Ten years ago, SiteQuest Technologies was created with the mission to make compliance supervision easier and more efficient by providing user-friendly applications to help financial firms stay compliant in the ever-changing digital world. Working side-by-side, truly listening to what our customers need and want, and developing solutions to meet those needs is still is our focus today.
With our customers in mind, we are excited to announce that SiteQuest Technologies is updating its name to SiteQuest Compliance. As rules and regulations evolve, our customers’ challenges are ever-increasing. From workflows to policies, to website monitoring and archiving, to internet supervision, to discovering undisclosed OBAs and social media accounts, our suite of compliance solutions provide financial firms with the tools they need.
While our name has changed, our values have not. As a company, and as individuals, we value integrity, honesty, continual improvement, and innovation. We are committed to our customers and work with them as partners, to be an industry leader in compliance applications.
Our SiteQuest Compliance team brings many years of experience in this industry. We know the challenges compliance and supervision brings, and we look forward to many more years of serving our great customers and partners.
In alignment with the adoption of a new name, SiteQuest Compliance has launched a new website at SQCOMPLIANCE.COM.
Thank you for visiting our new website. Take a moment and look around. Contact us to see how our applications will assist you with your everyday compliance needs and challenges.
President & CEO
A securities firm and its chief compliance officer were fined $225,000 by FINRA and required to retain an expert to evaluate and approve its written supervisory procedures (WSPs).
** We would like to note that the actions of this CCO are not the norm. This person committed many willful violations which led to this fine. But, many of the violations were in direct relation to supervision. SiteQuest Compliance provides solutions to CCO in regards to internet and website supervision. That is the primary focus of our article review.
“The NAC found that this securities firm and the CCO violated NASD Rules 3010 and 2110 and FINRA Rule 2010 by failing to establish and maintain an effective supervisory system, including written supervisory procedures (“WSPs”)… The firm then failed to implement a supervisory system to reasonably ensure appropriate review and supervision of the websites.”
NASD Rule 3010 required that FINRA member firms have reasonable supervisory procedures. The CCO in this case was responsible for reviewing and drafting the firm’s WSPs, and the WSPs provided that all advertising would be reviewed for misleading or inaccurate statements and that the firm’s president, would do so. The firm’s WSPs also specified that “all business messages on the internet shall be considered advertising.” And NASD Rule 2210 defined “advertisements” to include “any material . . . that is published, or used in any electronic . . . public media, including any website.” The NAC faulted the CCO for not “identifying” in the WSPs that “websites are advertising to be reviewed”; its rationale for holding the CCO liable when “the firm’s procedures did not specifically state that websites were advertising.” One registered advisor for this securities firm created two non-password-protected, publicly available websites. This firm and the CCO didn’t ensure appropriate review and supervision of these websites as advertising.
In the end, the NEC found that the firm’s failure to supervise the websites violated NASD Rules 3010 and 2110 and FINRA Rule 2010.
Our SQWatcher application would have been a great resource and support for this securities firm. SQWatcher is a web-based solution that TRACKS, MONITORS, and DOCUMENTS your websites assisting with your compliance. With SQWatcher, you have a partner that is built to support your firm, knowing that your required websites are being monitored and archived with tools that will alert you if there is a problem. With an easy to use interface, we will personally support you through the implementation and learning process, continually ongoing to ensure that you and your firm are getting the most out of this industry-leading application.
The NEC stated that “We reiterate here that compliance officers “play a vital role in our regulatory framework. That role in many instances has increased in complexity, and there are circumstances where the role presents difficult challenges. In making determinations about CCO liability, the protection of investors and the public interest are at the forefront of our minds.”
SiteQuest Compliance has over 15 years of industry experience supporting CCOs with their ever changing and increasingly complex job requirements.
Every day, thousands of advisors and advisor websites are being monitored and documented with the aid of our industry-leading compliance and supervision applications. We are proud to be a partner in compliance. We would love to discuss your compliance concerns. Contact us today!
Source: (FINRA Case #2011027666902)
After attending the May 2019 Annual FINRA Conference it is still evident that High-Risk Brokers are still a priority and an area of ongoing concern for FINRA. During this conference, we attended an informative break-out session with a discussion panel focusing on heightened supervision and Regulatory Notice 18-15.
It was right before last year’s annual conference that FINRA released its Regulatory Notice 18-15 regarding Heightened Supervision. FINRA noted that there are times where heightened supervision of an advisor may be appropriate. This notice stated that “FINRA requires member firms to establish and maintain supervisory systems for each of their associated persons and to test and verify annually that they have established reasonable procedures, including procedures for heightened supervision of associated persons, where necessary.”
This year’s discussion panel noted that FINRA is still looking for:
FINRA is also stressing this year that you examine these issues and identify “high-risk” brokers during the hiring process.
FINRA's 2019 Risk Monitoring and Examination Priorities Letter stated in regards to high-risk brokers that, “we will continue to enhance our examination program to evaluate how firms address these risks in their hiring practices and supervision programs.”
Innovative regulatory technology is playing a more prominent role for supervisors in their efforts to become more efficient, effective and risk-based in their supervision methods.
With our Eagle Eye application’s risk-based approach your workflow processes will get easier, faster, and more effective. With increased system intelligence, enhanced lexicon capabilities, system learning, and detailed evaluation of results content, Eagle Eye automatically discovers your riskiest advisors and focuses your attention to where it’s needed.
Our Eagle Eye’s innovative “Heighten Supervision Mode”. The flexibility of this application empowers you to monitor your advisors at a variety of levels. For those that push the envelope a heightened level of supervision may be required. Eagle Eye will dig deep and with “Eagle Eye” precision discover and notify you of your advisors’ online presence.
Eagle Eye allows you to customize your supervisory approach without worry, and without additional charges or fees. Contact us today for your personalized demo and we will show you how our “Heightened Supervision Mode” will benefit your firm.
Are you concerned that you might have unidentified “high-risk” brokers at your firm? Have you identified a “high-risk” broker, but are unsure what to do next? Are you documenting this whole process and what you find? Let us help you address any concerns you might have. Contact us today.
What controls does your firm have in place to aid you in discovering DBAs if your advisors are not disclosing them?
In December 2018, FINRA released their annual “Report on Examination Findings”. This report serves as a resource for firms to strengthen their compliance programs and supervisory controls. This report focuses on selected observations from recent examinations that FINRA considers worth highlighting because of their potential significance, frequency, and impact on investors and the markets.
“FINRA’s examination, surveillance and risk monitoring programs play a central role in supporting FINRA’s mission of investor protection and market integrity.”
“DBAs and Communications With the Public” were one of the findings highlighted in this report. FINRA continues to find that many registered representatives are not compliant with FINRA Rule 3270 in trying to conceal their outside business activities.
“FINRA observed that certain firms did not maintain sufficient WSPs and controls, or provide adequate disclosures regarding the use of DBA names.”
What controls does your firm have in place to aid you in discovering these DBAs if your advisors are not disclosing them? How do you know what your advisors are putting online using their “DBA” name? That is where our Eagle Eye application steps in. Our multi-query processes and dynamically designed algorithms provide more accurate online search results for you to quickly review. Our new “Risk-Based Review Process” provides added system intelligence, enhanced lexicon capabilities, system learning, and detailed evaluation of your search results. Eagle Eye automatically discovers your riskiest advisors and focuses your attention to where it’s needed.
FINRA’s exam report also focused on registered representatives’ use of DBA names on their websites, social media accounts, seminars, and more that failed disclose they were working on behalf of a firm.
FINRA also found many instances where there was no hyperlink to FINRA’s BrokerCheck. “Some registered representatives’ websites did not contain a “readily apparent reference” and hyperlink to FINRA’s BrokerCheck on the web pages that included the representatives’ professional profiles, as FINRA Rule 2210(d)(8)(A) (Communications with the Public) requires.”
With precision our Eagle Eye application can find undisclosed websites, and social media accounts using the DBA names owned by your registered advisors. Enabling you to supervise and make sure that your advisors are following FINRA requirements. Then, our SQWatcher application can help you monitor, review, approve, and document changes made to your registered representatives’ websites. (Learn more about this application) These two applications become force-multipliers in your supervision program.
The annual FINRA Exam Findings Report is helpful for firms in bringing non-compliance issues to the forefront. It is a good time to reflect and examine on your own WSPs and supervisions procedures. With over 15 years of working in the financial industry, SiteQuest Technologies is an industry leader in providing innovative compliance and supervision software applications and website solutions for the financial industry.
Contact us today with your DBA supervision concerns.
Read the entire December 2018 FINRA Exam Findings:
Related Article: Are You Finding Everything You Need to Monitor?
Did you read FINRA’s news release on October 1, 2018, entitled “FINRA Announces Plan to Consolidate Examination and Risk Monitoring Programs”? (Read the full-text news release)
FINRA President and CEO Robert W. Cook said, “By directing our expertise and resources in a more tailored way, we will become more effective at examining for compliance.”
Bari Havlik, who is overseeing this new program said, “Implementing a unified program structure will help make us a more agile and risk-focused regulator.”
So what does this mean for you as a supervisor?
This is a potentially massive shift in focus when it comes to FINRA exams and while it’s early, it appears that exams will now be more comprehensive with a wider area of focus than has been done in the past. Instead of focusing on only trading compliance or financial compliance, exams will likely be broader in nature. This new program is likely to zero-in on the supervision processes your firm has in place beyond the focused scope you’ve been used to.
This consolidation will force firms to dig a deeper into their WSPs and supervision processes including an examination of how they supervise the web.
We have over 15 years of experience in providing leading-edge compliance and web supervision software applications and website monitoring and archiving solutions for the financial industry.
Contact us today. Tell us your concerns when it comes to your “Risk Monitoring Programs” and we will share with you the solutions SiteQuest Compliance has developed for the financial industry.
Continually Making Sure Your Monitoring Records and Documentation are in Order
This is not a preparedness matter to take lightly. Just last November FINRA fined a Tier One Company $2.6 million for failures in required electronic records and email retention. Read the full report.
The benefits of maintaining accurate, reliable and usable records can help to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of your business. It will ensure your firm is able to access information when required and meet all accountability and compliance requirements. Below are some suggestions that are beneficial in establishing and making sure that an effective record keeping and documentation system is in order when you are monitoring your associates' web presence.
Planning. Establish what processes are needed for monitoring records to be effectively maintained and how this will be achieved. Planning a monitoring process will help you maintain a record keeping system that works for your firm and provides clear expectations for supervisors and compliance officers.
Consistency. To make it easier for compliance staff members to do their job, have information collected and stored in a consistent way within your firm's network; all staff should follow the same policies and procedures.
Communication. Have all your staff made aware of, and ensure they understand, the FINRA general supervision requirements. Verify that all supervisors know and follow the record keeping policies and procedures established by your firm. By communicating expectations clearly, you will benefit from consistent record keeping standards.
Modify. Don’t be afraid to modify your record keeping system if you find a more efficient way to achieve results. Regular reviews of your record keeping systems will keep them up-to-date and operating in a way that is beneficial to your firm.
Responsibility. Know your responsibilities—what to record, how to maintain records and how long they should be kept. Having accurate and reliable records during an audit will allow you to easily confirm your firm’s compliance.
Review. Encourage staff to provide feedback on how the monitoring record keeping system is working and how it could be improved. In doing this, you may gain valuable suggestions that will bring continuous improvement to your administrative records, improving the efficiencies of the practice.
Embrace technology. Regularly investing in technology will help improve the efficiency of your general supervision monitoring requirements. Your staff will appreciate any efforts made to improve and automate the task of keeping records, giving them additional job satisfaction. Additionally, removing manual steps not only makes the record keeping process more efficient, it also makes the records uniform and reduces the risk of human error.
Our clients have found that Eagle Eye’s automated reporting features saves them valuable time. With just a click, you will have everything you need including when a result was found, who reviewed it, comments that were made and time stamps on every action taken on the account. From a regulatory point of view, with Eagle Eye’s automated screenshots you will have the full story of what content looked like at the time of review, giving you everything you need to respond to a regulator.
Supervising the web doesn’t have to be difficult! Let us show you how Eagle Eye is a more effective solution. Contact us today for a demo.
Did you know that September is National Preparedness Month? Emergencies can happen at anytime and anywhere. Ready Business is a resource that assists businesses in developing a preparedness program by providing tools to create a plan that addresses the impact of various hazards. Preparedness is the key to ensuring that your business will continue after a disaster.
In light of this national observance, our blog is focusing on preparedness and preparing for an audit. We understand that the arrival of FINRA examiners at your firm may cause some concern—especially if it’s your first examination, or if it has been a while since your last audit.
How can I help my firm prepare for a FINRA audit?
Tell your staff about the audit. This also helps those staff members that FINRA needs to contact, identify and prepare the records and information that they need to have available when the audit begins.
Review past audits. If your firm has been audited in the past, it is worth reviewing the last audit report. Often past audits have recommendations for improvements. In conducting routine audits, FINRA’s purpose is to identify opportunities for improvement, which are in the best interests of the firm being audited and their clients.
Identify an audit contact person who can act as a liaison person to work directly with the auditor. This staff member should be responsible for ensuring that auditors have access to records and files or any other resources needed to complete the audit. This person acts as the main point of contact as the audit progresses so that FINRA can continue to keep your firm informed of how the work is going. Your firms’ contact person may find it useful to schedule meetings with FINRA periodically throughout the audit process to help monitor how things are progressing. This is a good way to facilitate communication, resolve issues on a timely basis, and correct any misunderstandings.
Cooperation is essential to a successful audit. Depending on the type of exception, if your firm can demonstrate swift corrective action, it may not appear in the final Examination Report.
Assemble appropriate and current information about your firm that you think might help FINRA in gaining an understanding of your administrative structure, nature of your operations, and knowledge of employee roles and responsibilities. Other information that might be helpful to have on hand could include key procedures or policies, organization charts and financial information such as budgets and sample management reports.
Hot Topics. FINRA is really focusing on social media and cyber security preparedness as part of their audits right now. Are you prepared to respond (with proper documentation) to a regulator when they inquire with regards to your supervision preparedness? Are you finding everything that you are required to monitor? Do you know for certain that your employees have properly disclosed all OBAs? Being prepared to address these "hot topics" will help in the event that you are audited.
A FINRA audit is an excellent opportunity to take a thorough look at the risks impacting your business and the controls put in place to mitigate those risks.
Please note that these are only general steps recommended to prepare for an audit. We recognize that specific steps and information requests that are unique to your firm will be identified and communicated to you as you interact with auditors.
Recently the Division of Securities, Utah Department of Commerce fined two credit unions and a licensed broker-dealer for failing to supervise the advisors working within the credit unions. (read the full report)
These credit unions are not registered broker-dealers or investment advisors. They entered into a networking agreement with a third-party broker-dealer to provide securities brokerage services to their credit union customers through registered representatives. In this case, the parties involved were not closely monitoring the actions and communications of these advisors with regards to how the advisors and the credit unions branded these services. The “lines were being blurred” and it was not clearly disclosed that these advisors worked for the third-party investment service provider, and not for the credit unions.
The emails, marketing materials, communications in print and electronic were not being supervised and in the view of the regulator, causing confusion with customers being misled. As a result, the broker-dealers and the credit unions were fined $750,000.
FINRA and the SEC are not the only regulatory agencies requiring firms to monitor their advisors. Each state has their own division of securities regulators.
Have you entered into a third-party agreement with another company to provide security brokerage services to their clients? Do you have advisors that are working in the facilities of these partners?
The biggest question of all is, “Are you sufficiently monitoring your advisors and their online presence?”
The use of our Eagle Eye application would have identified where the broker dealers’ presence was online such as social media, blogs, online articles, Yelp, YouTube and more, allowing you to review each URL. Our SQWatcher application would have alerted you to any changes on their websites ensuring that your supervision department could review and approve wording changes before they go live on the web.
We’d love to tell you more. Contact SiteQuest Compliance today to see how our applications can aid in your supervision responsibilities, saving you time and lowering your risk.
In January of this year FINRA release it “2018 Regulatory and Examination Priorities Letter”. High-risk firms and rogue brokers were one of the top concerns cited by President and CEO, Robert Cook.
Then on April 30, 2018, FINRA released it Regulatory Notice 18-15 regarding Heightened Supervision. FINRA noted that there are times where heightened supervision of an advisor may be appropriate. This notice stated that “FINRA requires member firms to establish and maintain supervisory systems for each of their associated persons and to test and verify annually that they have established reasonable procedures, including procedures for heightened supervision of associated persons, where necessary.”
In May at FINRA’s Annual Conference there was a discussion regarding the criteria FINRA uses to identify high-risk activity. This discussion noted that FINRA is looking for:
Several times this year FINRA has stressed the importance of “heightened supervision for high-risk brokers”. This should be one of the top priorities for your firm.
Do you have WSPs addressing these issues?
Are they causing you additional time, work, documentation, strain, and monitoring for your supervision department?
Our Eagle Eye application has an innovative “Heighten Supervision Mode”. The flexibility of this application empowers you to monitor your advisors at a variety of levels. For those that push the envelope a heightened level of supervision may be required. Eagle Eye will dig deep and with “Eagle Eye” precision discover and notify you of your advisors’ online presence. (Watch how this works.)
Eagle Eye allows you to customize your supervisory approach without worry, and without additional charges or fees. Contact us today for your personalized demo and we will show you how our “Heightened Supervision Mode” will benefit your firm.
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. Recently there has been an increase in fines imposed by FINRA regarding website monitoring. Just like this fine imposed just a few months ago. 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.
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 Utah Football and have attended nearly every home game since 2002. Go Utes!