Financial advisory firms are showing weak branch supervision as they expand to multiple locations, the Securities and Exchange Commission’s enforcement director said today.

The SEC is seeing the trend as many broker-dealers switch to an investment advisor model, said Drew Bowden, director of the SEC Office of Compliance Inspections and Examination.

In some cases, there are strict and detailed broker-dealer supervision guidelines without commensurate rules for investment advisory firms, he said at the National Society of Compliance Professionals 2013 annual meeting in Washington, DC.

Increasing oversight of compliance operations at investment advisory branches will be one of OCIE’s top priorities for 2014, Bowden announced.

Another priority will be closer scrutiny of technology operations, said Bowden, adding that just five minutes of tech problems can put a firm out of business.

While the OCIE only examines about 9 percent of advisory services per year, that doesn’t mean advisors who aren’t examined aren’t being watched, he said.

Data sweeps allow the unit to look over a wide spectrum of advisors to spotlight potential problems, he said. The SEC is capable of looking at two to three years of data at advisory and other businesses in a single sweep, he noted.

Also at the meeting, Martin Kimmel, the SEC’s Investment Management Division Senior Special Counsel, said the unit’s effort to develop the first valuation guidance for investment companies in 40 years is going on aggressively, but a proposal “is not imminent.”

The guidance is likely to cover areas not covered in previous SEC directives on valuation, including derivatives, foreign currency and the use of pricing services, he said.

On another topic, Kimel said the SEC has received 1,300 comment letters on its proposals for money-market mutual funds, including a floating net asset value (NAV) for shares aimed at institutional investors rather than the $1 fixed price currently for all money-market mutual funds.

A majority of the letters have raised concern a floating NAV might decrease the usefulness of the funds to investors and question whether it would achieve its aim of reducing runs on the funds, he said.

However, he said other commenters have urged that the floating NAV be extended to retail and government money-market mutual funds.

Julie Riewe, Enforcement Division Asset Management Unit co-chief, said SEC Chairman Mary Jo White has brought a greater enforcement focus to the agency, in line with her prior experience as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

One of the results, said Riewe, is the SEC is dialing up larger penalties.