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Technology and collaboration key to restoring consumer confidence and trust in financial markets

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Technology and collaboration key to restoring consumer confidence and trust in financial markets

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Once again Hearsay Social was proud to participate in the 2014 FINRA Annual Conference in Washington, D.C.

Regulators from FINRA, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) joined financial leaders from leading organizations including AXA, Wells Fargo, LPL Financial, and Barclays to discuss the evolving economy and financial markets.

In his opening remarks at the conference, Richard Ketchum (Chairman and CEO, FINRA) echoed the same themes discussed at the SIFMA Compliance and Legal Society event in Orlando earlier this year: namely, the need to restore investor confidence and trust in the securities industry.

Furthermore, the Economic Confidence Index (ECI), which averages how Americans rate current economic conditions with their expectations for the future, shows that things are not improving quickly. One in five Americans graded the U.S. economy as weak, according to recent figures, while 34 percent rated it as poor. Additionally, while 39 percent of Americans said the economy is improving, another 56 percent said it is getting worse. Although the markets have recovered, people haven’t.

That’s hard to believe considering that it’s been seven years since the credit crisis affected housing markets and six years since the 2008 market plunge. The last market collapse, however, is still vivid in our collective memories, creating a crisis of confidence among investors.

How are we to turn the tide, and what is the prescribed solution to restore trust in the securities market? The answer may lie in embracing new technology and collaboration.

The new age of regulation puts the investor first, and FINRA is determined to be a key engine in restoring trust in the securities markets. According to Ketchum, today FINRA’s risk-based exam program is more data-driven: they are collecting more information electronically weeks before a scheduled exam and using available technology to better manage and analyze the data.

Using a Risk Control Assessment (RCA) and regulatory intelligence in the “High Risk Broker Program,” FINRA is speeding up and improving the efficiency of its exams. To improve and promote investor confidence, FINRA focuses on a strong set of organizing principles:

  • To be data informed,
  • To be technology empowered,
  • To be responsive to change, and
  • To be capable of more quickly and effectively identifying and disciplining bad actions.

The Comprehensive Automated Risk Data System (CARDS) is an important next step to fulfill these principles and is designed to provide swift and responsive action.

“With the technologies that are now available to us,” explained Ketchum, “we can do things to transform our exam program in ways that haven’t been available to us before. And frankly, it would be unconscionable not to embrace these technological advancements to better fulfill our investor protection and market integrity mission.”

That said, the collection and management of data to identify trends and possible risks has been met with controversy and concerns regarding, costs, control and the security of such a large database. FINRA received approximately 800 comment letters about it.

Despite the controversy, it’s a step in the right direction for FINRA to be using the most advanced technology solutions, investing resources, staff, and time to restore investor confidence and trust in the markets.

I believe Ketchum when he says that they value member firm engagement and that their message and outreach for feedback is genuine and driven to “get it right.” I also believe that social media and networking activities by member firms will play a much larger role in improving and restoring the confidence that has been lost. Social is built on the core principles of authenticity and transparency–values that are key to rebuilding trust. A connected and trusted advisor is one that is open to share and provide guidance in times of uncertainty, helping clients navigate their financial resources to meet their objectives.

FINRA cannot do it alone, however, and it will require the collaboration and partnership of member firms and evolving technologies to get it right. As Ketchum states in the conclusion of his keynote presentation, “Our interests are aligned, and putting the investor first is a goal we should have in common. The investing public deserves nothing less.”

I agree.

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Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.

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