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From Northwest Credit Union Association

Compliance Director to Open Elder, Compliance Law Private Practice

When credit unions need compliance help, they need rapid response. They get it from the Northwest Credit Union Association, and Mary Sroufe is one of the people to thank for it. Sroufe is heading into private practice where she will focus on elder and compliance legal issues.

More than 3,000 times last year, credit unions turned to the compliance team at the Northwest Credit Union Association (NWCUA), and every time, they had a response in under an hour.

That commitment to member service has been led by Mary Sroufe, the Association’s director of compliance services, and compliance support in the Northwest has reached a higher level on Sroufe’s seven-year watch. She helped to launch the Compliance Answer Library (CAL) in 2008 as a 24/7 search engine for answers to credit unions’ never ending questions. She pioneered the policy to respond to members’ questions within one business day, and the average wait time is now just 39 minutes.

Membership in the Compliance Networking Council tripled as awareness built that there was a helping hand. With more than 20,000 pages of rules and regulations resulting from the Dodd-Frank Act alone, there is always a question, and always a rapid response.

“Mostly what I do is tell people what to do,” Sroufe laughed, letting her signature wit surface.

Now she’s answering her own calling.

Sroufe leaves the Association Aug. 6 to hang up her own shingle, and she will specialize in elder law and compliance legal issues.

“The Association and its member credit unions are in good hands with systems Mary helped to put in place, and we know we’ll be able to maintain that level of service,” said NWCUA President Troy Stang. “Mary is working with us to find a replacement, and her teammate David Curtis has things under control. Still, we will miss Mary and wish her the best.”

Sroufe’s experience in compliance began just after she graduated with honors and a Bachelor of Arts degree in biology from Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Mass., and landed in the Toxic Substance Control Act Compliance unit at Boeing.

Taking advantage of a program Boeing offered to employees who continued their education, Sroufe enrolled in night classes at Seattle University School of Law. She graduated Magna Cum Laude in 2003.

After serving a stint on the legal team for a firm advising State Farm Insurance, Sroufe arrived at the Washington Credit Union League. It was a natural for someone who has been a credit union member since she was about 10 years old.

“Every loan I’ve ever had was through a credit union,” Sroufe said.

Now she is looking forward to the next chapter.

“I want to be able to help credit unions in a bigger capacity,” she said. As a compliance director, she gives valued guidance. As an attorney, she could give legal advice. While Sroufe has assisted Oregon credit unions with hundreds of compliance questions, her legal practice will be limited to Washington, where she is licensed.

Compliance is one proven area of legal expertise Sroufe has, and elder law is a passion and one which became clearer in January when her beloved grandmother passed away.

“She was someone who lived her life very deliberately and went after what she wanted,” Sroufe said, and she plans to follow those footprints. With America’s aging boomer population, she expects to be busy.

“By the time a lot of elders realize they need legal help, they are already in damage control mode,” Sroufe said. “They have lost their ability to make choices and feel trapped by limits of what they can do to more gracefully manage their end of life.”

Sroufe wants to see “people being able to preserve as many choices as they can and to plan for their pretty much inevitable decline as gracefully as possible.” She also hopes to find solutions for elders who can’t afford end-of-life care but have too much money to qualify for assistance. She hopes to help them and their families manage that more gracefully, preserve their options and keep their dignity.

 

Questions? Contact the Compliance Hotline: 1.800.546.4465, compliance@nwcua.org.

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