While working at a 24-hour news radio station in Washington State, Jill Chase decided to take on a new challenge: Start up a new marketing department at a small credit union.
After successfully building the marketing department at the $384 million Verity Credit Union in Seattle, Chase and another Verity employee, Patricia Deeth, were charged with yet another challenge: Start up the growing credit union’s internal audit department.
“We had no idea what we were doing. I mean my degree was in broadcast journalism,” Chase recalled. Nevertheless, Chase’s marketing experience exposed her to every credit union department, enabling her to learn about its operations. What’s more, Chase soon discovered that she loved her new world of auditing. After receiving her certified internal auditor designation from the Institute of Internal Auditors, Chase credits her career advancement and success in part to the Association of Credit Union Internal Auditors.
“I joined the ACUIA because I was looking for someone to help me figure out what types of things I needed to be looking at to help my credit union grow,” said Chase, now vice president of audit services at the $1.65 billion Washington State Employees Credit Union in Olympia. She joined Washington State Employees eight years ago.
Celebrating its 22nd anniversary, the ACUIA established its mission to become the “premier and quality provider of credit union internal audit resources.”
Today, Chase chairs ACUIA’s board of directors, recruiting new members and making credit unions aware of the association and how they can benefit from it.
“I think internal auditing is a growth area for credit unions because they are facing increasing challenges of staying on top of the compliance regulations and risk-assessment management,” said Chase. ACUIA assists credit unions, both small and large, in developing internal audit functions to address the changing industry and regulatory demands.
The association’s founder, Terry McEachern, got the idea for the ACUIA after attending a professional seminar in 1988 when she met a few other credit union internal auditors.
“I enjoyed the rapport we developed during the meeting and wondered if there were other credit union internal auditors in Wisconsin….could we expand these relationships,” wrote McEachern on ACUIA’s website. She is chief internal auditor for the $1.2 billion Royal Credit Union in Eau Claire, Wis.
McEachern decided to organize the association’s first meeting with eight other credit union employees from Wisconsin and Minnesota. The ACUIA was incorporated as a nonprofit organization in 1990. When first word got out about the new association, McEachern began fielding calls from other credit unions from around the country.
“It became readily apparent that there was a need of our organization in other parts of the country," she wrote. "We divided the country into regions, assigned regional directors and turned our attention toward a national organization.”
From a small group of eight members, the ACUIA has grown into a membership of 640 strong.
“We are a very passionate group. We are a very active group and one of our greatest benefits is networking,” declared Chase.
ACUIA’s networking also extends to helping members learn from each other. One of the most popular features is an online forum where members from around the nation converge daily to ask and answer questions on just about every internal audit challenge, issue or dilemma. The forum is coordinated by Warren Whiteoak, an internal auditor for the $548 million Progressive Credit Union in New York City.
“The forum started two years ago, and it already has 15 subsections of topics. The general forum has about 1,600 hits, so it’s pretty widely used,” said Whiteoak. “Networking is one of the most interesting things in the credit union industry because people will share information with you, unlike the banking world.”
Whiteoak also writes a column about the forum for ACUIA’s quarterly magazine, which covers the latest industry news and trends. To open more channels of communications with its members and others, the association recently tapped into the social media, opening a Twitter account, Facebook and LinkedIn pages.
ACUIA also focuses on professional development and continuing professional education. The association’s annual conference and regional meetings sponsor professional seminars. The association also holds three webinars annually to help members stay ahead of expected regulatory or industry changes.
“We really try to stay on top of whatever it is examiners are looking at,” said Chase. “We actually like to know what examiners are going to look at before they know what they are looking at.”
Although an internal auditor’s primary role is to provide an independent, objective view of the activities in the credit union, today’s internal auditor wears many hats.
“These days, internal auditors are also active in risk-management assessments and identify the key controls in place and test those controls to make sure they are working properly...to ensure something cannot go wrong in the [credit union’s] processes through errors or fraud,” Chase explained.
She also noted internal auditors are becoming more involved in identifying inefficiencies throughout credit union operations.
“Because we look at so many areas of the credit union, we can spot ways to improve efficiencies,” Chase said. “A lot of times employees are so focused on their particular area of work that they may not see someone in another area who is doing the same work or doing something else that could be making the work harder. So we help try to identify those things to help operational efficiencies.”