Glenn Moyer, the former Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities (pictured), spoke at a banking industry event this past week. His subject: How to love your regulator. Glenn is a senior advisor to my firm and I suggested the topic. He rolled with it.
Regulator relations is a pressure point in our industry. Some of the more common complaints include regulatory guidance that seems to change with the breeze, and community banks being treated like “too big to fail” (TBTF). So Glenn’s comments were timely. And since he was the immediate past Secretary, and a former bank CEO, his comments were insightful.
Here are four of his talking points that hit home.
1. Never ask your regulator “What would you like me to do?"
This indicates to your regulator that you are out of ideas. That your management team is out of ideas. That perhaps you had no ideas to begin with. From my perspective, I would worry that the regulator would answer you. Glenn’s experience aside, how many other regulators have run a bank?
2. Communicate your strategic direction to your examiner in charge (EIC). And include his or her boss in the conversation.
This is particularly true if you are charting a path that is different than in the past, or is somewhat unique. Regulators do not like to be surprised. Imagine an examiner coming into the next exam to find that you suddenly entered into reverse mortgage lending and the portfolio has grown faster than all others. That might inspire a higher zoom magnifying glass to see “what else” you have been up to.
3. A repeat MRA (Matters Requiring Attention) is never good.
In my practice we occasionally hear bankers lament that they have been unfairly treated by their examiners on relatively minor issues. When we peel back the onion to uncover why the regulatory scrutiny on small potatoes, we find MRA’s that were contained in past exams. So examiners asked that the bank clean something up, and later come back to find out the bank did nothing to clean it up. Why would we be surprised by a reduction in our CAMELS?
4. Document the collegial tension between independent directors and senior management.
This goes against the grain of boards that like to demonstrate unity and therefore have unanimous votes. Voting aside, regulators like a board that challenges management's strategic decisions. Particularly decisions that increase the bank's risk profile. Board minutes are an interesting animal. Actually, having read volumes of board minutes, I may have overstated "interesting". But if there is healthy debate about the bank entering a new line of business such as reverse mortgages, include the highlights of the debate in the minutes. Don't just state "Director Smith moves to approve entering the reverse mortgage business. Director Jones seconds. Vote is unanimous." Don't give the impression that your board is a rubber stamp. Because regulators rely on your board to protect the safety and soundness of your bank. I think I read that somewhere in a Director Roles and Responsibilities pamphlet.
What do you say about how to build a great rapport with your regulator?