Everyone should be familiar with BrokerCheck; however, if you are not and you are licensed, then feel free to go BrokerCheck yourself by following this
link to see your specific basic industry information (current/prior firms, current state registrations,
licenses, OBAs, disclosures, etc.). FINRA thinks that investor awareness will be increased for firms and advisors if a hyperlink to BrokerCheck is
provided on a firm’s or an advisor’s website.
Effective June 6, 2016, per FINRA Rule 2210(d), firms and advisors with websites must include a hyperlink of the BrokerCheck home
page on their website’s Home page and any other Web page that includes an advisor’s profile. Another option is to add a link to the advisor’s individual
BrokerCheck page to the website. These disclosures and hyperlinks must be “readily apparent.” Regulatory Notice 15-50
So, what does this mean if you have a website? What does “readily apparent” mean? Where do you put the hyperlink? Do you need to add a hyperlink to Social
Media platforms as well – LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or even your email signature block?
What does this mean?
If you have a website, you will need to add at least on your Home page and also on any pages that include a profile (i.e. something that describes your
background), the following disclosures (feel free to cut and paste the two (2) disclosures below):
Check the background of this firm on FINRA’s BrokerCheck.
Check the background of this investment professional on FINRA’s BrokerCheck.
For those of you that are more tech savy, you can add your specific BrokerCheck page as a hyperlink by replacing the hyperlink above with your individual
BrokerCheck page. And for those that want to get really fancy, FINRA has raw files and widgets that can be used for the hyperlink which can be found
at this site: http://www.finra.org/industry/rule-2210-brokercheck.
If your website only lists the advisor's name and contact information in your branch, then only the first disclosure regarding the background of the firm
is required. We will be reviewing your websites for the disclosures by the end of April, so if any changes are still needed to your website they must
be completed by the end of May to ensure you are compliant by June 6, 2016. Keep in mind that this is an easy slam dunk for a deficiency by a regulator
if not addressed – feel free to call Compliance with questions.
Social media – hyperlink to your BrokerCheck is not required.
Email signature block – hyperlink to your BrokerCheck is not required.
If you do not have a website – you get to disregard this entire Compliance Alert, but before you start celebrating – keep in mind that you are missing
out on some great opportunities to market your practice and to obtain new clients.
I came across an amazing website company recently called FMG Suite that has reasonable costs and is an easy to use website with daily, weekly, monthly
articles that can be tweaked to your specifications per industry, article type, whether you send to FB, LI or tweet it. If you would like more information
on FMG, then follow this link or give Greg Woodbury at FMG Suite a call 858-605-5244 for more information
and tell him that I referred you. Even if you currently have a website, it would be worth taking a test drive with Greg (full disclosure, neither IPI
nor I get a kickback from FMG – it is just a really good product that I wanted to share with you).
What is “readily apparent”?
Your guess is as good as mine since FINRA is cryptic as usual in their guidance. However, this is what we can tell you, FINRA will look for at least three
(3) measures to determine if your disclosure is readily apparent:
- (1)Placement - some of the newer websites require viewers to scroll significantly to get to disclosures. FINRA does not look favorably at putting
the disclosures at the bottom of a page after a lot of scrolling. Additionally, the disclosure needs to be set out separately and not buried in
a long paragraph.
- (2)Font size – should be the same as other information on the page.
- (3)Font color – should not blend into the website’s background, but stand out and allow the disclosure to be noticeable to the viewer.
FINRA also states that they believe the disclosure in a footer would not satisfy the “readily apparent” standard. So, where in the heck do you put it?
Of the handful of firms that I have found that like IPI are proactive in trying to figure this out ahead of time, I have found that all of them have
placed the disclosure at the bottom of their website near the other disclosures on the page. As a reference, feel free to check out our home page to see where we placed our disclosure.
As always, Compliance is here to guide you through regulatory issues and keep all of us compliant. Let us know if you have any questions or concerns and
if needed, update your website by April 29, 2016.