Registered Reps: Is Your Website Compliant?


Rules – they can really stink, I know.

I wanted to be sure all Registered Reps knew about and understood the new FINRA rule regarding your website, though. It goes into effect June 6, 2016 so let’s jump right into it and get this knocked out!

What’s All This About?

If you’re a Registered Rep, then you likely know FINRA has the BrokerCheck utility on their website. The BrokerCheck allows consumers to learn more about a registered rep and make sure they are in good standing. It’s like the BBB for broker backgrounds. Well, it’s coming to your website now too.

Recently, FINRA Rule 2210 states an advisor must provide a link to this utility on your website so your consumers have easy access to by simply clicking while there. FINRA is giving registered reps until June 6, 2016 to comply. You’ve got a couple of months – so don’t sweat it yet! What’s very important to understand is the details of WHERE the link must be placed though:

Effective June 6, 2016, FINRA Rule 2210 (Communications with the Public) requires a firm to include a readily apparent reference and hyperlink to BrokerCheck on the initial Web page that the firm intends to be viewed by retail investors, and any other Web page that includes a professional profile of one or more registered persons, who conduct business with retail investors.See more at:

Who Needs to Comply?

If you’re a Registered Rep and you have a consumer-facing website, you have to comply. Again, be very careful to understand the bolded comments provided above. This notice must be on any page where a professional bio exists of a registered rep, the initial page your firm uses (so typically the Home page of a website, but could be a Landing page if you use it for lead generation) and any other page which would contain your bio.

I would even caution to include this interpretation also means  your LinkedIn profile. Although the ruling doesn’t outright state this, I feel it’s a matter of time before they clarify it. Your profile is a biographical representation of who you are and your background. Providing a link to the BrokerCheck utility at FINRA seems not only safe but very transparent.

What Do I Need to Do?

You need to work with whoever manages your website and make sure they understand the implications of this ruling. Updating your website, your LinkedIn profile, and any other place where a bio of you as a registered rep exists is mandatory. Failure to comply always equals a penalty of some sort. 

Do not wait to comply; get it done today. If you need help, reach out and ask me. I can provide instructions or even help you get your LinkedIn profile updated so you avoid trouble with something so small.

Again, I know rules are a pain the butt. However, FINRA wants to keep you and the consumer safe and informed. Let me know if you need assistance.

Be bigger, better and more BIONIC today.

Sheryl Brown | @BIONICsocialite

What can #FinServ expect in social media marketing for 2016?

Predictions for 2016 Social Media Marketing for Financial Services Professionals

I’m not a fortune-teller and I haven’t met anyone yet who can accurately predict the future.  However, I do watch trends in social media marketing and feel it’s important that I share this information with the financial services markets so we aren’t so far behind!

Social media has been a tough place for our industry.  Whether you want to say it is compliance or the overwhelming nature of data itself, as a community of professionals we must pick a few areas and really go for it…especially in 2016.  You see, it’s getting to the point where catching up is extremely difficult.

I believe 2016 is a make it or break it year for us.

This is the year where we play or get played.

So why not try concentrating on one [or all three] of these areas as part of your business plan for 2016?  If you need help or have questions, please contact me!  I want to see you be successful!

Here are my three big predictions for 2016:

Video Killed the Radio Star in 1979 and still today in 2016.1.  Video Killed the Radio Star in 1979 – – and still is.  You can’t go anywhere online without a video playing.  When Buggles sang the song “Video Killed the Radio Star” they could not have possibly been able to predict how true that would be in 2016.  Some 37 years later and we are using video for damn near everything.

Video has lead to live streaming with tools such as Meerkat and Periscope, but I don’t see the financial services market jumping on that bandwagon quickly (compliance!!) but these tools are invading our everyday space.  Did you see the story of the police who caught the woman who live streamed her drunk driving?  The police (a lot like financial services) didn’t even know what Periscope was and after people called in to report the young woman, they had to figure out how to download the app and find her.  Video is powerful, folks.

Who would have thought YouTube would be considered a dinosaur of video…but it is.  When is the last time you went on Facebook without seeing a video auto-playing? Realize you are competing with videos from big brands too – so make ’em count!

One company in Indiana is doing it right for financial service professionals too.  Covideo in Indianapolis, Indiana has figured out how to make video for email easy and affordable.  You can turn your emails into a tool for face-to-face and just-in-time interactions with your clients.  If you’re a financial services professional and want to use video in 2016, I have an affordable arrangement set-up with Covideo to have access to their Enterprise account at the Premium account price.  Contact me for more information and to get started.

Email - it's not just a fad, I promise!2.  Email – – it’s not just a fad, I promise.  There was a smidge of sarcasm in my lead-in as I remember the days of people who said email would never stick around.  How many of you remember getting your first email address?  AOL?  NetZero?  Yahoo?  Yep – those were the days!

Today, though, email has taken on a different look and feel.  You want your email to be more original, incorporate video (see #1 above) and provide value to the person it’s bugging (and that’s all email is – a disruptor, stop trying to make it something more than it is).  Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media is quoted as reminding that quality projects are a must!  He’s right – we have to up our game!

Send me a sample of an email campaign that you’ve done – I will critique it. You want to build influence with your email, provide help to challenging situations, all the while funneling your audience back to a site where you can convert them.  It’s not an easy task.  If you’re trying to do this as a financial service professional, you might need some help…I’m just saying!

For example, are your emails visually appealing?  Do your emails look different on a desktop vs. a mobile device?  Are you using a quality (yet affordable) email provider to build campaigns that are trackable and provide feedback?  If you want, I can help you dig deeper and better understand this.  Emails should help build the Know-Like-Trust factor.  They shouldn’t be something self-serving and bothersome to your readership.

Content and Context - it's not for the faint of heart!3.  Guess what – content AND context are king!  Content with context is not for the faint of heart.  I recommend those who want to move the needle in 2016 as a thought leader to get real with their audience.  Stop being polite and get to the point of what you want them to know, learn, experience, feel and share.

Content with context lets you take your relationship-building to the next level.  My friend, Neal Schaffer, of Maximize Social Business, says it best, “I am going to be investing more in technology to help me expand relationships that I have created online.”  You can only have the right conversations with the right people when you stop being a robot and start being a human being.

Financial service professionals have mastered the business persona.  We know all the right answers for asset management, wealth creation, income protection, legacy planning, etc.  Those are very important issues, but I guarantee Grumpy Cat is going beat you out every time because the stuff we talk about isn’t fun or funny.  So, how do we change this?  For one, we start being more like Brittney Castro of Financially Wise Women.  She’s not afraid to be as silly as she is serious about money and financial planning.  She has the content WITH the context – – that’s the secret sauce, folks.  (Go follow her too – she’s pretty cool!)

Understanding that consumers are in control now is vitally important.  They pick what they want to see (to a large degree, at least).  They pick what they want to talk about.  They pick what will be shared.  Their expectation is about a relationship, some recognition, and a conversation.  The question you need to ask yourself is, “Am I providing this to my clients?”  If you have to think for more than one second how to answer this, then you’re not doing your job right in marketing your business correctly.  That’s 100% your fault, but in your defense, you’ve never had to spend so much time thinking about this question.  That’s why there are marketing folks out there you need to work with to help you out.

Any questions – let me know how I can help.  Make 2016 your year!  Stop being behind and get out in front of the pack!  You got this!

Be Bigger, Better and more BIONIC today!

Sheryl Brown @BIONICsocialite


Narcissism is TOO alive and well on LinkedIn

Expert - ugh, stop using that word!As I was going through my LinkedIn requests to connect last week, I noticed a growing trend on professional headlines that I pray will disappear faster than parachute pants in the 80’s did.  What about those professionals who feel comfortable calling themselves “experts” and “gurus” and even the ones that say “ninja” and “master authority”?  Hmm…really?

Expertise is a funny thing.  I’m all for taking the time to maintain your profile on LinkedIn. It is super important and we all want to put our best foot forward so people know we are dynamic human beings, but should people feel THAT comfortable with these sorts of words?  To present themselves as the ‘guiding light’ of their profession?  Who are these individuals REALLY trying to impress: themselves or potential clients?

Out of sheer curiosity, I went to three very familiar people’s profiles to see if they even had a LinkedIn profile (they did!) and then wondered, “What does it say about them?”  Here we go!

President of the United States, Barack Obama

President Barack Obama – his professional headline merely said, “President of the United States of America”.  Regardless of what you think of him politically, he’s legit one of the most powerful people in the world and yet I looked – trust me, I read every single word – and nowhere does it say “expert” or “guru”.  Nope, not there and he has more than 2 million followers.

Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Airlines

Next up was Sir Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Airlines.  I checked out his LinkedIn profile too and he admits he is a tie-loathing adventurer, but nothing about being a “wind warrior” or that he owns more than 400 companies. What about his net worth which is estimated at $5.1 billion dollars?  Surely that qualifies him as a “guru”?  Nope – he just hates ties. [My husband does too!]

Reid Hoffmann, co-founder of LinkedIn

That leaves Reid Hoffmann.  He’s the co-founder of LinkedIn, is on the board of Airbnb and is the partner of Greylock.  Now he must be using these words because he helped create LinkedIn, right?  I read the profile from top-to-bottom.  His only reference is that LinkedIn will help you FIND experts, but not that he is one.  Hmm… I would have thought for certain we would find it here!

So, if these accomplished individuals are not using these words,


Next, it led me to Google the phrase, “What makes someone an expert?” and in less than a second 153,000,000 articles were returned by people, who probably think they are experts.  The only reasonable explanation was from Wikipedia which cracked me up because anyone can change that to suit their needs, so now it begs me to question for financial professionals, “Is there anyone wondering why compliance officers hate this word so much?”  An expert cannot be deemed by one person to someone else.  Collectively, we need to stop using these terms to make us feel better about ourselves and start using words that make clients want to work with us.  Let’s all get over ourselves!

Also, I’m not sure if you noticed that in each of the profiles above, they all did have one thing in common.  The word “Influencer” was assigned by LinkedIn to their profiles.  Why did LinkedIn strategically use that word versus “Ninja”?  Dorie Clark explains it quickly and concisely in this recent Harvard Business Review Tip of the Day:

Influence Others Even If You’re Not an Expert

One of the most powerful forms of influence is authority, especially when it comes from your expertise. If you have 20 years of experience or you write for a certain publication, you have an increased ability to influence others. But how do you influence people if you don’t have those credentials? The first step is to borrow others’ expertise. If you’re a thoughtful curator of the best ideas in your field, people will turn to you for guidance. Another technique is to find commonalities with your audience. Having something in common can create a powerful psychological bond. It’s also important to be strategic with your persuasion. If you can’t directly contact the person you’re trying to influence, try talking to someone close to them instead. Finally, create original content. Choose a platform that makes sense for you, then share about the issues in your field to build your reputation.

Adapted from “Get People to Listen to You When You’re Not Seen as an Expert,” by Dorie Clark.

Don’t get me wrong.  Authority is a drug.  Presidents of countries and companies can certainly command a room, but that is mostly due to their influence over others rather than their expertise alone.  Once anyone gets to that level, they depend on teams of expertise and not on their own smarts.  So, when you depend on a team of expertise, does that warrant you to say you’re an expert?  I definitely think not.
Wouldn’t you rather be known as an “influencer” than an expert?  Start thinking about how you influence others in your practice.  Look at your words and ask others how they feel when they read your website or bio…and you need someone who will be grossly honest with you and honor the term “truth over peace”.  Be ready to hear the real deal.  It might sting, but it’s for your own good.  Influence your connections, forget about being a know-it-all.
Be bigger, better and more BIONIC!
Sheryl Brown / @BIONICsocialite

Is compliance a priority for you? (Hint: It should be!)

boxingWhen I spend time with registered reps it’s not uncommon to hear the lackluster response they have when the topic of compliance is brought up. Heavy Sigh…. Come on – it’s not THAT bad….right? Unfortunately, it can be for some, but for a variety of reasons on both sides of the subject. Let’s discuss.

Advisors – what can you do to be more compliant? The answer, in a nutshell, is:  A LOT. Compliance is a very serious topic whether you are a registered rep or not.

Joanne Belbey of Actiance recently wrote an article in Forbes magazine that discussed certain areas that advisors need to better understand the compliance needs associated with:

  • Senior Markets:  Beware and Be Aware! We’ve all heard about this in our industry news, but we just need to beware in general when working with the senior market and be aware of ways you can be more compliant. Period.
  • Cybersecurity and High Standards:  I love the insight provided by Belbey when she quoted Susan Axelrod of FINRA which was,

“…you should hold your third party vendors to your own high standards, or you will open your firm to venerability.” Amen to this statement! We all need to be thinking this way!

  • Best Practices:  Your client’s data IS your most important priority each day. Be sure only the right people are accessing data on an as-needed basis. Your clients will not only appreciate you more, but trust you.
  • Lead by Example:  Setting a precedence of compliance in your office makes everyone feel it’s an important topic. In my world of social media, for example, be sure that all registered reps are doing what compliance has asked and all questions about certain requirements are discussed as a group. One person may be reading a guideline one way while another interprets it completely different.

Compliance – what can you do to help advisors?

  • Listen to the full question.  Advisors are lost in the language of compliance. Be patient with their questions and use layman terms and examples when they want a better understanding of why you want something a certain way. I don’t think advisors (as a majority) want to be non-compliant. They want to understand “why” and I’m finding that the proverbial answer of

“…because I said so” is not well-received.

  • Review guidelines more often.  Social networking platforms change…and they change a lot (it’s the bain of my existence!) Be open to the possibility that certain platforms allow an advisor greater exposure (in a good way – don’t go right into the negative risk aspect) to potential clients. Too many other industries are leaps and bounds ahead of those who are trying to make a difference and bring peace of mind through financial planning. Be sure you are giving them a chance to shine in their community.
  • Be expeditious in your reviews.  If you take too long to review profiles or articles, the advisor loses trust in the compliance process. Have an expeditious review process that takes into consideration that you’ve given the advisor the platform ability to use, they are likely paying for it through dashboards that monitor, so please be respectful in the review process. I believe this process has come a LONG way from where it once was, but I am still seeing some reviews take two to four weeks. Whether you want to hear this or not, that’s not acceptable.
  • Accept mediation.  There are social media consultants out there (yes, like me) who are wonderful advocates (like an ad litem) who want the best for both:  advisors and compliance. Allow these specialized individuals to help mediate the process to cut back on the frustration for both parties and assist in making sure the lines of communication are open and clearly understood.

Compliance is a necessary part of working well and being mindful of consumers and advisors best interests. I’m definitely not a compliance poo-pooer by any means. I believe there is still a breakdown between the two worlds though and if I can do anything to help, please let me know.

Be Bigger, Better, and more BIONIC!

Sheryl Brown – the @BIONICsocialite

Beginner’s Guide to Messaging: We’re all doing it, right?

message in a bottleWhen I’m not on the road spreading the good word of social media and financial services, then you can find me sweating behind the handle bars of a fake bike listening to awesome music. I love to spin.  Fortunately, I work with several people who also enjoy spinning.

As I was walking to get some water, I stopped by a co-workers’s cube and asked her if she was going to spin on Saturday.  She wasn’t sure and said, “I will message you on Facebook and let you know.”  I nodded my headed, took a few steps to the water cooler and then thought, “How many people did this today?

Messaging has become a relevant verb in our daily lives.  Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and even Pinterest all have messaging features that allow people to communicate privately from the masses.  So why not just email someone?  Or text them?  And how many people are actually doing this?  So, let’s discuss.

Why not just email someone?  Let me ask you a question:  do you like receiving or sending email?  Didn’t think so.  Email has a lot of “baggage” that is just not attractive anymore. had a great article a year ago that talked about the different messaging apps and why people are attracted to them.  You can find that piece here.

Messaging apps clean it all up and force users to get to the point (many of them limit your character space), they make use other apps like Dropbox for attachments and you can do it all within your favorite social networking platform so you don’t have to leave one to go to another.  Efficient!

It’s important that financial service organizations recognize this trend and adapt.  Many of the archiving and retention platforms like Smarsh, Actiance and Hearsay have already started and allow you to track these conversations compliantly by registering your accounts through their dashboard.

Why not text someone?  Well, you could but that’s a separate application on your phone.  People want to stay in the app that they are currently in and really do see email, text, message, unified communication methods that transcend one another.  Compliance officers though…not so much that they agree with this thinking!  They want everything SEPARATED!

Appending to my last point about email, archiving and retention platforms cannot track text messages.  For that reason, many registered reps will see in their communication guidelines that text messaging is not allowed for business.  This is where messaging apps could be  more helpful. By keeping your messages on a monitored and controlled social networking platform like LinkedIn connected to Smarsh (or any variation of this) could serve you very well and even replace a large part of your texting.

How many people are messaging?  In a word…LOTS!  MarketingProfs just shared an article on the topic where Ayaz Nanji wrote about the data compiled by Flurry.  These apps are being used more often than any other on the smartphone and their retention is supreme.  [In other words, we think messaging apps are awesome and are going to keep using them!]

I think messaging apps are going to be the way of communication more often chosen by financial service professionals in the coming months.  They are easy-to-use and we just need to get more monitoring around them so compliance feels comfortable about those isolated conversations.  The apps themselves are definitely not going away though.

What are your favorite apps?  Do you enjoy messaging?  What do you like or not like about it?  I encourage you to share in the comments below or reach out on social media and let us know.

Be bigger, better and more BIONIC today!

Sheryl Brown / @BIONICsocialite

We’re not doing so well over here! H/T to @SagissorTom and @SIFMA

sickThe recent SIFMA (Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association) conference came back with a ton of report cards – one of which reminded how not so great we were doing with social media in our community.  I think I’m feeling sick!

As a financial advisor, it’s tough for me to hear that we’re not doing something well.  We pride ourselves on being knowledgeable in a lot of different specialties, yet we just can’t seem to catch up when it comes to social media.  Why do you think that is?

Tom Sagissor of RBC Wealth Management said it best, “A key to success is to put social media into your business model.”  As the Social Media Director of Ash Brokerage (the largest privately held insurance brokerage agencies in the United States), I couldn’t agree more.  Social media must be in your business model!

Although I wasn’t at this conference, you can bet I will be next year, I believe rules and regulations that are written with too much “Don’t do this” jargon instead “Please do this” is part of the problem.  Advisors become terrified to breathe on social media.  Social management platforms like HearSay Social and others absolutely do help, but I’m still hearing a great deal of advisors who are aggravated by the whole process [it’s too expensive, too overwhelming, not sure what I can or can’t do, etc.] so they choose to do nothing (and that’s not the right answer either).

As a whole, we are leaving too much social data on the table that would help us be better, more holistic practitioners that other industries are making use of every single day.  Advisors are missing out on key opportunities to engage with a client organically and it’s costing all of us business.  Social media is not going away and we must not only embrace it, but help be an active participant in it so we can help guide the rules around it instead of letting it guide us.

My hat is off to Tom Sagissor for stepping up and saying what he said to this audience.  We need more individuals like Tom to set an example.  Thank you!

Be bigger, better and more BIONIC today!

Sheryl Brown / @BIONICsocialite




Technology and Regulation: A modern day tortoise and hare tale…with a twist!

Rtortoise and hareaise your hand if you have a mobile device.

Ok, good; you’re in the majority of business professionals today who are putting technology to good use.  [It’s very easy to figure out who the hare is in this tale is going to be; think of the “Energizer Bunny”.]

Now, raise your hand if you think compliance and regulation are able to keep up with technology today.

What?  I don’t see one hand raised out there in social media land.  What’s up with that?

What you’re experiencing is the modern-day story of the tortoise and the hare race, except the difference in today’s story is that the hare is winning…by a lot!

I’m not a compliance poo-pooer, not at all.  I believe in keeping consumers and advisors both safe.  Compliance has a definite place.  What I am is intolerant of is embracing practices that purposely hold an entire legion of financial services professionals back who are working to improve the financial landscape of those they serve.  It’s like the tortoise became cavalier with his win and when the hare actually dug into the race and sped out ahead, the tortoise had to pull out all the stops to “win” the race back.  Not entirely fair.

And this problem is not only specific to financial services though.  I recently watched an episode of #JayToday with Jay Baer of Convince & Convert.  [He’s one of my favorite social media strategist.]  In this YouTube, he talks about being on a flight and using software that allows you to text via WiFi and then being called out by a flight attendant. The flight attendant was so fixated on the regulation, she then become short-sighted and didn’t know the appropriate work around on this.   It makes those spewing regulation look old and crotchety.  You should watch the episode here:

After a recent SIFMA conference, published an article telling the financial services community they were behind in social media use (duh, right?) and later confirmed by a PeopleLinx report discussing social selling trends that 73% of respondents saw value in social selling, yet only 26% overall felt they knew how to use social for selling.  When PeopleLinx dug into the report findings more, they uncovered when encouragement, training and measurement were provided, social increased dramatically.  

So why does regulation continue to be so far behind technology?  It’s a loaded question and not one we are going to answer in this blog, but one we need to continue to question every time an advisor is told “No” by someone in an officer role.  It’s ok to ask, “Why?” and really dig into the reason behind it.  It’s the only way we are going to push compliance to acknowledge the slow response to change and adjust accordingly.  Our ability to be nimble is imperative if we are to keep up with other industries of professionals who are gaining face time with our clients.

I really want the underdog to win, but not by undermining the race.  Play hard, yet play fair.

Be bigger, better and more BIONIC today!

Sheryl Brown / @BIONICsocialite