Meet the Expert: Social Media, Compliance, and Mitigating Risk

Social Media and Compliance

When Joanna Belbey tells people what she does for a living, sometimes they’re a little startled at first.

“I’m the Social Media and Compliance Specialist for Actiance,” she says. “People hear ‘social media and compliance,’ and you can see that it gives them a little jolt. It can sound like an oxymoron.”

Joanna BelbeyBut for Joanna, these two areas go together surprisingly well — because she has such a strong background in both.

“I worked with FINRA, which is a regulator of the securities industry, for a number of years,” she explains.

Joanna developed educational programs — as many as 300 per year — to help large financial services firms comply with the rules and regulations of their industry.

“I have a good understanding of the rules and regulations that pertain to electronic communications, and I have a profound respect for the regulators and what they’re trying to do to protect all of us, the investing public,” Joanna says.

And that’s not all.

“I’m also on social media all the time: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn, along with internal social collaboration platforms,” she says. “And I think they’re great.” (You can follow her on Twitter.)

At Actiance, Joanna now works with clients to figure out how to use social media and social collaboration solutions while complying with industry rules and regulations.

“People have concerns about social media and social collaboration, and rightfully so,” she says.

But for Joanna and her clients, those concerns don’t end the conversation. It’s just getting started.

From “No” to Navigating New Terrain

In recent years, Joanna has noticed a shift starting to take place in the financial services industry.

“At one time, I’d ask firms, ‘Do you have a social media policy in place at your firm?’ And they’d say, ‘Well, yes, we do. The policy is NO.’”

But this policy came at a cost.

“That’s the easy answer, right? Block it, don’t do it, put your head in the sand,” Joanna says.

“But then you’re losing opportunities. You’re losing certain audiences that you would might want to reach out to. You’re losing Millennials. You’re losing educated investors using social media to investigate investment products.”

Meanwhile, organizations that are figuring out how to navigate social media — while remaining compliant — are in good company.

“The SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission), regulator of the securities industry, is using social media to share education for the investing public,” Joanna says. It’s time for firms to evolve: “You need to turn that ‘no’ into a ‘how.’”

And the evolving nature of the financial services firm itself has contributed to the need for internal communications infrastructure as well.

“We can think of internal social communication platforms as ‘electronic hallways,’” she says. “Back in the old days, we were all in one place and could stick our head out into the hall and call for help.”

“But now that employees are dispersed across the globe,” says Joanna, “these tools are what allow us to find the information we need, to find the people we need, and then begin to exchange ideas.”

What that means: with remote workforces, colleagues in other countries, and potential customers everywhere, we all need to be able to give a shout into that hallway.

And the first step to making that possible is learning how to identify the risks.

The Key to Managing Risk: Being Proactive

“What I do is get people to list out — and think about how to mitigate — the risks associated with all forms of communication, whether they’re on social media or internal platform,” Joanna says.

In the financial services sector, one of the first concerns companies often raise is being out of compliance with industry regulations.

“Well, we can mitigate that risk,” Joanna says. “What are all of the rules and regulations pertaining to communications, and how can we comply with those rules?”

In other words, the fear of violating guidelines doesn’t mean that firms should turn their back on social media and social collaboration. It’s an opportunity to understand what it means to leverage those platforms in a way that is also compliant.

“You can mitigate concerns by developing policies for your staff, doing training so they understand the tools — what to do and what not to do. And you can also reinforce those policies with technology, so that you can protect the user from him- or herself,” she says. “Because we’re all fallible, and we’re all going to make mistakes.”

Letting that fear of mistakes get in the way of moving forward is, well, a big mistake.

“If you don’t find ways to engage with these tools, you’re going to miss out,” Joanna says. “There’s so much value to using these tools. So it’s well worth the time and energy it takes to identify and mitigate all the risks.”

“And then you can move forward and reap the benefits,” she adds. “Absolutely the riskiest thing is doing nothing at all.”

Don’t miss Joanna Belbey’s upcoming live webcast on July 30th at 2pm ET/11am PT: “Can Financial Planners and Investment Professionals Be Social at Work?” Redbooth is proud to sponsor this free webinar. Reserve your spot now >>