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PR firms must recognize that RIAs answer to a higher authority

There is such a thing as bad press -- a disclosure that seems 'a bit much' to your public relations firm may be just enough to land you in a compliance hot spot

Author Les Abromovitz May 10, 2012 at 5:07 AM
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Les Abromovitz: You are destined to have problems if the PR firm believes that regulations need not get in the way of a great marketing campaign.

RIA Compliance

Maria Marsala

Maria Marsala

May 10, 2012 — 5:17 AM

“Can’t accept the fact that since RIAs are regulated” I think it’s more about what they don’t know that they don’t know.

I recently did a program on marketing using LinkedIn. I had one or two slides specifically about the financial industry, stressing some of the things I know FAs can not do and why. I stressed that before someone in the financial industry does anything that LinkedIn allows, they contact their Compliance Department/Manager/FINRA Policies.

Many of the comments I received back from those who attended, had to do with the fact that they had no idea that financial advisors have so much regulation to consider. Duh…

That’s why it’s so important that FAs hire people whose niche is FAs. Because those who niche are much more likely to understand the regulations — or know when to send an advisor to someone who is in the know.

Jason Lahita

Jason Lahita

May 10, 2012 — 4:54 PM

As the Chief Compliance Officer at my former firm once beat into my head, “Compliance Is An Asset” for advisors, and exists for a reason. You can still be effective and creative while executing a PR strategy, within the compliance guidelines in place. Every PR person working with advisors needs to recognize this and act accordingly.

Maria Marsala

Maria Marsala

May 10, 2012 — 6:43 PM

I agree Jason, with your comments. I often tell my clients (advisors) that Compliance is NOT the enemy :)

As a former trader, I was taught, by those before me, to dread dealing with Compliance, too. Over time I understood that sometimes things WERE being done or not done for my better good. Other times I had to meet with the officers to explain or show them what we were trying to do, how it would work, etc. and got an OK after a “no”. I was fortunately though to have officers who did listen and didn’t mind learning something new. (I know not every firm has that, but should). Over time I learned to work with our firms Compliance Dept. In fact, I became the person on the desk that if there was a perceived problem, or when we did something new I would be the person to go meet with Compliance before we did it.

... that they are there to help you. In fact, in my article here on RIA Biz, about smart marketing, I suggest that advisors volunteer to become their Compliance Dept’s test case regarding social media, etc.

But the bottom line, in life, is that a majority of people dread dealing with “legal” stuff, no matter if it’s in a financial firm or happens personally. It doesn’t matter if they get a yes or no answer, it’s still dreaded. And of course, very few people like being told what they can or can’t do. That’s the perception of what Compliance offers and it’s one that hasn’t chanced in at least 30 years. Most Compliance Officers I’ve met know that before taking on the job and enjoy the challenge of changing that perception.

Les Abromovitz

Les Abromovitz

May 10, 2012 — 8:31 PM

Maria and Jason definitely have the right mindset about compliance. As they noted, the folks in compliance are acting in the best interest of the RIA. PR firms who specialize in this area know this to be the case and welcome constructive recommendations.

A compliance consultant recently joked that I was Dr. No when it comes to certain marketing strategies. Much as my family would prefer that I was a doctor and not a lawyer, most of us in the compliance field try to suggest alternative strategies that are compliant. Sometimes a PR campaign can be remedied with just a bandage, not major surgery.

Maria Marsala

Maria Marsala

May 10, 2012 — 8:58 PM

“Sometimes a PR campaign can be remedied with just a bandage, not major surgery.”

How very true! It’s amazing what happens when a PR person removes testimonials from a piece and changes a word or two! (But all marketing folks, PR, copywriters, etc. have to have the mindset that comes with being willing to change or being willing to find out wht changes are necessary). :)

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