Finance Education for Bank and Credit Union Directors: Lending Is a Risky Business

When it comes to director finance education, the differences between banks and credit unions fade away. The message is clear for all directors. Understand the finances of your financial institution well enough to do your job as director.

How would you answer these questions?

  • How do I know what I should know about financial institution finances?
  • How do I know if I know it well enough?
  • How would I demonstrate that I have met my responsibilities in this area?

Duty of Care

All directors of every type of board have a ‘duty of care’ which requires “such care, including reasonable inquiry, as an ordinarily prudent person in a like position would use under similar circumstances.”

The idea of a reasonably prudent person does not provide for a clear-cut definition. At the very least, the director should seek information from reliable sources outside of their financial institution’s management. Bank and Credit Union conferences are a good source for this outside perspective. I recommend each director keep your own records of your continuing education.

Test yourself: The Seven Risks

The regulators do give some guidance. Here is a quick quiz. Before you continue to read this article:

  • List the seven types of risks found in depository institutions that the regulators indicate are essential for a director to understand
  • Define each of the seven in a sentence or two
  • Rate your financial institution on each (poor, fair, good, excellent) and explain why you chose that rating

I’ll tell you the seven risks at the end of this article. Before you check, consider how difficult or easy that quick exercise was. If you are a director, do you need to better understand the risks or how to evaluate your financial institution in the seven areas?

Test yourself: Your Board Packet

When you receive your next board packet, consider the ‘dashboard’ metrics provided. Is there information about capital ratio? Loan growth? Deposit growth? Loan to deposits? I am not suggesting these are the best or the only metrics for your board to monitor, but I am wondering what you are provided.

Then consider:

  • Do you understand how that metric is calculated?
  • Is increasing or decreasing favorable for that metric?
  • If it is changing, is that movement or that direction expected or unexpected?
  • Do you know what the target is? Is there a target?
  • How and why is it important to your financial institution?
  • How and why is it important that the board consider that metric?

Whose ‘Duty of Care’ is it, anyway?

The ‘Duty of Care’ is an individual duty of each director. It is one of the things you cannot delegate to management or to other directors. Three steps toward meeting the duty of care include taking independent action to understand your financial institution’s finances, learning about the risks you are responsible to monitor, and asking questions about the financial information you receive at board meetings.

The Seven Risks

The risks the regulators identify are right here. How did you do?

  1. Credit
  2. Liquidity
  3. Interest rate
  4. Compliance
  5. Strategic
  6. Transaction
  7. Reputation