According to a recent report from Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), firms providing financial services through “digital investment advice” require sound supervision and governance, plus effective ways of determining appropriateness of advices, conflicts of interest, client risk tolerance and portfolio rebalancing. Likewise, the report provides helpful tips for investors and emphasizes the importance of training and education for financial experts who utilize digital investment advice applications.
FINRA released the report to provide the public effective practices pertaining to digital investment advice services and to inform member companies of their duties under FINRA regulations. The report highlights the fact that global expenditures on online wealth-management services will continue to grow substantially.
"We believe that the report offers guidance and information for FINRA member companies and investors regarding vital aspects of the fast-growing field of digital investment advice," noted Richard Ketchum, FINRA’S Chairman and CEO. "As these services evolve, member firms must ascertain that the main objectives of investor protection – for instance, comprehending and answering customers' requirements and goals – also support the foundation of these new tools."
FINRA’s report summarizes effective practices and regulatory guidelines in five key areas:
1. Administration and oversight of algorithms, which also involves evaluating first the digital tools’ methodology used and the dependability and quality of raw data processed, plus monitoring continuously to check if the tools deliver what they promise to do, and evaluating whether the tool utilizes up-to-date models consistent with current market realities;
2. Customer profiling, which includes evaluating both their risk tolerance and risk acceptability, and resolving inconsistent or conflicting feedback in customer-submitted information;
3. Administration and oversight of portfolios and conflicts of interest, plus evaluating the risk, portfolio benefits and diversification qualities appropriate for a particular investor profile, and reducing – through transparency and prevention – issues that may result from the securities options for a specific portfolio;
4. Rebalancing, and in addition, proffering ways of how the rebalancing helps as well as methods that exhibit how the tools will serve to address drastic market conditions;
5. Training that enables financial professionals to understand the key assumptions and limitations of individual digital investment advice tools, and determine when use of a tool may not be appropriate for a client.
In addition, the report recommends to investors that they assess whether their financial services firm is getting sufficient information to comprehend their needs and risk capability. Conflicts of interest can arise from digital investment advice, FINRA reminds investors; and that whatever advice given to them will depend largely on the investment strategy and appurtenant input data utilized in the digital application. Moreover, FINRA suggests that investors are well aware of the necessary fees they are charged and services provided, in particular, portfolio rebalancing and others.
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) is recognized as the biggest independent securities regulation agency for all firms operating in the United States. FINRA commits to safeguard the interests of the investor as well as the integrity of the securities market through efficient regulation and appurtenant compliance and technology-based systems. FINRA covers substantially every aspect of the securities market – beginning with registration and education of all industry players to evaluation of securities companies, writing regulations, enforcement of such regulations and the federal securities laws, and the education of the investing public in general. Moreover, FINRA conducts investigations and other regulatory tasks for equities and options markets, including trade updates and other related industry services. Finally, FINRA serves as the main administrator for resolutions of disputes for investors and securities firms.