth-in-Savings program.

Mr. Schoenke writes for the Medill News Service.

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