A recent survey of four-hundred financial advisors revealed that nearly half of them not only use some social media (such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn), but also leverage the advertising aspect of these platforms as well. And of that total, about 60 percent of them have client portfolios worth over $20 million.
Social media has become a key component of many firms marketing plans - especially if you're looking to attract younger clients. Forty percent of the Advisors surveyed said they acquired new clients through Facebook, while twenty-five percent used LinkedIn, and twenty-one percent utilized Twitter.
Many financial advisors in Los Angeles shy away from social media accounts because of their concerns relating to compliance. While this discretion is understandable, they should also be aware that the current financial services rules are surprisingly flexible when it comes to effective use of social media.
1. Regulatory Bodies and Social Media
When it comes to social media accounts, the SEC, FINRA, SIPC, and other regulatory bodies actually haven't yet established new usage rules. What they have done instead is modify existing ones. For example, the SEC simply states that an advisor’s use of social media has to comply with the federal securities laws, namely recordkeeping, antifraud, and compliance requirements.
2. Business vs. Personal
As a rule, an advisor’s personal social media profiles do not have to be monitored and archived. But the situation changes if they openly discuss business matters. Then these accounts become business accounts by default and the rules apply. There’s nothing to stop someone from being Facebook friends with their clients, but business discussions should remain off-limits on the personal account.
3. Recommendations on Social Media
Under FINRA rule 2111, investment advisors need to have a reasonable basis to believe that an investment recommendation is suitable for a certain customer based on that customer’s investment profile. It’s a required level of personalization that cannot be applied universally to an entire group of Facebook friends and Twitter followers, so using social media to make investment recommendations is not permitted. For added protection, advisors should post a disclaimer on their social media profiles saying that none of their posts should be construed as investment advice.
4. Record keeping Requirements
Financial advisory firms are obligated to keep records of social media communications if the contents constitute business communications. Fortunately, there are several technology-based tools that can help compliance officers meet this record keeping requirement.
5. Like Buttons and the Testimonials Rule
According to the SEC, if a third party uses the ‘like’ button on an advisor’s social media account, it could be construed as a testimonial if it reflects a client’s experience with the advisor. In other words, if a follower or friend ‘likes’ an advisor’s biography, it could be viewed as an implicit testimonial. But if they ‘like’ a picture that’s been posted, the rule probably will not apply. To play it safe, advisors should refrain from posting anything that could be considered a testimonial if it is ‘liked’ and disable the endorsements section of their LinkedIn profile.
Today’s tech-savvy investors are turning to social media outlets to help with their investment decisions, make contacts, and some even to engage advisors to manage their portfolios. LA Investment Advisors can and should make use of LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook to attract and connect with clients, provided these guidelines are observed along the way.
Does your RIA utilize social media? Have you run into any compliance issues along the way? Let us know your thoughts in the Comments section below or feel free to send me an email to discuss this in more detail.
And to follow up on the tips introduced in this blog, be sure to download your free guide Investing in High Net Worth Clients: The LA Investment Advisor's Guide to Using Technology to Manage and Grow Your Firm.