WASHINGTON -- The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency soon plans another step toward improving relations between bankers and examiners -- a pledge to improve communications at exam time.
Community bankers teamed up with examiners in a task force that explored tensions between the two in a project that began just over a year ago in the OCCs southeastern district.
The results have provided a blueprint for agency-wide changes in examiner practices.
Two of the bankers on the task force, Bennett Brown, president of Florida's Enterprise National Bank in Jacksonville, and Robert Dye, the chairman, president, and chief executive of The Peoples National Bank in Easley, S.C., came to Washington last week to tell a conference of government workers about the unusual cooperation.
Mr. Brown - himself a former examiner - said that regulatory agencies like the OCC "should take the approach of assisting its customers." Complaints About Behavior
"We have heard over the last several years a lot of complaints about examiner behavior," an OCC spokeswoman said. "We wanted to get to the root of it. That is what this project is about"
The examiner/banker task force came up with a profile of an ideal supervisory process. Under it, the OCC will notify bankers three weeks in advance and explain in writing the exam's objectives, the examiners' schedules, and what information the bank needs to provide.
During the exam, the examiner in charge is to keep the bank's CEO informed of the process and its findings.
Meeting with Board Urged
After the exam is finished, examiners should meet with the bank's board to outline emerging issues that affect the bank, give feedback on the institution's activities, and allow the board to ask questions.
The reforms do not mean that OCC examiners will go easier on banks,. regulators insisted. But they do mean that "they are going to be treating the bankers with respect," the spokeswoman said.
"We also benefit if the banks are run in a safe and sound and profitable manner," said Gilbert Barker, field manager of the OCC's Tampa office.
With bankers on the task force, "we were able to define the problems from the bankers' viewpoint," Mr. Barker said.
Mr. Dye agreed that the changes they discussed with examiners were process-oriented.
"We are talking about not blindsiding people," he said.
Although he had doubts at first about how seriously the OCC would take the task force, he found that the agency was cooperative.
"They did listen to the things that we said - the key here is that the agency and the customer sat down together ... and fashioned out improvements jointly."