4 Steps to Writing a Policy Document For Your Bank and Credit Union
Every company has a list of dos and don’ts, cans and cannots, yeses and nos. These rules and regulations are essential for informing everyone about what is and isn’t allowed in a company.
As your bank or credit union grows, it makes it even more difficult to communicate all of the policies your company has. But sharing that information is critical, especially for compliance.
So, how do you ensure everyone in your company has access to your policies? Simple: you write them down.
But not all written policy documents are created equal.
Over my eight years with ScreenSteps — a knowledge base software that helps companies document and share policies, processes, and procedures — I’ve coached companies on how to write clear policies and make them easy to find in the moment employees need to reference them.
Sometimes the companies I’ve helped had ambiguous policies, included too much information that was difficult to parse through, or weren’t specific enough.
In this article, I share four steps to writing policies for your bank or credit union that will make it easy for your employees to find the right policy at the right time, and apply those policies in the right way.
Step 1: Identify situations where employees need to know if they can do something
The purpose of a policy is different from a procedure. A policy helps employees know whether something is allowed or what should be done in specific situations. Whereas, a procedure teaches employees how to handle a situation once the decision has been made.
Should I offer a refund? Check the policy. If you should offer the refund, you then check the procedure for how to actually issue the refund.
So, your first step when writing policies for your bank is to identify the situations where employees need to know if they can do something. Essentially, your policies are answering the question, “Am I allowed to _______?”
This could be a situation like when a customer asks if they can deposit a check that’s written on the back of a napkin. The policy would state that “it’s allowed as long as it includes the following information….”
Tip: Most, if not all, of your policies will lead to procedures. During your brainstorm, you can make a list of both policies and procedures that you want to document.
Step 2: Write down questions related to those situations
Now that you have a list of scenarios that employees may encounter, write down questions related to those situations. These questions are simple and succinct.
Some examples of those questions for your bank or credit union could be along the lines of:
- What can I deposit?
- Another way of saying it is, “Can I deposit something that’s not a check?”
- Who can I offer Loan X to?
- When should I refill ATMs?
Make sure you phrase those questions in a manner that your employees (or customers) would ask them. These will become the titles of your policies. This will make it easier for your employees to search for and find your policies later.
Step 3: Write simple answers to those questions
When writing policies, the tendency for most content authors is to make them very formal and official-looking. Avoid this if you can.
Your policies are NOT for the compliance officers — they are for employees who are on the front lines doing the work and need answers now. Make it easy for them to read! They are looking for instructions they can understand and apply without needing an interpreter.
Some policies (especially in the financial industry) use a lot of legal jargon, and understandably so. But if things are too technical, then employees won’t use them because they aren’t helpful.
If you absolutely must include all the legal terminology, try to strike a balance between readability and whatever compliance needs to be happy. Make your policies as straightforward and simple as you possibly can.
Tip: Don’t write all of your company’s policies in one document. Create a new document for each general policy (e.g. ATM Policy, Deposity Policy, Currency Exchange Rate Policy, etc.). This makes them easier to update and easier for employees to find.
Step 4: Link to procedures related to the policy
Once they know what is allowed and isn’t allowed, they will need to know how to handle the situation. That’s where your procedures come in.
You may be tempted to write our procedures within your policies. Resist the temptation! You want your policies and procedures in separate documents. They serve different purposes, so keep them separate. It will make it easier for your employees to find the resources they need.
Instead, insert hyperlinks in your policies that link to the appropriate documented procedure. Then your employees don’t need to search for the procedure once they’ve understood what they can and can’t do.
For example, let’s say an employee asks, “When should I refill an ATM?” From your documented policy, they learn that they need to do it now. At the bottom of the policy, you provide a link to the procedure (or procedures) that walks them through how to do it.
This is important because you might have 20 different procedures related to the same policy. Refilling one type of ATM might have a different procedure than refilling another ATM. You can easily link to those procedures from the policy.
The same is true for your procedures. In the procedure for refilling an ATM, include a link to the policy at the top that explains when ATMs should be refilled.
It saves your employees time and makes it easier to complete tasks.
Ready to build on your documented policies with written procedures?
Having your policies documented for your bank and credit union will help your employees know what they can and can’t do. The next step is helping employees complete tasks. Written procedures can walk your employees through how to handle different situations step by step.
With a ScreenSteps knowledge base for banks and credit unions, it is easy to create, store, and share all of your documented policies, processes, and procedures with your company. Our cloud-based knowledge base has a robust search engine that helps your employees find the resources they need in the moment they need them.
Want to continue documenting all of your company’s policies, processes, and procedures?
Once you’ve written your policies, start writing your procedures on how to handle these different situations. Learn how to write those procedures in 5 steps with the link below.