As many of you in the financial services sector are aware, compliance has always been a hot topic, but in the past few years tightening restrictions have meant a heightened focus on what you can – and can’t do with regard to digital communications. There are many examples of cases where compliance infractions have lead to undesirable outcomes, consider these cases which were featured on Forbes.com by writer and lawyer Bill Singer:
- A stockbroker has his customer’s pre-sign incomplete and blank documents, a violation of conduct rules. He’s fined $7,500 and suspended for six months from any Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) member.
- Five subsidiaries of a large bank, between 2004 and 2012, allegedly failed to properly configure hundreds of employee email accounts, to ensure emails were properly retained and reviewed. The emails, according to findings by the AWC (Acceptance, Waiver and Consent), did not get properly reviewed as a result. FINRA fined the groups a total of $1.2 million, ordering them to undertake a comprehensive review of their systems.
- One securities industry associate with a large Financial Group orally notified the company of several personal, trust, joint and IRA accounts he’d opened prior to starting in September 2006. The associate did not follow up with written notice until March 2010, and was fined $10,000 by FINRA for not offering timely written notice.
- A securities industry veteran analyst used a Microsoft Excel document, instead of his firm’s systems, to create a single document listing the value and performance of each of six customers’ accounts form January 2007 to December 2010. The analyst was criticized for not cross-referencing those figures with the figures in the account statements, and for relying on staff to input the data. According to the AWC, mistakes were made in gathering and inputting the information, while FINRA also added that he failed to include footnotes or disclaimers to make the data understandable. The analyst was fined $5,000 and given a 10-day suspension.
- A stockbroker used a personal account to send and receive business-related emails while working with MetLife, which prohibited exactly that. He was orally admonished and then issued a formal written warning shortly after, which the stockbroker signed. Despite that, he continued to use his personal email for business correspondence, which prevented MetLife from monitoring, reviewing and retaining those emails. The AWC alleged that some of his email comments were baseless or unsubstantiated, and some of his claims exaggerated and misleading. A customer complained that $500 had been improperly debited from his bank account in connection with a MetLife product, and the stockbroker offered $500 in cash in return. He was fired and barred from association with any FINRA member.
All of these are examples of situations where regulations weren’t held up and compliance was ignored. Compliance in the financial services sector, where advisors are trusted with large sums of money, is integral to the job. Not complying can come with penalties. So where do you begin? What should your organization consider?
Regular Employee Training and Education:
Looking at the examples noted earlier in the post one has to ask themselves “what could have been done to avoid these unfortunate outcomes?” Education is key to eliminating one of the most common defenses “I wasn’t aware I couldn’t do that”. As such a comprehensive training program that is regularly administered protects both employer and employee from both embarrassing and expensive fines associated with non compliant activities.
Review of Current Technologies:
Training is great but it’s also important to review your current technologies and point out the do’s and don’ts associated with compliance. The examples listed earlier clearly illustrate how what would normally seem as innocent use of personal emails. Contact lists or verbal communications can have devastating results – as such it’s also important to review the how and what behind compliance – what can you say – how can you say it and what do you use to get the message to the customer.
Explain Compliance in Everyday terms:
We’ve all at some time or another signed off on a compliance or training course which outlines policies and procedures. The most effective courses include a general outline of the implications associated with non compliance. By including what could happen to an individual if they break compliance rules, and spelling out the implication in everyday terms such as a fine amounts, potential dismissal etc., you personalize the experience and help employees understand what can happen to them in addition to their employer.
Adopt Enabling Technologies:
A host of technologies exist with regard to capturing communications for future audits and although these compliance appliances do a great job a storing and indexing communications sent from your marketing teams, they weren’t necessarily built to provide best practices or guidance in terms of what is and isn’t permissible. Marketing automation tools such as Oracle Eloqua Marketing Cloud Service provide industries such as the financial services sector a unique opportunity to not only deliver industry best practices, but to also provide marketing teams with guidance from compliance teams and benchmarking data to ensure your communications are both compliant and effective.
Include Compliance Teams:
A critical component to trying to eliminate the chance of non compliant communications is to include your compliance teams from the get go. By adopting technologies that provide workflow in the form of approvals, you minimize the chances of non compliance by leveraging the knowledge of your compliance teams and including them in the process, obviously this can only be achieved if your entire team understands that your marketing automation suite is the system of record for digital communications, but provided you educate your teams regularly you increase the likelihood of compliance and correction when non compliant communications are drafted.
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Senior Manager, Product Marketing
Oracle Eloqua Industry Solutions