A new social networking site for financial advisory professionals that claims to conform to industry regulatory requirements adopted by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has just been launched.
The new site, linkedFA, provides free membership to advisors and is open to registered investment advisors, registered representatives, insurance advisors, certified public accountants, other financial advisory professionals and their clients. The launch comes amid a debate over how advisors can use social networking to expand their businesses, while still following compliance rules under the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934.
In a telephone interview, Brian Byrne, chief executive officer of privately-owned, Coral Springs, Fla.-based linkedFA, said that the site allows advisors to retrieve records of any communications between an advisor and a client, in compliance with SEC rules that call for documents to be held for six years. Blog posts, comments and instant messages can also be retrieved, along with shared documents and other public or private correspondence via the site. Advisors can select privacy settings that allow them to have one-on-one conversations with clients, which are logged as well.
FINRA was not involved in the site’s development, and the self-regulatory organization did not respond to inquiries by deadline.
Most financial services firms either severely restrict the use of social media sites or outright ban advisors from using them. “Our view is your personal life is your business, but it is not always good for business,” Byrne said. “We give advisors a place to use social media, but in a professional environment focused around investing.”
Advisors can also post documents, such as research reports on public companies, and receive alerts when clients read the material. The advisor can then reach out to the specific client who reads the report, Byrne said. Compliance officers who join the network can monitor client-advisor correspondence by setting keyword alerts, Byrne said.
Last November, FINRA established the Social Networking Task Force to explore challenges posed by the growing use of Internet-based communications. Founded in November 2008, linkedFA will be a commercial social networking site, Byrne said. The site will generate revenue from advertising, recruiter membership fees and fees for customer relationship management tools that it will add to the site later this year. Byrne co-founded linkedFA with Jason Bishara, a former financial advisor and chief executive officer of Woodbury, N.Y.-based SLM Holdings, a provider of CRM tools.