Ron Daly, President/CEO
Virtual StrongBox, Inc.

To many people outside the industry, “bank examiner” conjures up Carter, the no-nonsense examiner in “It’s a “Wonderful Life”, who chooses Christmas Eve to examine George Bailey’s Building & Loan books. To say the least, it was bad timing. But it turns out Carter was a pretty good guy, even making his own donation to keep the co-op afloat after a series of mishaps.

The examiners I worked with in my “first” career, as a CFO, were good people, too; most just want to do a good job – be thorough, but efficient. Still, no matter when they show up, having examiners in the office for a week or more disrupts the staff and operations. It’s like the waiter who interrupts to take drink orders, just as you’re delivering the punch line of a really great joke. The waiter has to do his job, but the timing is never right.

Frankly, working onsite is also inconvenient for examiners, who often are on the road 300+ days a year. They stick to business not just to be thorough, but to get home sooner. A life of lugging around computers and stacks of files isn’t easy; it can take a toll on your health and personal life. I imagine most credit union examiners would choose to work from a home office as much as possible, cutting travel to the minimum. We know that’s true for most millennial employees.

Millennials now make up the majority of the workforce, with the largest subset comprised of 10+ million 24- and 25-year-olds – prime recruits, according to Goldman Sachs Global Investment Research. But they aren’t eager to spend a third or more of their lives traveling for work; in fact, the 2015 Millennial Majority Workforce Study says 92% prefer to work from home to ensure a better work-life balance.

Must we be stuck in the status quo?

Not anymore. With new technology that’s making it possible to both work remotely and securely exchange files between the credit union and its examiners. State and federal regulatory agencies in multiple states and Virtual StrongBox have begun collaborating to provide digital “safe-deposit boxes,” which allow secure file exchange between financial institutions and examiners. But with end-to-end encryption, the process – and security – is very different from typical online storage systems. It works like this:

A regulator signs up for a private cloud-enabled engagement platform, enabling examiners to assign a separate, online StrongBox to each credit union they supervise. Credit union personnel place documents requested by the examiner into the relevant folders, such as ALM/Liquidity, Information Security and Technology, Lending, Savings and Administration. The credit union then grants the examiner access to specific files, which s/he can review as needed, eliminating the need for credit union staff to email or fax documents, or waste reams of paper making copies – none of which offers much security. The examiner uses the same secure process to provide reports or other documents to the credit union.

By using encryption technology to streamline the exam process, credit union employees can quickly provide required documents, without being called out of a meeting or having daily routines interrupted. If the examiner needs to talk with someone, a phone call can usually handle it. Best, in-office exam time is generally shortened to a one-day in-person (or virtual) meeting.

Can we talk?

Let’s start a conversation: an industry-wide discussion on the costs, inefficiencies, disruptions and personal toll on field examiners caused by onsite exams. Whether or not Virtual StrongBox’s secure process is included, credit unions, regulators and industry trade groups to take a hard look at the benefits of virtual exams. After all, credit unions foot the bill for these reviews, including substantial travel costs and lost staff time. And most examiners would welcome the chance to work remotely, saving travel for vacations.