Two products have been developed to teach bankers the ins and outs of revised Bank Secrecy Act regulations - a major source of consternation at recent compliance conferences and seminars.
The programs are designed to give each employee identical lessons, let them proceed at their own pace, and show regulators that the training took place.
"No matter how good the trainer is, there are times when a person is just not at their best," said Charles A. Intriago, publisher of Money Laundering Alert newsletter.
"A computer program never gets a headache, never misses a plane, and its dog never dies. It's consistently good - and available on demand."
Compliance Series: The Bank Secrecy Act, a CD-ROM product released this spring by Micromentor of Cambridge, Mass., walks bankers through screen after screen on currency transaction reporting rules. The program, which takes about an hour to complete, concludes with a quiz that employees answer on the screen. This final exam includes four case studies and a sample currency transaction report, which must be filled out correctly to pass the program.
Alert2100 is to be released this winter by Miami-based Alert Publications Partners. It was developed in cooperation with Citibank, Wells Fargo Bank, and Bank of America. Using video and computer animation, the program will discuss suspicious-activity reports, know-your-customer policies, and record-keeping requirements.
"There will always be a need for these products," said Stephen A. Kase, general counsel at Baylake Bank in Sturgeon Bay, Wis. "So many bankers have so little time to do training that these help."
Lucy H. Griffin, president of Compliance Resources Inc. in Falls Church, Va., said computer-based training products are popular because everyone who completes the program receives exactly the same messages. A computer won't forget to address something or contradict itself accidentally as a person could, she said.
"It's efficient and gets the message across exactly the way the bank wants to get it across," said Ms. Griffin.
But the programs also can be customized to be more effective. Alert2100 will allow top management to adjust the training by job type. For example, tellers could be tested on the items most important for them. That's not an option in a bankwide classroom training session. Users of Micromentor's Compliance Series can also choose to skip an area if they don't think it applies to their job duties.
Kate Lala, human resources senior project manager at Peoples Savings Bank in Bridgeport, Conn., said her bank has used the Micromentor product since April. Bank officials determined that computer-based training will save about $50,000 per year.
Ms. Lala said it is effective because it allows employees to brush up on rule changes at their own pace. It also eliminates the need to schedule whole-bank training sessions, which can interrupt the flow of business, she said.
"Now we just distribute the program on laptops throughout our branches, and employees can train when it's convenient for them," Ms. Lala said.
Both products also give certificates to bankers who "graduate" from the training. The programs also maintain a record of each employee who finishes the course and keep that information in a data base. Mr. Intriago said the tracking feature lets banks show regulators when employees were trained and how successful they were.
But Ms. Griffin said the computer training does have drawbacks that personalized sessions do not. For example, a compliance officer cannot control how attentive an employee is during computer training. It's also impossible to tell whether an employee collaborated with a co-worker when taking the final exam.