I’M SURE I HAVE SOME COMPLIANCE GAPS, BUT DON’T KNOW WHERE TO START...
It can be very challenging for financial firms to search, monitor, and document their advisor's web presence and registered websites without interrupting day-to-day business demands and operations. Yet failure to do so can leave exposed compliance gaps unaddressed and open your firm up to fines and disciplinary actions from regulatory agencies. Common compliance gaps often include improperly documented or improperly enforced policies and procedures, insufficient evidence of a WSP, undisclosed OBAs and social media accounts, as well as rogue advisor websites. Many firms know that they have gaps, but they don’t know where to start.
FINRA publishes a monthly disciplinary report with actions and fines against firms and individuals. One of the most common fines involves undisclosed OBAs. Currently, many firms work on the “honor system” with hopes that their employees with be completely honest and disclose everything required. Unfortunately, this honor system doesn’t always work. How are you to find out if your advisors have an undisclosed OBA? That is where Eagle Eye can help you close this gap with our deep web searching technology that quickly cut through the clutter of the web and bring to your attention relevant results when monitoring your registered reps.
Do you know if your advisors have disclosed all of their social media accounts? In a recent random sampling of 10 employees from a prospective client, our Eagle Eye solution found serious violations with three of the advisors including several OBAs and social media accounts that were never disclosed. This is a typical compliance gap for many firms. Is this one your firm is facing as well?
Are you sure that your firm is monitoring all of your advisors online advertising? Do you have a process in place that is easy to demonstrate to a regulator? Do you even know if they are producing advertising that you are unaware of? This could be another compliance gap your firm is facing.
In addition to all of the supervision regulations, you need to prove that your firm has WSPs in place to help document all of the actions your firm is taking to monitor web presence. For many firms, this turns into another compliance gap they need to address.
You have a broker-dealer responsibility to monitor every website that your advisors' utilize for business purposes. Many times, advisors want to have their own website to help them stand out among the thousands of other financial advisor websites out there. How are you monitoring these websites? Are you notified of every change automatically so that it can be approved? If not, here is another compliance gap you might be facing, there has been an increase in fines imposed by FINRA regarding website monitoring. SiteQuest Compliance's SQWatcher program is an easy to use solution that will quickly help you fill this gap at a fraction of the cost of a fine.
Then to complete all of this monitoring you need to document all of your findings in an organized manner. Many times this is the last step in the compliance process and yet it can become one of the largest compliance gaps for a firm. Our automated documentation features found as part of our programs are detailed and searchable. We provide you with all of the information you need to respond to a regulator.
SiteQuest Compliance offers programs, support, and experience to help you bridge these gaps and respond to a regulator. A firm that is able to demonstrate compliance with tangible evidence will mitigate risks, such as costly regulatory fines, and be better prepared for unannounced visits from regulatory agencies.
Contact us today and talk to us about any gaps you need help addressing.
Do you struggle to keep up with the compliance and supervision responsibilities that require you to monitor and approve the content on registered advisors’ websites?
Other services that monitor and archive websites aren’t built specifically for this industry and their one-size-fits-all approach often leaves compliance overwhelmed without having comprehensive tools, workflows, and processes needed to effectively supervise these sites and meet supervision requirements.
What if you could automatically “Watch” all of these websites, identifying specific types of changes that need your attention?
Introducing SQ Watcher or “SQWatcher” to our friends.
SQWatcher supports your firm’s adherence to regulatory requirements by actively supervising sites for unapproved changes, and providing historical archives of these websites.
SQWatcher allows clients to create simple to complex workflows needed to meet their unique and specialized requirements.
You can specify the types of changes that generate in your workflows such as new web pages, changes to readable text and images, and much more.
Don’t miss Google Reviews, comments, and Youtube uploads associated with your advisors’ business. These workflow items will automatically generate reviews within your customized dashboard.
At no extra cost to you, custom-built workflows will organize your reviews into a manageable system that is easy to use, allowing website changes to be shared, escalated, and tracked while compliance issues are resolved within your supervision department.
Don’t rely on monitoring services that rely on a one-size-fits-all approach. SQWatcher was made specifically for supervising websites within the financial industry.
Contact us today and we will demonstrate how SQWatcher can work for you.
Are you relying on ‘google alerts’ to track advisors’ online presence?
Google alerts are somewhat easy to set up, but are they finding everything?
We created our own in-house case study and set up alerts on several team members. As a result, over the last six months, we received about 200 “alert emails” . . .
And not one was applicable to any of our team members.
Most Google Alerts received are not relevant to what supervision is actually looking for, the primary reason for this is that Google Alerts primarily searches big news sites and blogs.
As compliance supervisors, you are looking for information and results usually not covered by mainstream media; these are published in niche industry and regional publications, discussion forums, institute websites, and more.
Google alerts require you to add extra characters such as @ and # to help refine your search, but be careful, extra spaces in your alerts can make your searches ineffective. Additionally, it is very difficult to set up alerts if you don’t have a Gmail account. Checking another email account for alerts just adds to your workload.
As supervisors’ inboxes become inundated with "email alerts” that have nothing to do with their registered advisors, they may miss important emails from your firm and associates.
There isn’t a way to turn off notifications for a specific alert “discovery”. One of our employees has the same name as a contributing author for a prominent news agency. Our email box was alerted daily with her latest article, but this was not the person we were interested in. The only thing we could do was open, read, and then delete these continual email alerts.
In addition to the work of going through extra emails, there is the required documentation. Compliance needs to manually copy and paste all the email information and save it somewhere on their network. Hopefully filed logically so that compliance can quickly find it again when requested.
This is why Eagle Eye was developed.
Eagle Eye eliminates time-consuming, ineffective, manual search processes with easy-to-use workflows and automated documentation. It uncovers and reduces compliance and “failure to supervise” risks while demonstrating to regulators that your firm has a formalized internet supervision program in compliance with FINRA and SEC rules.
De-clutter your inbox and stop relying on ineffective alerts. Contact us today for your personalized demonstration and see for yourself how Eagle Eye will improve your efficiencies and support your supervision program.
When conducting web searches on Google™ or Bing™, how accurate are the results typically? Of course if you’re looking for someone who has a large and prominent web presence, Google searches can be easy. A Google Search on Lebron James will give you plenty of accurate results, but let’s be real. When supervising an advisor, it can be like searching for a single needle in a vast array of haystacks.
Eagle Eye’s accuracy for a Broker Dealer client who has used the system for less than one year. Take my name as an example: James Cella. It’s not a common name, BUT there are over 50 James Cella’s in the United States and many of us have a decent web presence. One is a lawyer, another a hollywood film producer while another is a sports information director at a small university. So if one were to try to supervise me and were to Google my name, they would only find 4 results out of Google’s top 50 were actually me.
That’s a whooping 8% accuracy. Now one could say that I don’t exist on the web and hence the low results, but the fact is that I do exist on the web with:
So 4 results in the top 50 returned by Google is flat out terrible. Just image how it would look if I were named John Smith.
When we released Eagle Eye we set out to design an application that dramatically increased the odds of finding the James Cellas, Sally Jenkins, Timothy Freemans, or whomever our clients needed to supervise.
So how are we doing?
Overall the numbers are pretty impressive. Our clients generally review anywhere from the top 20 to top 30 results found by the system and they are averaging around 55% to 67% accuracy. One client who has been on the system for nearly a year has an accuracy of 72% in their top 30 and an insane 82% in their top 15. That means that for every 10 results they are reviewing, 7 to 8 of them are the people they are looking for and this is after the company has blacklisted domains they don’t want to review like whitepages.com or classmates.com.
How do we do it? We can’t reveal all the ingredients of the secret sauce, but we can tell you that we’ve built complex algorithms and intelligence into Eagle Eye so that it learns as your firm performs reviews.
So what does all this accuracy give you?
Recently I was told by a longtime client that our customer service is “old fashioned, but in a good way”. Perhaps that is the last thing a technology company wants to hear.
As president of SiteQuest Compliance, I reflected over what our client meant in that statement. We do pride ourselves on the fact that when you call our office with questions or in need of technical support, that your call is quickly answered by a live person. We don’t force our clients to use service tags, make them navigate unhelpful phone trees, or waste time waiting in queues listening to mundane hold music. We are there for our customers, with a readiness and willingness to meet and exceed their expectations.
A compliance supervisor that has been using our applications for several years recently said that “SiteQuest Compliance provides top notch service. They are always happy to hear from me and have exceptional response time. No tickets, bills or painful processes, just a happy voice ready to help.”
Another compliance supervisor utilizing our Eagle Eye program said; ‘I deal with vendor support in my day-to-day job. SiteQuest Compliance stands out because they provide prompt service and always take it to the next level to ensure I'm satisfied.”
Another one of our clients said that, “I have been using SiteQuest Compliance's Eagle Eye program for almost two years now and have had excellent results. The system does exactly what it was designed to do and we have received excellent customer service from the company. Highly recommended.”
We make it easy to contact us with our phone numbers posted right on our website under the “Contact Us” menu header. We enjoy and look forward to our phone conversations with our clients who we know by name and personally as well.
We may be called “old fashioned” when it comes to our customer service, but we accept that name with pride in knowing that it sets us apart from others.
Feel free to reach out to me with any questions or web supervision needs that might arise.
President & CEO
This past year we have been busy behind the scenes updating and improving our applications to help increase the efficiencies for our clients.
Our apps are FASTER, FRIENDLY, AND FUN!
Ok… work is not always considered fun,
but when you improve your productivity and maximize your time, work becomes more enjoyable.
WATCH and see what we have been up to.
Reach out to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org for your personalized demo to see how SiteQuest Compliance can support your firm in the coming years.
Best wishes for a happy holiday, and a successful new year!
A firm in Florida was recently fined for failing to update their WSPs after it began recommending EB-5 investments. Additionally, it was discovered that many of their WSPs were “not deemed reasonable because they provided only limited guidance to those representatives at the firm who facilitated and participated in these EB-5 transactions.”
Are you continually updating your WSPs?
How do you ensure new policies and WSPs have been reviewed and approved before distributing them throughout your firm?
Oftentimes firms have their policies and WSPs in various pdfs and word documents throughout their system. Many advisors are referencing outdated files saved on the network or their computers.
The Policies app from SiteQuest Compliance helps firms organize their policies and written supervisory procedures into one online platform that conveys a professional branded content to their advisors.
Policies is a powerful tool used to consolidate, version control, and distribute your firm’s policies and WSPs to your employees and advisors. With our VIP Service included with Policies, SiteQuest Compliance manages all the changes, formatting, and online publishing for no additional charge.
Policies notify your employees when a Policy or WSP has been updated. Our “favorites” feature allows advisors to bookmark these new updates for quick reference. In accordance with FINRA rules our Policies application ensures the most up-to-date policies are accessed, identified, and utilized, reducing your risks.
This same disciplinary action ruled that “the firm failed to establish, maintain and enforce a system, including WSPs, reasonably designed to supervise its registered representatives’ EB-5 related websites. The firm did not conduct regular supervisory reviews of websites maintained by the two representatives in relation to their EB-5 business that contained content that violated FINRA’s advertising rules.”
Our SQWatcher program compliments our Policies application while assisting your compliance department with monitoring your registered advisors’ websites.
SQWatcher automatically creates workflow events when website changes have been made, allowing for quick and easy reviews. SQWatcher’s updated dashboard, bulk review enhancements, and powerful workflow review processes allows your firm to monitor and document dozens to hundreds of websites with relatively few employee hours involved.
Automated documentation reduces compliance and “failure to supervise” risks while demonstrating to regulators, your firm is actively supervising these unique websites in compliance with FINRA and SEC rules.
Contact us today for your personalized demo and see for yourself how SiteQuest Compliance can streamline your processes while maximizing your time and efficiencies.
Eagle Eye has proven to be incredibly effective at reducing risk as it continues to find websites, social media accounts and blog posts on the web that pose compliant risks to a firm, but did you know that it also saves time?
Yes, a lot of time.
One of our Eagle Eye clients recently reported that they were able to reduce their web supervision time by 80% since switching to Eagle Eye. That’s a huge number. How’s the firm utilizing their newly found time?
First, they are expanding their web surveillance program by increasing the depth of Eagle Eye’s search results (at no additional cost by the way). By increasing the depth by 60%, they’ll be able to uncover additional risks while demonstrating to their examiners and regulators that they are meeting their requirements for reasonable supervision outlined in NASD 3010, IM 30103, 3012, FINRA 2210 and FINRA 3270.
What else are they doing with their extra time? Well of course they now have time for those extra compliance projects that have been slipping through the cracks over the past few years.
With Eagle Eye, not only do you reduce risk and meet your compliance and supervision responsibilities, you save lots and lots of time.
Isn’t extra time a wonderful thing?
Websites are always changing, trending, and updating information about products, company and or your advisors. What happens when these sites aren’t hosted by one of your approved advisor website providers? Those “rogue sites” or “off the range sites” as they are often called, that are created directly by the advisor or by a provider outside of the industry. It then becomes your responsibility to monitor, identify, respond, and document everything that happens with that website as well as archiving it.
While there are various solutions out there that help monitor websites for changes, reviewing changes and finding the right kinds of changes have proven to be difficult. With SQWatcher, we took a completely different approach and put added focus on the types of content that comes into the workflow.
SQWatcher stands for SiteQuest Watcher and our “Watcher” technology is behind everything that happens in the system. For every client, we create custom “watchers” that identify and isolate the types of changes they would like to review. As the application scans your website(s) throughout the day, it will analyze the changes that are found and determine if a review is required.
Additionally, we've learned over the years that advisor websites have many dynamic elements contained within them. These include stock tickers, date widgets, recent post sidebars, calendars, and more, all of which can change on a daily or near daily basis, often generating unwanted reviews. We’ve added a new technology that allows our clients to request “ignores” on these dynamic elements to limit unnecessary reviews. These adjustments allow the sites to be "tuned" over a very short period of time which limits the number and volume of reviews in a big way.
Finally, we’ve added powerful bulk review actions that in essence, allows a single review to apply to multiple pages. For example, if the system detected a change to the footer, that would generate hundreds of reviews in other systems, each requiring a separate review. With SQWatcher’s bulk review processes, this sort of change can be reviewed once and then applied across the remaining pages that reflect the same change, streamlining the review process like never before.
SiteQuest Compliance is proud of our long-standing tradition of listening to our customers’ needs within their job requirements. Our SQWatcher application was built with these customer requests in mind. We would love to take the time to personally show you how this application will work for your firm. Contact us today for your personalized demo.
In a recent investigation and settlement, the Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth fined a firm for failing to have reasonable policies and procedures in place to detect and monitor a broker-dealer agent’s use of social media accounts. The infamous “Roaring Kitty” investigation found that the firm:
“Failed to have reasonable policies and procedures in place to detect and monitor a broker-dealer agent’s use of social media accounts unaffiliated with (the firm) to achieve compliance with the Act of Regulations. Specifically,...policies and procedures were inadequate to detect...social media activities, including over 250 hours, or 10 days’ worth of YouTube videos detailing investment strategies, at least 590 securities-related tweets on Twitter, and a similar volume of posts on other social media platforms all concerning securities-related information.“
Additionally, these findings stated that the firm:
“Prohibited its broker-dealer agents from discussing generic securities and company business on social media, including specifically YouTube and Twitter. Despite these prohibitions, (the firm) failed to implement policies and procedures reasonably designed to detect, monitor or prevent its broker-dealer agents from discussing securities-related information or company business…”
This settlement resulted in a multimillion-dollar fine, and three years of compliance audits and scrutiny.
Does your firm have reasonable policies and procedures in place when it comes to supervising your agents’ online presence?
Are you actively searching and monitoring the internet in compliance with FINRA rules 3110, 3120, 3130, and 3270?
Detection is key to a reasonably designed web supervision process.
With over 10 years of experience, Eagle Eye has become a trusted partner for firms in establishing policies and procedures, while automating searches and documentation of supervision practices.
Eagle Eye provides everything you need including when a result was found, screenshots of the webpage, who reviewed it, comments that were made, and timestamps on every action taken.
Address issues prior to regulatory discovery or examination.
Contact us today and let us demonstrate how Eagle Eye can support your compliance department while lowering your risk.
About James Cella
James Cella is the President of a growing and innovative compliance technology provider called SiteQuest Compliance. James is a customer-centric individual and focuses on building and sustaining positive and lasting relationship with his clients and partners. James and his family are "super fans" of University of Utah Football and have attended nearly every home game since 2002. Go Utes!