The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Exam Guide has created a need for mortgage companies, regardless of size, to provide compliance training for all of their staff. When evaluating effective compliance training solutions, set your focus on what is most important for your company. During our research process, we analyzed dozens of Learning Management Systems (LMS). Below are eight characteristics to look for in an effective learning management system.
1) Customizable reporting and records
When considering a learning management system, the most important factor is being able to find the exact information you're looking for, quickly and efficiently. You know how you want your data, so make sure you can get it easily. The ideal system should have easy access to reporting information, the ability to view completion records in multiple categories, and be able to provide reports by department and course. This will allow you to easily see who is out of compliance.
The biggest disadvantage to limited reporting is that you waste time and effort trying to work around an inflexible system in an effort to get to your data. Some systems only let you see completed and not completed requirements, not allowing searches by date, course, person, department, etc. Avoid systems where you cannot easily search records or systems that have too much clutter.
►Bottom line: Look for systems with customizable records and reporting and choose a flexible system that works for you, not an inflexible system that you'll have to work around. You know how your company operates and how you need to access your information so look for a management system flexible enough to accommodate your needs.
2) Automated reminders and reports
Employees will likely put off their compliance requirements as long as they can. Look for a system that automatically reminds employees of their requirements and keeps the administrator informed.
Look for a system that can manage and send multiple e-mail reminders for each course at various intervals and set definitions, such as Fair Lending to be completed within 90 days of employment date. This customizable system should apply to administrative functions as well. For example: An admin should be able to set up a report for all non-compliant employees to be emailed to the compliance officer on a weekly basis.
►Bottom line: Look for systems with automated reminders and reports. You are looking for a system to streamline the compliance management process, and if you have to remind your employees yourself, the system isn't making your job any easier. Choose a system that keeps your employees in line and keeps you in the loop.
3) Separate admin access
You may not be the only one at your company who wants to review compliance records and reports. Look for a system that allows multiple administrator access. A good LMS allows management and admins of various levels to keep tabs on their staff. Some systems do not accommodate separate admin accounts for department heads, only providing one admin account or charging steeply for additional admins. Systems that limit multiple admin ability also limit your functionality and productivity.
►Bottom line: Choose a system that accommodates your company and its structure. Don't pay more than you have to keep the right people in the know.
4) Pre-integrated content development and/or content management capabilities
Throughout the course of operating your business, you may have created or plan to create some of your own educational content: policies and procedures, documents or e-learning courses. The ideal learning management system will allow you to integrate your custom content.
Not every LMS has its own set of built-in authoring tools, so if you are planning on creating your own content, it is critical to define how this is to be done early in the selection process. This will allow you to find systems that inter-operate with your desired authoring tools.
►Bottom line: Determine what you utilized or intend to utilize in creating your own custom content and make sure the learning management system will support that custom content.
5) Extended functionality
A good learning management system doesn't just fix one problem; its functions can potentially be used for other areas. Assess the utility of the system you are considering and the different ways it can help your company.
Many companies begin their evaluation of a LMS without considering how it may integrate with other areas of their business. Some may not even envision that there may be additional features to an effective system. It is important to understand how you intend to use the functionality of the system before choosing a LMS. Be sure to check with each LMS to find out what they offer with their system. Are there integrated compliance courses or policies and procedures that you can immediately integrate into your business? These are added benefits to consider.
►Bottom line: Assess your "big picture" and choose a system that will help you achieve it on multiple levels.
6) Quick, efficient implementation
When looking for a LMS, consider the ease-of-use and the learning curve. If you're looking for a third-party system, you don't want to spend weeks of your time learning a new job function to add to your already busy schedule. Look for something that will get you up and running quickly and efficiently.
What constitutes quick and efficient implementation? It isn't huge drop-down lists, rows of boxes to check and un-check, a maze of links and a clunky user interface. You want a system that is intuitive at a glance. Look for a system that you can understand and use right off the starting line.
►Bottom line: Be sure to look for an LMS that can easily fit into your business plans and provide a quick, effective solution. Ask for a demonstration to make sure you will be able to be up and running quickly.
7) Reasonable price
Prices vary from system to system, just as much as the features, so consider the price and make sure you are getting the right value for your dollar. There is no standardized pricing model for how much a system should cost. You should expect to see a fairly wide array of bids when fielding a proposal. Remember to consider set-up costs and technical support as well. Always ask detailed questions about what you're paying for, and if there are additional hidden costs.
►Bottom line: Know your budget and what you can afford, and consider the utility of the system versus the cost.
8) Industry experts
You wouldn't expect a construction contractor to give you legal advice, so don't settle for a learning management system from another industry claiming they can support you.
Access to experts who can answer your questions quickly and accurately is a valuable tool, so look for a company that has tenure and experience. Watch for support resources and tools to help you with your implementation.
►Bottom line: Relevant experience matters. You shouldn't feel like you're on your own after choosing a LMS, so look for a system that allows easy access to people knowledgeable about the mortgage industry.
What steps should be taken now to prepare?
Look now to implement an effective compliance and training program. Get on top of what is required to comply with future examinations by the CFPB and make certain that the plan you have in place can provide you with the protection you need, not only for your business, but for your customers as well.
Harlow Spaan is president of OnlineEd Inc., an online provider of education for licensed professionals since 1999. He received his JD from Willamette University College of Law and his career experience includes tax consulting, law practice, real estate brokerage, founder of a national home inspection franchise, and investment real estate. He may be reached by phone at (503) 670-9278 or e-mail [email protected]