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.
2020 is a big year for us as we are celebrating 10 years of compliance partnerships. There have been many significant changes in supervision over the past 10 years, especially with an increase in workload and scope for online supervision. Trying to stay compliant with the FINRA 3110 Supervision rule can become a daunting task as the web offers an easy to use and often free resources for advisors to get their name and practice out in the public eye.
As YOUR compliance partner, we’ve observed several interesting trends that we expect to see increase during 2020.
With the increase in online articles being published on blogs, websites, and social media sites like Linkedin, many advisors are writing, being mentioned, and even cited in third party articles. We continue to see these occurrences with very little if any disclosure information and perhaps is not considered pre-approved content.
Have you heard of Quora? Quora is an online question and answer platform. 775,000 people use Quora monthly to ask questions. This is a large audience that advisors have the ability to connect with. They can publish content, answer people’s questions, and search for specific topics that relate to your industry. BUT how do you know if your registered advisors are using Quora?
Yelp is another online platform that is continually growing in popularity. The Securities and Exchange Commission recently charged three advisers and a marketing firm for violating the testimonial rule by promoting their business on Yelp. Over 4.6 million businesses are using Yelp. With 163 million Yelp reviews, how are you to know if your advisors are actively soliciting testimonials from their clients?
Adding to your monitoring struggle is YouTube. It is estimated that over 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute! There is an increasing trend in people publishing personal video and vlogs related to their business. With over 1 billion daily users how are you to find videos uploaded to YouTube by your registered advisors if they don’t send you the direct links?
Advisors can create non-monitored social media accounts. How do you know if your advisors even have a social media account if they don’t tell you about it? How do you find these social media accounts?
One of the biggest trends that we see continuing into 2020 are the use of DBAs. FINRA observed that “certain firms were not maintaining sufficient WSPs and controls, or providing adequate disclosures regarding the use of DBA names.” Outside business activities and unauthorized content from your registered advisors are a growing concern that will always be present. 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?
Your time is valuable. Any search engine can produce an endless amount of meaningless results that need to be reviewed. Our Eagle Eye application is designed with built-in intelligence that sifts through the web’s clutter and brings the most relevant results to your attention. Our multi-query processes and dynamically designed algorithms provide more accurate results for a quick review process. In addition to our search results our automated screenshots feature helps you document, report and escalate any issue that is brought to your attention.
One of our clients said :
"The Eagle Eye Surveillance system has been a force multiplier in my firm’s supervisory scheme. This simple tool has transformed my internet surveillance sweep process from a time-consuming, multi-day enterprise where I view the same search results over and over to a simple process that can be completed in a couple of hours."
Another one of our clients said:
“As soon as we implemented Eagle Eye, the system found searches that were previously missed with the manual process and as a result, we updated our policy and procedures to minimize compliance risk. Also, one of our previous hurdles was demonstrating to our regulators with documentation that we were conducting the appropriate monitoring but with the audits reports, that are available directly from the system, we are able to document and show individual findings in an organized manner."
You can minimize your risk and address these growing trends by utilizing our Eagle Eye application.
Contact us today for your personalized demo of how our application with work for YOUR firm.
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?
This summer the Securities and Exchange Commission instituted five separate settled fines against two SEC-registered investment advisers, three investment adviser representatives, and a marketing consultant who committed and/or caused violations of the Testimonial Rule under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 through their use of social media and the internet. (read the entire article)
Several testimonial ads about registered representatives were created and published on social media outlets. Additionally, two videos were created and published online containing client testimonials on its public website and on YouTube.com. The SEC’s regulators found that these firms (and their ads) were in violation of Section 206(4) of the Advisers Act and Rule 206(4)-1(a)(1).
As a compliance supervisor are you aware of what ads your registered advisors are putting online? Are they creating and publishing videos without sending them first to compliance for approval? With all of your responsibilities how do you find the time to continually monitor your advisor’s online presence? Without action, this could leave your firm vulnerable to fines from the SEC or FINRA because of online content you are unaware of.
SiteQuest Compliance's Eagle Eye application contains industry-leading technology that will help you monitor and discover your advisors’ online presence. Eagle Eye is designed with built-in intelligence that searches and sifts through the web’s billions of pages of clutter bringing only the most relevant results to your attention. Our multi-query processes and dynamically designed algorithms provide more accurate search results for you to quickly review. Our application is loaded with features that automate your monitoring and documentation processes. Our clients have found that Eagle Eye cuts their workload by as much as 80%.
Each of these aforementioned firms were fined between $35,000 and $10,000 from the SEC. That fine just the tip of the iceberg. There are lawyer fees, employee time spent and resources dealing with the issue, proving to the regulatory agency that the fine has been fixed and that you are now in compliance. There is also the unknown cost to your firm’s reputation.
Eagle Eye is a first of its kind application that is designed specifically to help the financial industry easily and effectively supervise the web.
Contact us today to discuss your supervision concerns. We will be able to match our products to your needs.
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.
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
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.
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!