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.
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?
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.
The “Communications with the Public” Rule FINRA 2210 states that “an appropriately qualified registered principal of the member must pre-approve each retail communication before the earlier of its use or filing with FINRA's Advertising Regulation Department ("Department").”
“Retail Communications” include all electronic formats as well.
In addition to supervision approval:
“Each member shall establish written procedures that are appropriate to its business, size, structure, and customers for the review by an appropriately qualified registered principal of institutional communications used by the member and its associated persons. Such procedures must be reasonably designed to ensure that institutional communications comply with applicable standards.”
Our Eagle Eye and SQWatcher applications support your compliance program when it comes to complying with this rule.
Our innovative Eagle Eye application will search the internet and allow supervisors to identify and discover your registered advisors’ online presence. Our multi-query processes and dynamically designed algorithms provide more accurate search results for supervisors to quickly review.
With our automated documentation and reporting features, you will have everything you need including when a result was found, who reviewed it, comments that were made and timestamps on every action taken during the online supervision of your registered advisors.
SQWatcher will supervise and archive all websites, even those not hosted with your approved providers. It will organize web-page changes into a manageable, easy to use workflow. Automatic triggers based upon your requirements will notify you of pending reviews.
These products were developed for the compliance supervisors who are looking for automated solutions to replace manual processes that prove to be ineffective and tedious.
Note: NASD Rule 2210 has been superseded by FINRA Rule 2210.
What controls does your firm have in place to aid you in discovering DBAs if your advisors are not disclosing them?
“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. 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 FINRA Exam Findings:
Related Article: Are You Finding Everything You Need to Monitor?
It has been over 40 years since significant changes to "The Investment Advisers Act" were adopted. To say that advisors are excited about this recent update is definitely an understatement. With all of the different communication and social media platforms available to advisors, they are eagerly looking forward to sharing testimonials with potential clients hoping to open new doors of opportunities.
Firms and their compliance departments need to take a proactive approach when it comes to addressing these new marketing updates. Testimonials and endorsements still need to be monitored and approved to ensure they are not misleading investors. Firms need to decide what types of statements they are going to approve, what platforms will be utilized, and how registered advisors are going to notify them and gain approval before any endorsement is published.
Initially advisors will want to add these testimonials and endorsements to their websites and other online destinations that may or may not be monitored by compliance. Demands on compliance’s time for monitoring and approvals will certainly increase. Additionally, firms need to reevaluate their disclosure policies to ensure that advisors provide notification and documentation of what and where they wish to publish testimonials and endorsements online.
Compliance departments should expect to see a large increase in their workload related to internet monitoring and approvals that need to occur. What will compliance do to monitor endorsement and testimonial platforms such as Yelp, Google Reviews, or social media platforms like Linkedin, Facebook, and Twitter? Advertisements that include third-party ratings will be required to include specific disclosures to prevent them from being misleading.
Is compliance waiting for advisors to disclose everything? Are policies based entirely on the honor system? How do you discover your advisor’s online presence, including these new testimonials and endorsements if they are not disclosing them to compliance?
While you are forming your compliance strategy and updating policies, procedures and workflows it is important to consider how and what technologies can assist compliance with this increased workload. As the SEC and FINRA are adapting to new technology, compliance departments need to evolve and rely on innovative technology as well to support their job requirements.
For over a decade, SiteQuest Compliance has continued to be a trusted partner, supporting compliance and supervision departments with tools that can help meet these increasing demands with regards to compliance and supervision.
Our Eagle Eye solution uncovers and supervises your advisors’ online footprint. It discovers social media accounts, websites, blogs, yelp pages, OBAs, DBAs, and online profiles, allowing you to address issues prior to regulatory discovery or examination.
Our SQWatcher platform monitors and archives advisor websites including those that may be hosted by non-approved website providers. It creates historical records of these sites, creates workflow events of specific types of changes like new pages, changes to readable text, images, and more with customizable rules to meet your needs.
This update to the Investment Advisers Act will require your firm to revise its policies. Our newly launched Policies solution is a powerful tool used to organize, version control, and distribute your firm’s policies and Written Supervisory Procedures (WSPs) to your employees and advisors. Ensuring that your advisors always have access to your most current policies with easy to search features.
As your advisors are “Modernizing their Marketing Practices” contact us today to discuss your specific needs and concerns. Let us show you how we can help streamline your workflows to maximize your time, while helping to ensure you don’t miss anything with regards to internet and website supervision and content approval.
Sources: https://www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2020-334 | https://www.sec.gov/rules/final/2020/ia-5653.pdf
Whether they wanted to innovate, or a pandemic forced their hand, advisors embraced more digital marketing resources during 2020.
According to InvestmentNews Research, 42% of advisers have used a new digital marketing or technology tool for the first time during 2020, while 88% have expanded the use of at least one tool. The driving force, not surprisingly, was the pandemic, and a stay-at-home environment that forced advisors to find new ways to connect with their customers.
As our world has changed over the past year it begs questions like:
Surges in online marketing and communications are not going to level out anytime soon. 80% of surveyed advisers said they would be placing more importance on their digital marketing in the coming year.
For nearly a decade, Eagle Eye has provided a platform compliance can rely on when it comes to monitoring the internet activity of their advisors. Eagle Eye discovers social media accounts, websites, blogs, OBAs, DBAs, online profiles, and events that belong to or are about your advisors, allowing you to address issues prior to regulatory discovery or examination.
Eagle Eye monitors 50,000+ advisors across our customer base and has automatically alerted compliance supervisors on over 1.2M discoveries that warranted reviews broken down by
Contact us to schedule a time to discuss your internet supervision compliance needs and concerns this New Year. We will show you the solutions that Eagle Eye provides to companies when it comes to internet supervision.
James Cella, President and CEO email@example.com
FINRA recently sent out Regulatory Notice 20-30 regarding an increase in imposter advisor websites being created with malicious intent. These fraudsters are also calling and directing potential customers to use these imposter websites. Additionally these imposters may be using these sites to collect personal information from potential customers with the likely end goal of committing financial fraud.
According to FINRA, some common features of these websites include:
FINRA suggests that “Member firms and registered representatives can take steps to identify these pages by conducting periodic web searches using registered representatives’ names.”
The potential damage of an Imposter Website could be irreversible. What can you do?
Eagle Eye by SiteQuest Compliance has everything you need to monitor the internet and discover imposter sites and other compliance threats to your firm. Our multi-query processes, lexicon searches and dynamically designed algorithms provides more accurate search results saving you time and automatically alerting you to new search results concerning your registered representatives’ identity.
Additionally, our system considers the domain name as it searches for results and scores them for potential reviews.
Our easy-to-use workflows allow you to quickly review dozens to hundreds of search results in minutes. Many of our clients have found that with Eagle Eye they cut their workload by 80%.
If you do discover an imposter website contact FINRA and the FBI immediately.
See for yourself how Eagle Eye will support your compliance and supervision programs to monitor the web and discover these types of issues and more. Contact us today for your personalized demo.
Eagle Eye also supports your firm’s adherence to regulatory requirements like FINRA Rules 2210, 3110, 3120, and 3270 by providing supervision of the internet.
Read the Entire Regulatory Notice 20-30
Let’s face it, the coronavirus pandemic has fundamentally changed the way we do business. Most of our industry is working from home, learning to balance conference calls and kids with questions that just can’t wait or dogs that must bark while on a Zoom meeting. We’ve all been there and have our moments.
Other things have changed as well, especially when it comes to marketing and advertising. This is especially true for financial advisors who have lost the ability to connect with clients at events, lunches, in office or at home meetings or simple introductions that come from face-to-face interactions. or years, many advisor’s businesses have primarily depended on these methods to connect with current clients and meet new prospects. Social distancing and stay at home orders have eliminated these options for many advisors who are now exploring new options to prospect and connect with people.
So where are they turning? Like everyone else, advisors are turning to technology to increase their online presence with updated profiles while sharing fresh and timely content.
I recently spoke to some of our clients about trends they were seeing regarding their advisor’s marketing and advertising behaviors since social distancing and stay home orders began. One compliance manager told me his firm has seen a 30% increase in advertising submissions as well as a significant increase in the use of approved social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
Another client told me, “Advisors have ‘downtime’ and are now thinking a lot about marketing.” I followed up on how things have changed for our client as a result. “Don’t get me started on how much social media usage has jumped since this all began!” They have seen an increase of 25% to 30% in usage and a surge in new accounts being created by their advisors.
Social Media usage is certainly on the rise. A recent survey showed that 32% of Americans said they have increased the amount of time they are using social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.
Another firm told me that advisors who have typically shied away from social media, online profiles, websites, and other marketing technologies are now diving in for the first time. I was told, “Their (advisors) traditional lead generation tools aren’t available anymore. They now have time and are focusing on new ways to build their business.”
Additionally, our clients are seeing a big increase in advertising submissions for recordings from Zoom/online meetings. Advisors are continually seeking guidance on additional options for communicating and marketing to the public.
This all presents an increasing challenge in supervision and compliance, especially when there are growing limitations on human resources.
That’s where our Eagle Eye technology comes in. Eagle Eye helps our clients uncover their advisors’ web presence, locating social media accounts, websites, articles, profiles, videos, OBA’s and more. Eagle Eye creates automated documentation of what has been reviewed, who did the review, and what the website looked like at the time of review, giving our clients and regulators a complete picture of the process. They use our system to discover and “clean up” situations where the use of these sites was done without approvals or monitoring in place.
Another one of our clients shared with us that, “Thanks to Eagle Eye, it is helping me identify and address issues before they are brought to my attention by a regulator.”
With our industry evolving, SiteQuest Compliance is a preferred partner when it comes to internet supervision and website management.
Contact us today for your personalized demo where we can discuss your supervision concerns and see for yourself how Eagle Eye can support your internet supervision requirements.
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!