Compliance can be lucrative for needed bank officers

Bank Sustainably?

Find out how rewarding it can be.
Apply now.

Find out why Green Bank is different and how we live up to our name.

We’ve always done the right thing. And, like you, we’re now working to conserve resources in every step of our process.

Online and electronic banking, green loans, support of 108 Houston-based environmental non-profits and community involvement. And that’s just for starters.

Compliance can be lucrative for needed bank officers

By Andrea Rumbaugh, Houston Chronicle

Banks need more officers to make sure they're following new rules, regulations; many salaries will be more than $100,000

In the past few years, a raft of new banking rules and regulations has taken hold, spurring banks to put more focus on compliance efforts.

That, in turn, has spiked demand for experienced compliance officers. And at least one Texas school is hoping to turn out graduates with knowledge in that area.

Tim Stokes, compliance officer at Houston's Patriot Bank, said more - and more complex - regulations are making it difficult to find experienced candidates.

His first year at Patriot was marked by dramatic regulatory change. He stepped into the role in April 2013 and immediately focused on new rules created by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

"Patriot Bank was looking for an experienced compliance officer who could come in, hit the ground running and take care of things to make sure that we remain in compliance," said Stokes, who started working in compliance in 2005.

At Patriot, which has six branches in the Houston area and three in the Dallas area, Stokes works with two others in regulatory compliance and with an internal auditor. He does data analysis, research and communication. It's his job to make sure senior management knows about and is following all relevant regulations.

"I think there's a shortage because the nature of the role has changed over the last seven or eight years," said Justin Long, an Austin-based partner at law firm Bracewell & Giuliani.

Long said more rules under Dodd-Frank - combined with regulatory focuses on the Bank Secrecy Act and consumer protection laws – have given compliance officers more to do. And there just aren't a lot of people with the day-to-day experience in handling these new duties.

For some of his clients, it took six to 12 months to fill a chief compliance officer position, Long said, adding: "There's a real focus on getting a qualified person to lead.

Some universities are hoping to train the next generation of compliance officers.

Sam Houston State University plans to offer a compliance and regulation class in its banking and financial institutions degree starting next spring. Crowe Horwath, a Chicago-based public accounting and consulting firm with locations across the country, is helping structure the program.

"We're trying to turn out well rounded bankers," said James Bexley, chair of the Smith-Hutson endowed chair of banking at Sam Houston.

The Commercial Banking Program at Texas A&M University has classes that include compliance, but doesn't have a specific course on the subject. James Kolari, director of the commercial banking program in department of finance at the Mays Business School, said students must be familiar with the main regulations, who the regulators are and what they do.

"There's an increase in regulatory burdens on banks," he said, "and they need an increasing number of compliance officers to handle the work load."

Geoff Greenwade, president and CEO of Houston-based Green Bank, predicted banks would continue to expand compliance needs. "Truthfully, I think the growth is going to be in compliance more so than the financial side," he said.

Rising pay

Banking experts and reports show that salaries for compliance officers are rising.

According to a 2014 salary guide from staffing company Robert Half, compliance officers at large financial services firms in Houston make $104,410 to $139,390. And chief compliance officers at large financial services firms in Houston make $163,770 to-$243,270.

At small Houston financial services firms, compliance officers make $76,320 to $102,820, while chief compliance officers make $112,890 to $146,280, according to the report.

Tricia Bellamy, director of compliance for Cadence Bank based in Birmingham, Ala., said demand has boosted the salaries of qualified compliance individuals in the past few years.Cadence Bank has 13 branches in the Houston area, and its holding company Cadence Bancorp is based in Houston.

Bellamy, with 30 years of compliance experience, said the field has evolved from reading, interpreting and helping implement regulatory requirements to include formal written compliance programs as well as monitoring compliance activities.

Cadence Bank has 27 employees focused on consumer compliance, the Bank Secrecy Act and anti-money laundering. The compliance team has grown significantly in the past year and will continue expanding as the bank grows.

Growing demand

"With more and more regulations coming out, we need experienced people to fill those (compliance) roles," she said. "And it's just a growing demand."

At the University of Houston Law Center, students are preparing for a variety of compliance jobs.

"We're seeing a bunch of different industries looking to fill this niche," said Allison Regan, assistant dean in the career development office at the UH Law Center.

She said the center has a variety of classes with compliance as a main focus, and it held a symposium on it for three years. She couldn't think of a student off the top of her head who went into compliance for banking, but she said students have done compliance related to accounting.

And the legal mind, Regan said, is a good fit for compliance because it focuses on details. It's about dissecting problems and seeing how one action affects another.

"Students are really attracted to it because it really covers a broad range of topics," she said.