When Everett M. Hannah first began dealing with compliance 22 years ago, it was nothing more than a part-time job.
Only after all the more important operations at the Westerleigh Savings and Loan Association on Staten Island were completed did people concern themselves with the business of compliance. There was no huge compliance department, no thousand-dollar software package keeping records organized for the next examination.
"Banks used to treat it as an ugly stepchild," Mr. Hannah said. "The issue was there, and they would deal with it if something big happened."
Now, things could hardly be more different. Penalties for non-compliance have gotten tougher. Fines have hit hard at banks' bottom lines. And compliance has become Mr. Hannah's full-time job.
For the last four years at $826 million-asset Richmond County Savings Bank, also on Staten Island, he's been the full-time compliance officer.
"Compliance used to be a part-time job that you did when you had finished everything else," Mr. Hannah said. "Today it's as hard as you want to make it. But if you don't make it hard, you're in trouble. There's just too much to pay attention to."
More banks are realizing that, he said. Banks of all sizes are devoting full-time staffers to handling the ever-expanding number of issues in the industry.
About 300 bankers, including compliance officers, senior lending officials, and lawyers will gather in Chicago this weekend at America's Community Bankers' national compliance conference. The three-day meeting will deal with the Community Reinvestment and Real Estate Settlement Procedures acts, technology's influence on compliance, and other issues. Mr. Hannah will deliver the opening remarks on the first two days and the closing remarks on the final day.
"He's very well-spoken and has definite opinions on the big issues," said Glenn Gimble, a compliance specialist with the trade group. "He's a true expert in the compliance field."
Being able to watch issues evolve during his 22 years of compliance experience has helped him gain that expertise. He uses his experience, along with a watchful eye on the news and goings-on in Congress, to stay on the cutting edge of regulation.
Mr. Hannah said issues like complying with Office of Foreign Asset Control rules and flood-insurance requirements have sprung up just recently. He pointed to more frequent OFAC fines and the fact that banks and the Federal Emergency Management Agency lost a great deal of money on the Midwest floods in 1993 because so few people had proper insurance.
He said these issues reflect the importance that increased attention to compliance has on the industry's earnings.
"Management now seems to be of the opinion that they have to deal with this, so they might as well deal with it well," Mr. Hannah said. "They're realizing that if they do that, they'll ultimately save money on the bottom line."