Compliance is a polarizing field. Either you love it, or you can’t stand it. Fortunately, when he was tapped by his employers to become a compliance officer, Ferol Hettick found that he loved the field. Since that time, he has taken on additional responsibilities and become the director of compliance for Trustmark National Bank. Although compliance as a field has had its ups and downs over the years, Mr. Hettick stresses to newcomers that the key to success is not knowing all of the answers, but rather, knowing where to find them.
Mr. Hettick is a believer in the power of teamwork. He does not truly feel successful unless his team is successful, and his confidence in his employees is such that he would pit them against any other team in the country and be confident in their success. Mr. Hettick encourages his staff to find ways to work with the needs of the bank, rather than simply turning down every request that seems unfeasible. This requires additional diligence, to be sure, as every angle of a proposal must be carefully scrutinized in order to find the necessary leeway to implement the requested changes. Nevertheless, Mr. Hettick feels that this can-do spirit and refusal to accept what seems impossible to be one of the hallmarks of his management style, and it is one of the aspects of his personality that he feels separates him from the majority of his competitors.
Though Mr. Hettick greatly enjoys his work as a compliance director for a bank, he is also aware of a major series of changes on the horizon that may drastically impact Trustmark National Bank’s success. In January 2014, eight regulatory mortgage changes will be made to the bank’s mortgage lending policies, which could limit mortgage lending. These added requirements, Mr. Hettick explains, could drive away lenders and cause them to drop out of the market. With this in mind, Mr. Hettick is looking to ride out the changes and groom a successor so that Trustmark National Bank’s compliance staff is left in capable hands upon his retirement.
Conversation with Ferol Hettick
WORLDWIDE PUBLISHING: What characteristics help to separate you from your competitors?
Ferol Hettick: On a positive note, I always look at ways to make things happen, as opposed to always wanting to say “no.” A lot of times, compliancy will just say “no,” but we work every angle to make things happen.
What motivates you?
I’m really satisfied with seeing something come from the infancy stage through implementation, and something else that satisfies me is the success of my folks. I have a real good team and I would put them against any other team in the country, and I don’t feel successful unless they’re successful.
What short-term and long-term career goals are you currently pursuing?
To survive and, hopefully, retire. Right now we’ve got regulatory issues like crazy.
What is the most difficult obstacle or challenge you have faced in pursuit of your goals?
Trying to adapt to regulatory changes that indicate that they are for the customer’s best interest, but in reality, are not.
What is the most significant issue facing your profession today?
Mortgage lending. After this January, things are changing radically. We have eight regulatory mortgage changes to make. It could limit mortgage lending. There are more requirements and I think there could be more lenders that say “it’s just not worth it,” and drop out of the market. Also, people need to have appreciation for what compliance can bring to the table and respect the value of a compliance officer within the organization. They really are there to help.
Did you ever consider pursuing a different career path or another profession? If yes, how did you end up working in your current field?
I started out to be a teacher. I was a math teacher for three years, and I’ve been full-time compliance since ’85. I was an underwriter at a large institution, a centralized loan center, and they came to me. They needed a compliance officer, and they came to me and asked me to take the job. I took it with the understanding that if I didn’t like it I could go back to what I was doing. I don’t regret it. Compliance is one of those things where either you really like it, or you can’t stand it. I guess if I had it to do over again, I would probably have pursued a law degree.
What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of your profession?
I guess I really find the satisfaction rewarding, and also I really like the fact that, unlike a lot of things in the banking industry where you can’t talk to your peers in other banks, in compliance, it’s all fair game. The compliance people bank-to-bank network a lot. I think I really find rewarding the opportunities to network with my peers.
What advice can you offer fellow members or others aspiring to work in your industry?
I guess it’s a profession that used to be looked down upon but now it’s looked up to. Don’t be overwhelmed with all the information that you have to know. The true answer is not knowing the answer, but knowing where to find the answer.
On what topic(s) do you consider yourself to be an expert?
Most consumer compliance regulations.
What lessons have you learned as a professional in your field?
To take compliance one step at a time and not to be overwhelmed by the magnitude of the regulation/requirement.
Who have been your mentors or people who have greatly influenced you?
Tom McLaughlin was my first manager as a Compliance Officer. As an attorney he advised me to always keep focused and not get burdened down with thinking I have to remember everything. The key is to know where to go find the answer(s).
What changes have you observed in your industry/field since you started?
The compliance officer was once looked at as a dreaded position or as a “necessary evil” in banking. The joke used to be that the compliance officer was given the job because they missed the meeting. Over the years compliance has evolved as an admired profession. Experienced compliance officers today are hard to find and are well respected.
How do you see these changes affecting the future of your industry?
With the rapid increase in regulatory requirements today, the profession will continue to be even more respected.
What is your favorite or least favorite work-related task to do and why?
Most favorite task is to be able to read through a new or revised regulation and fully comprehend it. My least favorite would be dealing with customers who feel they have no responsibility/accountability for their actions. It’s always someone else’s fault.