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Governor Mark W. Olson

At the American Bankers Association's Regulatory Compliance Conference, Orlando, Florida

June 12, 2006

What Are Examiners Looking for When They Examine Banks for Compliance?
Thank you for the invitation to speak today on an issue of great interest to many of us, that is,
compliance-risk management and supervisory expectations. Over the last few years, legal and
regulatory compliance breakdowns have attracted increased attention across the financial industry.
Fortunately, most of you have responded to your evolving compliance risks by investing in effective
compliance-risk management programs. However, now and then, headline-grabbing incidents of
noncompliance continue to capture public attention, especially when they involve such sensitive
areas as fair lending and the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA). Conferences such as this are valuable
opportunities for you, as compliance experts, to share experiences and successful approaches to
controlling compliance risk.
To assist you in your efforts to fine-tune your compliance-risk management programs, I'd like to
give you a sense of what Federal Reserve examiners look for when they conduct examinations. I
will also take a few minutes to address our more focused work in two particularly important areas of
regulatory compliance: compliance with BSA requirements and Home Mortgage Disclosure Act
(HMDA) data reporting requirements. Otherwise, I will not focus on examinations that look solely
at the level of compliance with specific laws and regulations but will focus on how examiners assess
the adequacy of a compliance-risk management program and its ability to manage the organization's
compliance risk.
Compliance-Risk Management
Overall, a banking organization's compliance-risk management program should enable it to
adequately identify, measure, monitor, and control the compliance risks involved in its various
products and lines of business. These are fundamental principles not only for compliance-risk
management, but also for sound management of credit, market, liquidity, and operational risk.
It's worth taking a moment to define compliance risk. It is the risk of legal or regulatory sanctions,
financial loss, or damage to reputation and franchise value that may arise when an organization fails
to comply with laws, regulations, or standards or codes of conduct of self-regulatory organizations
applicable to the business activities and functions of the banking organization.
While all banking organizations should have a program in place to effectively manage compliance
risk, these programs can vary considerably, depending on the size, complexity, and geographic
reach of the banking organization and the inherent risks of its activities. As with other types of risk,
large multinational organizations will require more elaborate and formal compliance-risk
management systems to address their broader and typically more complex range of financial
activities and to provide senior managers and directors with the information they need to monitor
and direct activities. Therefore, our supervisory expectations regarding an organization's riskmanagement program, and more specifically the scope of an examination, will vary according to the
organization's size and complexity.
Assessing the Adequacy of Compliance-Risk Management Programs
The Federal Reserve's supervisory approach in the area of compliance-risk management is
consistent with our long-standing focus on the adequacy of banking organizations' overall

management of risk. To this end, Federal Reserve examiners assess the quality of a banking
organization's systems for identifying, measuring, and containing its risks. While historically there
has been a greater emphasis on risk management in the areas of credit, market, operational, and
liquidity risk, because of the growing complexity of banking operations and their regulatory
frameworks the Federal Reserve is taking a greater interest in banking organizations' ability to
manage their compliance risk.
Scoping the Examination
Generally, a Federal Reserve examination team begins by defining the scope of the examination;
this is when examiners determine the areas of focus and level of scrutiny. The scope of the
examination will vary depending on the nature and circumstances of the banking organization. For
example, as part of the scoping exercise, examiners will consider previous examination and audit
findings to determine whether the organization has a satisfactory history of compliance or whether
there have been previous concerns about its compliance-risk management program. The
examination team will also review the organization's compliance-risk assessment. Depending on its
quality, the risk assessment can also help direct the resources of the examination team. Altogether,
the information gleaned from examination and audit findings and a current risk assessment will
directly affect the scope of the examination, including the level and area of transaction testing
required to assess the adequacy of the compliance-risk management program. At institutions with a
less satisfactory record, a more extensive review will be necessary.
Federal Reserve examinations for compliance-risk management are not designed to be gotcha games
in which examiners look for one-time breaches of specific regulations or laws. Rather, these
examinations are designed to assess the adequacy of the structure and processes the institution uses
for managing compliance risk. Examiners are expected to look for the bigger picture and to look at
the effectiveness of the program (including policies and processes) for managing the organization's
compliance risk. We want to understand whether you have the controls in place to manage the risk
of your organization.
As with all areas of risk management, our expectations--and therefore the scope of many
examinations in this area--are framed by an emphasis on
board and senior management oversight,
policies and procedures,
internal controls,
monitoring and reporting, and
I'll give you a sense of some of the key components that examiners are likely to look for when
assessing these fundamental areas.
Board and Senior Management Oversight
A successful compliance-risk management program starts at the top of the organization. It is
essential that the board of directors takes the lead by requiring a top-to-bottom compliance culture
that is incorporated into the organization's day-to-day operations and is well communicated by
senior management so that all staff members understand their compliance responsibilities and their
roles in implementing the enterprise-wide program. Examiners will look to understand the board
and senior management's roles in setting and communicating the compliance culture within the
Examiners will also look to see that roles and responsibilities are clearly defined and communicated
throughout the organization and that senior management and staff understand their compliance
obligations. In order for the board and senior management to carry out their responsibilities, they
need to understand the organization's current compliance risks. We have seen organizations that
have experienced challenges as a result of a lack of clarity in this area as they grow and diversify.
Examiners will determine whether the organization has an effective risk assessment that accurately

identifies its compliance risks and whether material risks are communicated to the board. Effective
risk assessment measures the risk presented by clients, products and services, and geographic
exposure within specific business lines or activities and aggregates these risks across the
Risk assessment is critical not only to ensure that the board and senior management is well
informed. It also serves as the foundation for risk-based policies, procedures, and internal controls.
Examiners will look to understand the organization's risk-assessment process. For example, they
will look to see the degree to which the business lines are involved, how frequently the risk
assessment is updated, and how it incorporates new products, services, or legal entities.
Human and financial resources are, of course, critical to effective performance.
Consequently, examiners will assess whether senior management ensures that the compliance
program has sufficient financial resources and a sufficient number of qualified and well-trained staff
to carry out its responsibilities effectively.
Policies and Procedures
Policies and procedures essentially define and communicate the key goals and processes of an
organization's compliance program. Examiners will look to see whether policies and procedures
provide for adequate risk identification, assessment, measurement, and control.
As I mentioned a few moments ago, clearly communicated roles and responsibilities are a
characteristic of an effective compliance program. Toward that end, examiners will also look to
determine whether policies clearly delineate accountability and lines of authority across the
organization's activities.
Examiners also expect to see a well-defined process for ensuring that when compliance risks or
potential breaches are identified they are elevated to the appropriate level, in keeping with the risk to
the organization. Procedures for doing so should be well-communicated to staff throughout the
Overall, policies and procedures must be kept current, and, as with the risk assessment, examiners
will look to see whether information gleaned from the compliance program operations is used to
further tailor compliance policies, procedures, and controls to specifically address the inherent
environment as it evolves.
Internal Controls
Internal controls are a particularly crucial element of a compliance-risk management program.
Examiners will verify whether the organization has established and implemented an effective system
of internal controls, including appropriate reporting lines and separation of duties, as well as positive
and negative incentives.
An essential part of the internal control framework is periodic testing to determine how well the
framework is operating, so that any required remedial actions can be taken. The frequency of testing
should be risk-based and should involve, as appropriate, sample transaction testing, the sample size
being determined by volume and the degree of risk of the activity.
Examiners will carefully assess the scope and quality of the testing of the compliance program. Part
of this assessment will include determining whether the testing was performed with appropriate
independence. Examiners will also look to understand the specific delineations of responsibilities
between the internal audit, compliance, and other independent functions or third parties. These
delineations will vary by organization, but all roles should be clearly defined and communicated.
Examiners will also look at how well compliance-testing exceptions are reported to senior
management and resolved by business-line management. They will assess methods for tracking
exceptions until the exceptions are resolved; this assessment will include examining the
organization's provisions for escalating unresolved exceptions to higher levels in the organization,

including the board of directors.
Independence and separation of duties are also issues of importance beyond compliance testing. For
example, in the case of large complex banking organizations that may have a corporate compliance
function, examiners will be interested in understanding how the compliance function maintains its
independence from the business lines it advises on compliance requirements and the implementation
of required controls. In cases in which the compliance function has responsibility for monitoring and
testing, examiners will assess whether procedures are established to ensure an adequate degree of
independence and objectivity.
Monitoring and Reporting
As I mentioned, the fundamental purpose of compliance-risk management programs is to identify,
monitor, and manage compliance risk more effectively. Monitoring involves identifying and
communicating compliance concerns to the appropriate parties within the organization. Monitoring
and reporting enable senior management and the board to effectively carry out their respective
responsibilities. We have seen organizations silo critical compliance information rather than share it
with all levels of the organization, which can handicap an organization's ability to identify systemic
risks. As a result, examiners are interested in whether a compliance program is designed to monitor
and report compliance concerns.
The level of sophistication of banking organizations' monitoring activities generally varies
according to the size and complexity of the organization, and examiners' expectations will vary
accordingly. For example, large complex banking organizations are typically supported by
information systems that provide management with timely reports related to compliance with laws
and regulations at the transaction level. Examiners will look to see whether these reports generally
address monitoring and testing activities, actual or potential material compliance deficiencies or
breaches, and new or changing compliance requirements. They will also assess whether reports are
designed to ensure that information on compliance is communicated to the appropriate levels within
the organization.
Training on policies, procedures, and associated controls is a component of compliance-risk
management that should not be overlooked. Examiners will determine whether the banking
organization's training program ensures that compliance policies, procedures, and controls are well
understood and appropriately communicated throughout the organization.
While the depth and breadth of training that an employee receives depends on that employee's role
and responsibilities, examiners generally assess whether staff at all levels understand the
organization's compliance culture, general compliance-risk issues, and high-level compliance
policies and procedures.
Supervisory Consistency and the Bank Secrecy Act
As banking organizations become more complex, consistency in the agencies' supervisory approach
has become even more critical. The Federal Reserve views supervisory consistency as a means of
enhancing supervision and reducing burden. This is particularly essential in the area of regulatory
compliance, and specifically with regard to compliance with the Bank Secrecy Act and its
The Federal Reserve includes a review of BSA compliance within every full-scope safety-andsoundness examination. For larger banking organizations that are subject to continuous supervision,
the Federal Reserve conducts a series of targeted BSA reviews over the course of the supervisory
cycle. This, combined with off-site monitoring, allows the Federal Reserve to maintain a current
understanding of BSA compliance within the organizations that are subject to its supervision. Onsite examinations are essential to ensure that the BSA program is operating effectively.
Because of the complexity of banking organizations today, a number of institutions may be subject
to the supervision of an increasing number of regulators. A consistent examination approach among

regulators is critical in order to achieve a consolidated view of risk management within an
organization, and also to reduce burden on banking organizations. Our work with the Federal
Financial Institutions Examination Council to develop the Bank Secrecy Act/Anti-Money
Laundering Examination Manual, which was released last summer, marked an important step
forward in our effort to ensure consistent supervision in the area of BSA compliance. Through the
manual, the agencies have emphasized a banking organization's responsibility to establish and
implement risk-based policies, procedures, and processes to comply with the BSA and safeguard its
operations from money laundering and terrorist financing.
The agencies are currently updating the manual and plan to release the revised version this summer.
I have been told that the revised manual will include not only updates reflecting changes in
regulations and supervisory guidance over the course of the past year, but also, among other things,
additional guidance on developing a BSA/AML risk assessment, which is the foundation of
effective risk-based controls.
HMDA Data and Fair Lending Examinations
Examinations to evaluate a banking organization's adherence to fair lending laws and regulations are
also a routine component of consumer compliance examinations conducted by the Federal Reserve.
HMDA data play an important role in examinations of those banking organizations that are required
to report the data. Examiners probe that data to understand how the bank is responding to credit
needs and serving its community. The data are rich in many respects. They contain information
about applicants' and borrowers' race or ethnicity, sex, income level, and property location. And,
since 2004, the HMDA data have also included price information about certain loans with prices
that exceed thresholds set by the Board.
The HMDA data help examiners better focus the fair lending examination. Particularly for banks
with larger portfolios, the data, including any available pricing data, are incorporated into statistical
management systems that analyze lending patterns and help direct the examination process to
aspects of the bank's program that may warrant a closer look. Even in smaller banks where a
statistical analysis cannot be performed, the HMDA data can be used to start the fair lending review.
However, as we know, HMDA data have limitations. For example, the data do not include creditrisk factors such as credit scores and loan-to-value ratios. Because of these limitations, the
examination process looks at additional information about a lender's practices, and about particular
loans, before any conclusions are drawn. Examiners consider--together with HMDA data-information derived from consumer complaints, risks apparent from various business lines, and the
adequacy of the institution's compliance-risk management program.
Since examiners will be looking at the data, it would be advisable for a bank to make a review of the
data a component of a comprehensive fair lending compliance program and Community
Reinvestment Act strategy. In fact, examiners will look carefully at analyses of HMDA data
performed by a bank and talk with the bank to understand the reasons for any disparities in lending
patterns. The bank is probably in the best position to understand what the HMDA data suggest about
its ability to reach prospective borrowers. Consequently, its own assessment is useful to an examiner
establishing the fair lending examination scope. Examiners want to know how banks have addressed
any disparities and how the bank's analysis has led to any changes in controls that were made to
ensure that policies are followed. I want to emphasize that, as with compliance-risk management
programs, the breadth of a banking organization's program and system review should be
commensurate with the size and complexity of its operations, the range of its products, and the
demographics of its markets.
Beyond this review of HMDA data, examiners evaluate whether an organization's fair lending
compliance framework makes it possible to identify, monitor, and effectively control risks.
Examiners are looking for a clear articulation by the board of directors of the institution's lending
strategy, including defined risk parameters and the execution of appropriate risk-measurement and
risk-mitigation initiatives. Examiners will evaluate the extent to which management controls reflect
the risk associated with the institution's lending strategy.

As with the broader area of compliance-risk management, examiners will look closely at how the
compliance culture established at the top of the organization filters down into the everyday
responsibilities of business-line managers and how those managers are held accountable for
Because of the growing complexity of banking organizations, the Federal Reserve is currently
considering whether more-tailored guidance in the area of enterprise-wide compliance-risk
management is warranted. In the coming months, we will continue to engage with you to better
understand your successful approaches to identifying, monitoring, and managing risk across your
Thank you.
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