Are they both you?

Are they both you?

Do you have two lives, one at work and one at play? Clearly, many of us do.

I used to use a PC at work and a Mac at home to keep my “lives” separate. Until that made me crazy. Then one day I chose to only be me (with a Mac…but I am forced to manage Exchange email on an iPad). I feel much better now that my schizophrenia has largely ended.

Unfortunately, if you are a financial services professional with a securities registration and affiliated with a broker/dealer, two lives are demanded of you. That forces you to figure out which persona you are every time you speak and write. This is especially true when it comes to written communications with “the public.”  This all leads to questions about who the public is and from which persona you are communicating. It forces you to think as if you are two different people and whether you are actually speaking to the public.

If you make a Facebook post with a link to a USA Today article mentioning retirement investing, is that a communication with the public? Are you posting it as a broker/dealer affiliate or personally? You tell me. It matters what you decide if you are securities registered.

Regulatory agencies and broker/dealers demand that all communications made by registered representatives be regulated (learn more in 26 pages here). They are furiously trying to provide guidance amongst the frenzied pace of changing communications, but its not easy. Many financial services professionals and organizations are dealing with new regulations by refusing to use or allow their associates to use social media and other common communications tools. This limits the professional’s ability to market their services and improve customer experiences.

This is unfortunate and, I think, a poor reaction. I advise financial professionals to push their broker/dealers to be more open to using new and better ways to communicate. Then I advise their broker/dealers to be more aggressive with regulators to simplify oversight.

The financial services industry should be laser focused on making communications shorter, simpler and easier to understand for consumers. Maybe not 140 characters short, but certainly not 14,000,000. Instead, regulators and firms continue to generate dozens of pages of additional policies and procedures to regulate communications as new Twitters, Instagrams and LinkedIns hit their radar. This results in more complexity (and, generally, expense) for everyone.

I am hoping the next generation of financial professionals and regulators thinks and acts more broadly on this issue.

More on this coming soon. It’s one of my favorite topics.