nunsYou know why I’m so passionate about word-of-mouth? Because every single job I’ve ever had was because of a referral. From my ‘Enry Beazely’s wench job to all of my NPS consulting gigs. It’s powerful stuff when you have an “invitation” to apply. You’re definitely at the top of the heap of anonymous resume’s. Such was the case with my interview with the Oregon Credit Union League. Job title: Consultant. I liked the sound of that.

The League put me through several interviews. The typical HR butt-sniffing, then a group breakfast (to meet the team of consultants) and finally one-on-one lunch with my boss. I’ll admit, I’d never been on an interview IN a restaurant. It so freaked me out I did a rehearsal breakfast just to familiarize myself with the menu, lighting, location of the bathroom, etc. Seriously. I ordered oatmeal and coffee if you must know.

Anyway, I got the job, was shown my cube, the phone, and the volumes and volumes of legal books that will act as my references. We also had an in-house attorney and an entire law firm on retainer. My job – to consult on compliance. In other words, help credit unions make decisions by educating them about the implications of the law. Or so I thought.

My favorite book I called the Brady Bunch Book. You see, most credit unions at that time had been offering share draft accounts for only a few years. And these things were tricky. The Brady on Bank Checks book was about 4 inches thick and was the source for all negotiable instrument law. A learned that a check is merely a contract and must contain certain parts to be a valid contract. Signature, amount owned, payable to, date. Can you use a cocktail napkin as a check? Sure, if someone will cash it. Can you collect on a cocktail napkin? Sure! If someone wants to pursue it.

The most important lesson I learned consulting on checks? Always ask the dollar amount of the check in question. I remember spending HOURS researching a particularly stick endorsement issue and finally after many back-and-forth phone calls the employee sighed and said, “Well, it’s only a $5.00 check so I guess it doesn’t matter!” Ugh.

Lawyers. Can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em. The problem with the law? It’s so stupid. If we followed every law that was ever written, we wouldn’t have any members at all. I like to “bend” laws. Show me a check cashing policy that exposes you to zero risk and I’ll show you one that doesn’t take checks! Period.

We are IN the risk business – but we’re also here to serve our member/owners. To treat them like they matter. Common sense is seldom wrong. When compliance starts running your organization, you’re bound to screw up relationships.

I LOVED consulting – hated complying. Maybe it’s because I was raised Catholic. I guess what I’m trying to say is, we HAVE to comply with the laws, but not in a “If you even think about breaking this law you’re going straight to hell” way. Sister Rose Delores was the “compliance officer” at my school. Not only did she take the fun out of being a teenager, I think by being so strict, it MAKES you want to, what I call, viciously comply.

You know what I’m talking about – I think a lot of employees viciously comply. You want me to never take a bad check again – you got it! Holds for everyone! Oh, I’m sorry, that was the chairman of the board’s wife? Yikes.

The compliance officer (sounds like they should carry a badge) needs to understand what business we’re in – people helping people – and that 99.9% of our members are honest, hard-working folks just trying to make a deposit and get some cash. Sure, there’s that .1% out there that’s looking to mess with you. Let Sister Rose Delores handle them.