Skip to main content

The Dangers of FINRA Registered Persons Using Text Messages to Communicate with Clients: Best Practices for Compliance

In the rapidly evolving landscape of financial services, maintaining compliance with regulatory standards is paramount. For FINRA registered persons, the use of text messages to communicate with clients presents significant challenges from a compliance standpoint. At Bakhtiari & Harrison, our experienced FINRA securities attorneys emphasize the importance of adhering to best practices to mitigate these risks and ensure regulatory compliance.

The Compliance Risks of Text Messaging

Text messaging, while convenient and widely used, can pose several compliance risks for FINRA registered persons. These risks primarily revolve around record-keeping, data security, and supervision.

  1. Record-Keeping Challenges: FINRA Rule 4511 requires firms to make and preserve books and records as prescribed by FINRA rules, the Exchange Act, and applicable Exchange Act rules. Text messages are often not captured by traditional email archiving systems, making it difficult to ensure that all communications are appropriately recorded and retrievable. Failure to maintain these records can result in significant fines and disciplinary actions.
  2. Data Security Concerns: The use of personal mobile devices for business communications can lead to data breaches and unauthorized access to sensitive information. Text messages are particularly vulnerable to interception and can be easily lost if a device is compromised or stolen. Ensuring the security of client information is crucial to maintaining trust and complying with regulatory requirements.
  3. Supervision and Monitoring: Supervisory obligations under FINRA Rule 3110 require firms to establish and maintain a system to supervise the activities of each associated person. Monitoring text messages for compliance with firm policies and regulatory requirements can be challenging, especially when communications occur on personal devices. This lack of oversight can lead to violations of regulatory standards and potential misconduct.

Best Practices for Compliance

To address these challenges, Bakhtiari & Harrison recommends the following best practices for FINRA registered persons considering the use of text messaging for client communication:

  1. Implement Approved Communication Channels: Firms should provide and mandate the use of approved communication platforms that can capture and archive all messages. These platforms should integrate seamlessly with existing compliance systems to ensure all communications are recorded and monitored.
  2. Regular Training and Education: Conduct regular training sessions to educate registered persons on the risks associated with text messaging and the importance of using approved communication channels. Ensure that all staff are aware of the firm’s policies and the regulatory requirements they must adhere to.
  3. Develop and Enforce Clear Policies: Establish comprehensive policies that clearly outline the acceptable methods of communication with clients. These policies should prohibit the use of personal devices for business communications unless they are equipped with firm-approved software that ensures compliance with record-keeping and security requirements.
  4. Routine Audits and Reviews: Conduct routine audits and reviews of communication records to ensure compliance with regulatory standards. This proactive approach can help identify and address potential issues before they escalate into significant compliance breaches.
  5. Utilize Encryption and Security Measures: Implement robust encryption and security measures for all digital communications. This includes using secure messaging apps that provide end-to-end encryption to protect sensitive client information.

Conclusion

While text messaging offers convenience, it also brings significant compliance challenges for FINRA registered persons. By adhering to best practices, such as using approved communication channels, conducting regular training, developing clear policies, and implementing robust security measures, firms can mitigate these risks and ensure compliance with regulatory standards. At Bakhtiari & Harrison, our dedicated team of FINRA securities attorneys is here to help you navigate these complexities and safeguard your firm’s compliance.

For more information and expert guidance on maintaining compliance in the financial services industry, contact Bakhtiari & Harrison today. Our experienced FINRA securities attorneys are committed to providing you with the support and advice you need to thrive in a regulated environment.