During its National Conference in Orlando, Fla., this week, independent broker/dealer Securities America announced its new social media program, which will allow all of its 1,800 reps to access and post content on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter in mid-July, said Leia Farmer, deputy chief compliance officer.
A month ago, the firm introduced a pilot program for social media use, which involves 15 home office staff and advisors. Under the program, which will stay the same for the firm-wide rollout, advisors will need to get some content, such as a profile page or market commentary, pre-approved by the firm’s compliance department. But any communications that are interactive—accepting events, creating groups and posting Tweets and comments that respond to questions—will not require pre-approval before they go live. These types of communications will go through a review process after the content has gone up.
SAI has partnered with Socialware, a software company, that will route all of those interactive communications through email, so executives will be able to review those in the same way they review other electronic communications. If a post or message is not approved after it has gone up, the firm will address that with the advisor and make arrangements to have it removed.
Other firms have also been figuring out the social media puzzle lately. Morgan Stanley is testing a pilot program that would allow its advisors to interact with clients and others on social media websites Twitter and LinkedIn through pre-approved public updates and private LinkedIn emails, invitations and introductions. Independent broker/dealers like Commonwealth and Cambridge Investment Research are allowing truly interactive conversations to take place in real-time, without pre-approval. Raymond James Financial is also on the cusp of allowing interactive communications. Most of the other 50 or so independent b/ds that allow advisors to use social media at all permit only static updates.
In early 2010, FINRA issued social media guidance that said all b/d member firms should have a system in place for tracking and archiving social media communications. The agency still requires that firms pre-approve content that is static in nature, Farmer said. Under SAI’s process, after a communication goes through its email monitoring system, the email system will retain the records and document reviews.
SAI advisors who wish to use social media have to go through four steps, Farmer said. First, they have to sign up to use social media; they then have to review the policy and go through it with their compliance communication review manager. Reps also have to complete a training, which will explain how to leverage social media for their business and any compliance concerns. And finally, FAs will then upload the proxy file and authorize Socialware to have access to the three social media sites.
Also at the conference, SAI announced its new mobile application, which gives reps free access to its eOffice advisor platform on smart phones and tablets. The application includes a full portfolio management system, image scanning, clearing access, the financial planning suite, performance reporting, and account aggregation. Since launching the app two weeks ago, 200 advisors have accessed it, said Aaron Spahr, lead product consultant for the firm.