Under the headline “Risk Management Maven,” Liberty Bank’s own Rhonda Morris takes her stance as Independent Banker Magazine’s Indie Banker of the Month in the April, 2015 of this leading industry publication. To quote the feature article written by Kelly Pike:
With curiosity and good cheer, Rhonda Morris promotes safety and efficiency through risk management. If Rhonda Morris had a catchphrase, it might be: “Have we risk assessed that?”
As senior vice president and risk management officer for Liberty Bank in Poulsbo, Washington, Morris lives and breathes risk. She oversees risk assessment for IT, network systems, vendor management, privacy, interest rates, credit, compliance, physical security and disaster recovery—in addition to responsibilities in human resources, operations and IT.
Overall, it’s her job to help the $71 million-asset community bank assess its various risks and work within its risk appetite.
“Risk slips out into the conversation no matter what we are talking about,” Morris says of the role enterprise risk management plays in Liberty Bank’s daily operations and culture. “Risk is a key component in everything we do. Knowing what our risk appetite is from the board level and working with that framework” is a vital component of Morris’s leadership role.
“The two years Morris has been with Liberty Bank have been a crash course in IT and vendor management, plus the compliance requirements of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. A member of the Washington Bankers Association education committee for the past 10 years, she says education and training is a high priority for her and the bank’s board and employees. But she tries to keep it fun when she can, even hiring someone to teach employees how to use a fire extinguisher by putting out an actual fire. “There’s nothing like hands-on experience,” she quips.
Since Morris often can’t ask a colleague when she has a high-level question, she relies on tight networks of peers at other community banks for help. She founded and still leads an operations group with 23 Washington community banks. She’s also a member of an IT peer group and an audit and compliance peer group.
“They are invaluable,” she says of the confidential feedback she gets on vendors, compliance and other issues.
“I don’t manage the bank’s risk alone,” she says. “Our board and senior management team help set the culture, and we work together to successfully execute and manage risk throughout the bank.”
Photo and select article text reprinted with permission of Independent Banker