DEI, Financial Education & the Role of Compliance: One Compliance Officer’s View
Lynn English, senior vice president for risk management at $883 million-asset Lafayette Federal Credit Union based in Rockville, Md., is proud to work at an ethnically diverse credit union. Every continent is represented, senior management is split 50/50 between men and women, and five of those are people of color.
But it’s also important to make sure that the socioeconomic makeup of Lafayette FCU’s member base is also diverse and inclusive. The credit union is aiming to be more aware and intentional of financial inclusion in its external outreach so that people will feel comfortable and welcome at the credit union no matter their socioeconomic makeup.
The big question: What does inclusion look like? How is success measured?
“It’s going to take more minds than mine to be able to define what success is going to be. It’s going to be driven by numbers and MSA data—looking at the zip codes where that's clearly defined,” English says. “Where are people underserved? Do you have a foothold in that market?”
As she shared in a recent episode of the Ncast podcast addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion and her role as a compliance officer, English believes financial education and technology have an important role to play.
“We can give people all the education we want, but if we're also not giving them tools—if you don't put into practice—you're going to lose it. I can tell you something and maybe you'll memorize it, but if I help you to actually use it, you’ll retain it.”
Doing so requires setting aside preconceived notions about who is comfortable with and capable of adopting new technologies. While technology is often seen as a young person’s tool, she believes that’s a narrow-minded view that will limit opportunities for the credit union and consumers—something that is too common in the business and banking worlds.
“A lot of people will exclude by exclude gender or different ethnic groups based on preconceived notions. That's why they had to create regulations [to prevent redlining and promote fair lending]...It was exclusionary. People weren't able to participate because somebody thought they shouldn't,” she shares. “There’s nothing wrong with being able to open your doors a little bit wider so more people can come in.”
Diversity at all levels: the goal for financial institutions
English emphasizes the importance of ensuring diversity in staff at all levels and noted there is still work to be done there: “When you first start, you see a lot of people that look just like you at entry-level. You see a couple of people in management. As you move up and up and up, you see you start to see less of you.”
When dealing with obstacles, Lynn turns up the light. “When you shine your light on someone else, you never know who you're lifting out of the dark,” she says. ”I don't think I could be the compliance officer that I am if I hadn't gone through those difficulties early in my career—it forced me to always turn my light up a little bit more. I want that light so bright that they don't see the color of my skin, they don't see that I'm a girl, they just see what I have to offer.”
English brings her light to her role as a compliance officer, which she as being a bridge to success for the entire organization. “The people that you are there to serve must trust you, and sometimes you have to work a little harder for it. If they don't feel like they're getting the service that they deserve or expect, they have to call me out on it--which means I have to do better. It means I have to turn that light up just a little bit more.”
Her advice for those setting out for a career in banking, especially people of color, is to set a personal goal that nobody is going to be better at what you do.
“Don't be afraid to turn up your light,” she says. “A lot of people are afraid to shine, and unfortunately that fear holds them back from the things that they really want. You can't be afraid to just shine.”
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Topics: Risk & Compliance,