Industry News

linkedFA connects advisors with investors and other industry members

By Megan Harman |

As the popularity of social networking websites continues to grow, a slew of privacy, security and compliance issues have emerged for users in the financial services industry. But a new online social network specifically geared to advisors is designed to eliminate concerns in all of these areas.

linkedFA is a new social networking site for the financial community, offering advisors, registered representatives and accountants the opportunity to leverage social media to connect and interact with investors and other industry members.

Developed by a Miami, Fla.-based company of the same name, the new site is launching this month. It is accessible in English to financial professionals and investors in Canada, the United States and around the world.

Similar to Facebook and LinkedIn, linkedFA allows users to create profiles that feature details about themselves, their practice and professional history, as well as pictures, blogs, videos, research reports, and other items. Advisors can communicate with other people in their linkedFA network through public posts, shared documents and videos, and private messages.

“linkedFA is a purpose-driven network for financial advisors to connect to their investors,” explains Brian Byrne, CEO of linkedFA. “It’s really a business-focused site.”

Network helps advisors meet recordkeeping regulations

Unlike other social media sites, linkedFA has a variety of security and privacy features specifically geared towards financial services professionals, as well as measures to help advisors ensure they’re complying with relevant regulations. For instance, linkedFA includes a feature that stores all communications between advisors and their clients for a minimum of six years, helping advisors and their firms comply with recordkeeping regulatory requirements.

“Anything that’s been posted and viewable, or actually shared with an investor is exported and reported in this compliance report,” explains Byrne. “That’s a key compliance feature that is not available in the current consumer-focused social media sites that are out there.”

Compliance concerns around social networking have attracted the attention of financial industry regulators. The U.S. Financial Industry Regulatory Authority recently issued guidance to securities firms and brokers regarding the use of the websites, and urged firms to develop their own policies and procedures to ensure regulatory compliance when using the sites.

Similarly on this side of the border, the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada says firms are responsible for ensuring that they are compliant with regulations when embracing new practices or technologies.

“We have rules in place which address marketing, advertising and communications with clients, and these rules are intended to cover any specific practices including the use of social media,” says Connie Craddock, vice-president of public affairs at IIROC.

Since each firm has its own policies, Byrne urges advisors to check with the compliance department of their firm prior to using a social networking site such as linkedFA to ensure their activities on the site are acceptable. For instance, he says advisors should ensure that any documents they distribute through the network are approved by their firm.

Site offers users control over content, high security standards

Other unique features of linkedFA provide users with a high level of control over the content that others see. For instance, users are not able to post public comments or materials on other users’ profiles without their approval.

“If anybody posts anything inappropriate, before anybody else sees it, the advisor gets to approve or disapprove it,” he says. This allows advisors to manage their reputation on the site, and ensure the content remains strictly professional, Byrne explains: “You can keep this uniquely focused on your conversation with your investors.”

Users are also able to control who sees what content, with an option of developing three separate profiles to display different information to clients, peers and recruiters.

In terms of privacy and security, linkedFA has adopted high standards protecting users from information poaching, phishing, spyware, hacking, illegal and unauthorized disclosure of personal or confidential information, according to the company.

“It’s a very secure environment,” Byrne says.

Extra protection is also available for investors, who have the option of remaining anonymous in the network. While advisors can search the network for other financial professionals and recruiters, they cannot search for investors -- connections between investors and advisors are only made through personal invitations.

Protecting clients’ identities is beneficial for advisors who use the site, Byrne says, since it prevents other advisors from potentially poaching clients. “We want FAs to feel comfortable that they can invite their investors in and not have to worry about those investors being swept away by somebody else in the industry,” he says.