Guest post: "How to Use LinkedIn When Your Compliance Department Says No"

Financial advisors–and all kinds of professionals in investment and wealth management–need to be on LinkedIn. I feel strongly about this, so I’m happy to feature a guest post from marketer Kristen Luke. In this post, which originally appeared on Kristen’s Financial Marketing Wire blog, she tells you how to benefit from LinkedIn, even when you must work within compliance constraints.

Recently I have been conducting one-on-one LinkedIn training sessions for advisors on how they can better utilize the professional social networking site. Each advisor has different restrictions on how they can engage with the site depending on the rules set forth by their compliance department. I have found that most compliance departments will allow advisors to have LinkedIn profiles, but will not necessarily allow them to actively participate in groups, install applications, update their status or mass email their connections. For those advisors who are allowed to have a LinkedIn profile but have been restricted in their use of the site, there are still strategies that can be utilized to make LinkedIn a valuable sales and marketing tool. Below are four strategies to implement even if you can’t use LinkedIn to its fullest potential.

Strategy 1: Build Your Network

LinkedIn becomes more powerful as the size of your network increases. This is because you are only able to see profiles of people within your network (i.e. 1st, 2nd or 3rd Connections and Group Members). To make effective use of LinkedIn, you will need to continuously build your network. This will allow you to discover more potential clients and centers of influence. Start expanding your network by importing contacts. You can do this by selecting “Add Connections” in the Contacts menu and uploading a spreadsheet of your contacts’ email addresses. The resulting list will show you who is on LinkedIn and will allow you to send a mass invitation to connect.

Once you have started with your initial network, you’ll want to continue adding all new contacts to your network. Make inviting all new contacts to join your LinkedIn network a part of your weekly routine. This includes people you meet professionally and socially. You never know where the next client or referral will come from, so don’t exclude people from your network.

Another way to build your network is to install an Outlook toolbar which will notify you when an email contact is on LinkedIn. You can download and install either the LinkedIn or Xobni toolbar which will show you LinkedIn profile information about each of your email contacts and provide you with a link to send an “invitation to connect” request. These tool bars eliminate the need to manually look up a contact to see if they are on the site and then send an invitation request. Plus, they constantly remind you to build your network.

Strategy 2: Join Groups

You may have been told by your compliance department that you can’t post a discussion question, answer a discussion question, post a news article, or comment on a news article. That doesn’t mean that joining groups is a waste of time. Even if you never actively participate in a group, joining allows you to expand your network. By joining a group, you are able to view the profiles of everyone in the group. This helps when you are researching prospects since their profiles might not be available to you otherwise. In addition, you are able to send an email directly to fellow group members without being linked in with them through the “send a message” function. Joining groups provides you with direct access to hundreds if not thousands of individuals who would otherwise be outside of your LinkedIn reach. Just be cautious when emailing through LinkedIn since some compliance departments require a screenshot of the message you are sending including the name of the person to whom who you are sending it.

Strategy 3: Research Prospects

LinkedIn provides a wealth of information about a prospective client. By reviewing a prospect’s profile prior to your first meeting, you can discover past employment history, educational background, professional associations and personal interests. This will give you a better understanding of the prospect and may assist in directing the conversation during a first appointment. The only limitation with this strategy is that you are only able to view profiles of people within your network. Having a larger network, as described in strategies one and two, will increase the likelihood of being able to see a prospect’s profile.

Strategy 4: Research your Network for Introductions & Referrals

Do you know which of your clients have relationships with the types of people you would like to meet? If they have a LinkedIn profile you can easily find out. When you connect with your clients, centers of influence or networking contacts on LinkedIn, you can look through their connections to see who they know. By researching your LinkedIn contacts’ network, you can make informed decisions about who has the ability to make quality referrals and introductions and create a marketing strategy around that information. For example, you can ask for referrals and introductions to specific people within your contact’s network when you have a referral conversation. Or, you can plan a private client event and make extra effort to ensure that clients with strong networks attend. Researching your network will allow you to focus your referral efforts.


In my personal experience, the strategies listed above are acceptable by most compliance departments who allow advisors to use LinkedIn. However, you will want to consult with your compliance department before implementing any of these ideas to make sure you are in observance of your firm’s policies.

For information about Kristen’s marketing strategies and support for financial advisors, visit

Registered reps, it’s time to ‘fess up

Ghostwriters offer valuable marketing support to financial advisors. But some registered reps–and the marketers who support them–have felt confused since the issuance of “Misleading Communications About Expertise,”  FINRA Regulatory Notice 08-27,  in May 2008. They don’t know how much editorial assistance reps can receive before they must acknowledge the assistance in writing–or even sacrifice their byline.

At least one compliance officer is interpreting the rules relatively strictly. Paul Tolley, chief compliance officer of Commonwealth Financial Network in Waltham, Mass., says that registered reps should disclose the role of any other writers who contribute to text for articles or books that a rep would like to distribute under the rep’s name.  That’s much stricter than the informal advice I received from some financial marketing writers when I drafted “FINRA’s limits on registered reps use of ghostwriters,” an earlier blog post on this topic.

FINRA’s “Misleading Communications About Expertise”  says, “Registered representatives may not suggest (or encourage others to suggest) that they authored investment-related books, articles or similar publications if they did not write them. Such a publication created by a third-party vendor must disclose that it was prepared either by the third party or for the representative’s use.”

Tolley thinks FINRA’s intentions are clear. “Few things in compliance are black and white, but this is one of them” he says. If the rep’s only contribution was to pay for an article, then the rep can’t take credit for the article. However, “Reps who pay for someone else to write an article can still put their name on it, as long as the actual author is credited,” says Tolley. An appropriate byline might be “Submitted by Rachel Registered-Rep and written by Glenda Ghostwriter” or “Written for Rachel Registered-Rep by Glenda Ghostwriter.”

But what if the registered rep contributes content and editorial guidance to a ghostwriter? For example, what if a ghostwriter pens an article based on interviews with a registered rep? Can the registered rep claim authorship?

“What it really comes down to is that you can’t say it if it’s not true,” says Tolley. If reps are 100% responsible for the text of an article or other written communication, they can claim sole authorship.  If not, they should disclose the details of who contributed what, he says. For example, if someone writes an article on the basis of content and editorial review provided by a rep, the article’s byline should include the writer’s name in addition to the rep’s. “The rep can’t claim sole authorship because it’s not true,” he adds. However, a byline such as “By Rachel Registered-Rep with Glenda Ghostwriter” could work, as long as Rachel truly contributed to the writing.

Tolley says that it’s probably okay for a rep to send an ghostwritten article to a newspaper  with a note that it was “submitted by Joe Smith,” when Joe Smith is not the author. However, I doubt that most newspapers would accept this. They’d want to credit the real author.

On a related note, “In accordance with Notice 08-27, if a rep is merely paying for a publication that is designed to look like a magazine, article or interview, the material must be clearly identified as an advertisement (typically by including the word ‘Advertisement’ at the top center of the publication),” says Tolley.

Registered reps, it’s time for you to ‘fess up, if you’re not really the author of your bylined articles or books.

Background of FINRA rules
Tolley says that FINRA’s approach to ghostwriting has its roots in Conduct Rule 2010, which says that all FINRA members, “in the conduct of its business, shall observe high standards of commercial honor and just and equitable principles of trade.”

But ghostwriting first became an issue in 2007. That’s when FINRA became aware of reps who, as part of their marketing to seniors and retirees,  paid to have their names presented as authors of books written by others. “FINRA made it clear they thought that was a violation of conduct rule 2210 and just and equitable principles of trade,” says Tolley. FINRA expressed its views in Regulatory Notice 07-43 “Senior Investors: FINRA Reminds Firms of Their Obligations Relating to Senior Investors and Highlights Industry Practices to Serve These Customers.”  In 2008, as mentioned above, FINRA extended that explicit prohibition beyond communications aimed at seniors, so it applies to any ghostwritten materials.

What about registered investment advisors?
I’m not aware of any rules governing the use of ghostwriters by registered investment advisors (RIAs).  Should there be? I’d like to hear what you think.

SEC’s update to CFA Institute’s GIPS conference

One of the SEC latest initiatives resonates with the experience of Lucile Corkery, Associate Regional Director for Examinations, Boston Regional Office, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. That’s enhancing the licensing, education, and oversight of back office personnel. Corkery and her colleague, Melissa Clough, senior staff accountant, discussed a list of SEC initiatives on the first day of the CFA Institute’s GIPS (Global Investment Performance Standards) two-day conference in Boston on September 22. Both speakers gave the standard SEC disclaimer that their statements were strictly their personal opinions. 

Lesson from the back office 
Prior to joining the SEC, Corkery worked in an industry back office where she knew an aggressive registered rep who made her suspicious.

One day the rep came in with his cousin the lawyer and conservatorship papers for aunt, who had to be alive for the this purpose. Just one week later, the rep came in a death certificate for the aunt dated prior to his coming in with the conservatorship papers.

When Corkery challenged the rep, he said “I’ll give you whatever you want. What does it take?”

It’s no wonder that Corkery believes the licensing, education, and oversight initiative for back office personnel is “long overdue.” 

SEC initiatives 
Other SEC initiatives discussed by Corkery and Clough included:

  • Investor Advisory Committee
  • Proposed amendments to custody rules, including annual surprise exam and added controls when custody is provided by a related person
  • Revamping handling of complaints and tips
  • Advocating for a whistle blowing program
  • Conducting risk-based examinations of financial services firms
  • Establishing a new division of Risk Strategy and Financial Innovation, announced on Sept. 16
  • Enhancing examiners’ knowledge of fraud detection techniques and recruiting staff with specialized skills
  • Seeking resources to hire more examiners
  • Integrating broker-dealer and investment advisor examinations  

Job opening in Boston–posting closes this ThursdayThere’s an opening in the SEC’s Boston office for a senior specialized examiner, according to Corkery.

Act fast, if you’re interested. The posting closes on Thursday, Sept. 24. I think that means that Thursday is the last day you can apply. 

Posts from last year’s GIPS conference:


FINRA’s limits on registered rep use of ghostwriters

Registered representatives, if you distribute an article with your name, FINRA wants you to contribute most of the content.

That seems to be the minimum requirement, according to comments I’ve received from other financial marketing writers in LinkedIn’s Financial Writing/Marketing Communications Group. Your compliance department may have stricter requirements, so check before you publish.

Misleading Communications About Expertise,” a FINRA regulatory noticed dated May 2008, appears to lay out the rules. It says, “Registered representatives may not suggest (or encourage others to suggest) that they authored investment-related books, articles or similar publications if they did not write them. Such a publication created by a third-party vendor must disclose that it was prepared either by the third party or for the representative’s use.”

However, what does it mean to write an article?

It appears that ghostwriters can be involved if they aren’t providing the information for the article. In other words, if the rep provides the article’s substance–either through an outline or an interview conducted by the ghostwriter–and if the rep oversees revisions to the article, then it’s okay. At least that’s what I took away from the comments of writers who interact more closely than me with compliance experts.

Again, be sure to check with your firm’s compliance department before you publish.

If you’ve had experience with this topic, I welcome your comments.

Compliance makes social networking tougher for registered reps than RIAs

Here’s a guest post by Bill Winterberg, CFP®, an operations and efficiency guru to independent financial advisers, who blogs at FP Pad. He made me realize that RIAs have more leeway than registered reps when it comes to social networking.

Websites like Twitter, LinkedIn, and blogs present compliance issues for registered representatives subject to FINRA regulations. All reps must obtain approval from the broker/dealer compliance department before posting anything on the Internet, as postings a considered advertisements.

FINRA has published guidelines for use of the Internet by registered representatives of broker/dealers. It’s worth reading if you are affiliated with a broker/dealer.

The SEC has similar guidelines that govern advertisements, including postings to public Internet forums. However, investment advisers are generally responsible for self-supervision by Chief Compliance Officers. In my opinion, investment advisers not subject to FINRA regulations have quite a bit more flexibility when using Internet and social networking websites. See and

RIAs definitely have more flexibility over registered reps when it comes to the use of the Internet. However, common sense must always prevail when using the Internet to avoid publishing security recommendations or any testimonial, which are explicitly prohibited by the SEC and state regulatory authorities.

Can financial advisors write blogs and be in compliance?

An Investment Writing blog reader recently asked, “I was told that licensed financial advisors are not allowed to write blogs as far as compliance is concerned. Is this true?”

It’s not true. But there are constraints.

For more details on the regulatory constraints, read “Finra, SEC rules constrain advisers in blogosphere” by Davis Janowski in Investment News.

You can find links to blogs by some financial advisors in the related posts listed below. 

Related posts: