How the NCUA AIRES Questionnaires Can Help Your Credit Union Prepare for Your Next Regulatory Examination

I recently found a helpful resource for CEOs whose credit unions are preparing for a regulatory examination.

This deck produced by the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions is 21 pages long and filled with tips for tackling the challenges of an exam. Most tips apply to credit unions regardless of their size.

One section of the deck that I found particularly insightful was “Things That Make Your Examiner Smile,” which explained some specific actions you can take to impress your examiner. These regulatory exam tips could definitely help your credit union’s team.


In case you don’t like clicking links, here’s more of what you can expect to find in there.

The NCUA Isn’t Mean

The NCUA examiners aren’t mean, either. There’s a section in the deck that reminds us of this.

It’s always helpful to remember that the examiners who cause us stress are only human. They’re doing their jobs. Incidentally, their jobs are geared toward the ongoing success of our credit unions. The deck reminds us:

  • NCUA is the regulator (for many) and the insurer. They will always want to be on the side of less risk. That is what insurers do.
  • You can disagree!

The deck then reminds us that showing our risk mitigation process is the ultimate goal. Risk itself isn’t bad, but it has to be a calculated risk. All we need to do is demonstrate that we’re not jeopardizing our portfolio, membership, or operations.

Hot Topics from the CU Letter

Okay, we’ll be honest:

This section of the deck is a little outdated. The information is still valid, but there have been some updates. Fortunately, we put together something to read about the topics from the most recent CU letter.

That’s not to say that this section of the deck isn’t useful—it is. However, it might not be quite the primer you’re looking for if you’re trying to get a head start on examination season.

Things that Make Your Examiner Smile

I definitely liked this section. It’s all about how to make your examiners’ lives easier. In turn, that should translate to making your exam easier.

Here are a couple highlights:

  • Keep a track record of doing cash counts on your tellers (if applicable)
  • A locked area for your IT equipment (this is mandatory)
  • Minutes that actually tell the examiner what is going on with your credit union

Those minutes are important! They prove to the NCUA that you’re discussing critical topics. They won’t have to just take your word for it.

Pre-Exam and Mid-Exam Tips

The deck also includes a pre-exam tips section. I’ve already written a few pieces about how to prepare for an examination, but it never hurts to hear it from more than one place.

A lot of the deck’s focus is on timing. It reminds us that credit unions should have a say in when their examination begins. Just as importantly, it reminds us to keep our board and supervisory committee in the loop!

It also includes some tips for the middle of exams when things really heat up. Some of the regulatory exam tips seem intuitive, but it’s easy to forget these things amid day-to-day operations.

  • Check in with your examiner each day. Ask them if they need any additional information. Ask them for any findings. Communicate!
  • Make sure they are specific. If it’s a violation of a regulation, ask them which one. They should be able to cite it.
  • If their findings are nit-picky, then smile. You have done well.

While it might seem obnoxious to deal with small, seemingly-insignificant findings, it’s actually a good sign. If the worst thing they found is barely worth mentioning, then it means they couldn’t find anything egregious. Better warm up your high-fiving hand!

audit checklist

FREE: Audit Checklist for Credit Unions

4 key principles and 13 questions to jumpstart your audit planning. From leading credit unions.

Further Reading for Credit Unions

As far as this list goes, there's a lot more where that came from. Take a look, print it out and keep it nearby as your credit union gets set for its next exam. Here is the link.

If you’re looking for more examination tips, then follow the links below!




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Written By Brad Powell

Brad Powell runs Redboard, a company that helps credit unions better respond to regulatory examinations. He has 20 years of experience developing technology for credit unions and financial services companies.
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