The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority is trying to direct more people to its BrokerCheck website.
A Finra rule approved in June requires Finra-registered broker-dealers and registered reps to include a link to the BrokerCheck site on their home pages or on any page with a rep profile.
The change is designed to increase investors’ awareness and use of BrokerCheck, says the SEC, which weighed in during the comment period on the new rule. “BrokerCheck is an important tool for investors to use to help them make informed choices about the individuals and firms with which they conduct business,” the SEC said.
John Stuart, chief marketing officer for InvestCloud, a Los Angeles-based provider of digital application designs and websites for financial professionals, says the regulation should encourage investors to ask questions before they engage a broker or financial advisor.
BrokerCheck publishes credentials, licenses and compliance issues for registered representatives and investment advisors, including claims filed by investors against an advisor or broker. The site was used to search information on firms and advisors 71 million times last year.
In a recent blog, InvestCloud said some Finra firms and representatives may object to the rule because complaints that are filed by investors and settled through arbitration stay on the BrokerCheck site for 10 years.
“Affected brokers claim that it has become commonplace to settle even false claims if they believe that it will be cheaper or quicker than fighting [the complaint],” said the blog. “This might help the firm initially, but it is at the expense of negatively impacting the broker’s record. While BrokerCheck will record a broker’s counterclaim, the resulting record may still look suspicious.”
However, Stuart adds, investors should be encouraged to ask questions about information found on BrokerCheck.
“This could start a conversation between the advisor and prospect that will be a relationship-builder,” he says. “The industry is changing, and this new rule is one part of it. Clients are demanding new digital tools to research brokers and registered representatives.”