Financial advisory firm leaders should keep abreast of what their employees post on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media networks. Best practices dictate that firm leaders clearly outline expectations for appropriate social media posts. Regulators' rules require the firms also archive any of the employees’ social-media postings that lead to client contacts. But, when setting guidelines for employees about what they may include in posts, firm leaders should also recognize that notions of appropriate online commentary vary among generations.
PERSONAL & PROFESSIONAL
“We have people dedicated to watching this,” Brian McLaughlin told an audience of advisors recently about his employees’ social media postings. Although McLaughlin, CEO of Redtail Technology, a Gold River, Calif.-based provider of client management software, monitors what his employees post on their Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, he stressed that he doesn’t mind if his employees have some fun.
By the same token, McLaughlin believes advisory firm employees, if encouraged to show their personality with their online postings, also help generate loyalty among existing clients and draw in new ones. Indeed, McLaughlin believes when his employees add comments about their personal lives on their professional social media accounts, they foster a more vibrant online presence for Redtail Technology and he thinks advisory firms can do the same for their employers.
Personally, he ranks himself as a committed tweeter. Anyone who has followed McLaughlin’s tweeting recently has learned about his spotting of a Korean Air jet on the Atlanta, Ga., airport runway, his downing of massive amounts of coffee at a cybersecurity conference in Utah, a state, where he also enjoyed some flyfishing.
But for advisory firms, regulatory obligations leave less wiggle room for employees’ social media use than in other less-regulated industries. Specifically, advisory firms are required to not only track but also archive social media postings firm representatives use to communicate with clients.
Those regulatory requirements have led Mena Bielow, the compliance officer for Coral Gables, Fla.-based Evensky & Katz/Foldes Financial Wealth Management, to structure a two-pronged strategy for employees’ social media use. Bielow both tracks and archives all employees’ postings on their LinkedIn accounts since her firm encourages its staff members to establish a social media presence for clients on that network.
But Bielow also ‘friends’ and ‘follows’ employees on Facebook and Twitter so she can see the postings, even though she discourages any firm-promotion postings on those networks. Bielow does not archive any of the employees’ Twitter and Facebook postings but she reads them and clicks on any links they contain. “I make them all my friends,” she says about the firm’s employees. “I think that is just smart.” By doing so, occasionally, Bielow has spotted an employee telling a Facebook ‘friend’ via the social media network to call about investment advice. In those instances, Bielow contacts the employee and makes sure they know that they need to “defriend” that person, or alternatively, have the firm start archiving the Facebook postings.
Miriam Rozen, a Financial Planning contributing writer, is a staff reporter at Texas Lawyer in Dallas.