The threat, Williams said, stems from a resource imbalance between banks and regulators. The government can't afford bank-level salaries or complex risk management systems, leaving a large "sophistication gap" between them and the banks, he said. Before the 2008 financial crisis, banks took advantage of this disparity by taking on risks that their regulators didn't fully understand.

CFPB officials say they strive to help banks comply with the agency's rules by publishing guidance and manuals used by its field examiners, and through webinars and other outreach.

Yet many in the industry say their relationships with the agency have grown strained as they attempt to work with inexperienced regulators who have had little preparation.

"It's unfortunate that banks are really kind of the training ground for examiners, but hopefully they are learning the nuances of the industry," Garwood said.

Hunt is president and CEO of the Consumer Bankers Association, the leading trade group representing retail banking operations of the nation's biggest banks, including Bank of America, Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase. The CBA loudly opposed the bureau when it was first proposed. Since Congress created it as part of a sweeping 2010 financial law, the trade group has pushed to limit its independence.

Banks and their allies in Congress, mostly Republican, vowed to block any nominee for director of the consumer agency until its leadership was divided between a bipartisan commission and Congress was given more control over its budget. President Barack Obama installed Cordray while Congress was in recess, so the appointment did not require lawmakers' approval.

The consumer agency's budget currently comes out of the Federal Reserve's profits, which otherwise would be returned to the Treasury. Banks in the Federal Reserve system paid $387 million in 2012 to fund the CFPB and the Office of Financial Research, a small advisory office inside the Treasury Department, the Fed said last week.

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