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Lessons Learned from Giving Away 1,100 T-Shirts at an ABA Conference

3 min read
Jun 18, 2019

Forget Instagram likes. If you’ve ever longed to feel more popular and in-demand, handing out your full inventory of 1,100 free t-shirts at the ABA Compliance Conference in New Orleans earlier this month is where it’s at.

These weren’t just any t-shirts. These specially-designed, Ncontracts t-shirts clearly spoke to compliance and risk management professionals. They just flew out of our hands and were gone before the conference was even over!

T-Shirts at an ABA Conference

What t-shirt did people choose and what did it say about them?

If It Isn’t Documented, It Didn’t Happen. “Maybe if I wear this t-shirt, people will finally start taking documentation seriously, and I can stop saying this phrase 20 times a week. The hands-down, runaway favorite t-shirt.”

Eat. Sleep. Breathe. Compliance. “Compliance is more than a full-time job. It’s a way of life.”

Saxophone. “I’m in charge of enforcing rules, but I’m still fun!”

Fleur-de-lis. “I may be in town for a work conference and too busy to go on a vacation, but I can still pretend that I came here to let loose and enjoy New Orleans.”

76% If It Isn’t Documented, It Didn’t Happen.

15% Eat. Sleep. Breathe. Compliance.

5% Saxophone

4% Fleur-de-lis

T-Shirts at an ABA Conference

These t-shirts were everywhere! I saw them walking down Bourbon Street at night and in the airport going home. People said they were going to wear them to their lending committee meeting and board meeting and never take it off.

But just as exciting as seeing our t-shirts everywhere was learning from 1,100 compliance professionals. It turns out they have a lot in common with risk managers. How many of these can you relate to?

Everyone is still using Excel. Today’s compliance management looks a lot like risk and vendor management does at too many banks and credit unions: a collection of Excel spreadsheets. This system, or lack thereof, makes it impossible to understand or fully manage overall compliance risk.

Silos. Everyone is dealing with silos. By my observation, silos are the largest obstacle to true efficiency at FIs. FIs are on the lookout for solutions that can surmount them.

Regulatory FOMO (aka Fear of Missing Out). When we talk about FOMO, it’s usually related to the worry that everyone is hanging out without you. In the compliance world, it’s all about the fear of missing an element of a regulation. While regulatory output has tapered off for now, compliance pros are still bogged down in reading. 
A thankless job. Compliance departments don’t feel appreciated. Viewed as overhead, they often have limited budgets, and other employees are often annoyed by the policies and procedures compliance needs to put in place. Compliance professionals know their preventative work saves the FI a ton in regulatory fines and bad PR, but few recognize this contribution. Can you risk managers relate?

Regulators are curious about new solutions. Our booth welcomed visits from examiners representing a variety of regulatory agencies at the conference for training. They’re rooting for financial institutions to succeed in their compliance and risk management efforts and are open to solutions that can help FIs achieve this goal.

They end up being the financial system’s cops. If compliance wasn’t already an extremely time-consuming job, many pros also get saddled with BSA/AML compliance. Law enforcement unfairly depends on banks and credit unions to police financial activity. That’s a lot of high-stakes pressure on a compliance officer. After all, BSA/AML errors are a leading source of enforcement actions.

Feeling the pain of the compliance officer? You may have a natural ally in your compliance department. You never know what kind of solutions you’ll come up with if you brainstorm together and share ideas. It’s worth a try.

PS: I know what you’re thinking. You’re wondering how you can get your hands on one of those t-shirts. We’re all out now, but we’ll be loading up again for next year’s ABA Compliance Conference.


Related: Creating Reliable Risk Assessments

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