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In financial services, not only does crime generally not pay, but being a serial regulatory offender often results in tougher regulatory scrutiny. That’s according to a press release from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Board of Governors.
Everyone wants to be a hero, right? Now financial advisors can score big points with their clients by helping them find lost life insurance policies. And better yet, they can render assistance by simply referring clients to a free locator service offered by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. No work and a lot of credit make this service a win/win for both advisors and their clients.
Remember your high school days . . . a time when your teachers told you what you needed to know and then tested you on it? Unfortunately, real life has a way of testing us without giving us a study guide first—unless you’re an SEC- or state-regulated investment advisor.
Those of you of a certain age might recall the 1980s bestseller, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten,” by Robert Fulgham. If you’re not of that age, then I should explain that the book was a series of short essays on how the world would be a whole lot happier if adults behaved more like schoolchildren. Some of the lessons Fulghum stressed were the importance of being kind, of sharing with one another, of cleaning up one’s messes. One of the lessons Fulghum should have covered is the importance of not being a blabbermouth.
For most financial advisors, regulatory compliance is not a favorite part of their job. In fact, they often express negative opinions about it. But when it comes to assuring client privacy, the industry has an effective regulatory framework that advisors should vigorously support. However, the threats to client privacy are so pervasive that mere regulatory compliance isn’t enough.
The topic of conflict of interest induces vertigo, especially now. On the one hand, financial professionals hear that conflicts of interest are bad. Their industry ethics codes urge them to put their clients’ interests ahead of their own. Yet for decades, product manufacturers have also given advisors the option to sell more expensive products in order to earn higher payouts compared to products that offer essentially the same benefits at a lower cost.
Advisors violated a core rule of customer service—safeguard client confidentiality at all times. Yet even though this principle is enshrined in industry ethics codes and reinforced in countless training programs, financial professionals every day blurt out client secrets, improperly store client documents, and fall prey to cyber-attacks. What gives?
The use of social media as a financial-services marketing strategy has come a long way. Less than ten years ago, only a minority of advisors used platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn to help promote their businesses. Even that was an uphill battle, with compliance departments and financial regulators placing roadblocks in their path. Today, the majority of advisors use such technologies to engage with the public, promote themselves as thought leaders, and to identify experts and best practices that can help them operate more effectively.
As the new Fiduciary Rule has moved through the enactment process, state and federal regulators have also taken steps to raise awareness of senior exploitation, while also making it easier for financial advisors to place a temporary hold on money disbursements if they suspect client incapacity (FINRA proposed Rule 2165.)
How do you execute client communications when when the entire world is awash in information? This has been a problem for several decades, ever since mass media emerged in the Fifties and Sixties, corporate advertising took off in the Seventies and Eighties, and the mother of all communication technologies—the Internet—took wing in the Nineties. Because of the last trend, the problem has shifted from battling information overload to slaying the information overlord.