Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Using FINRA to Check Your Broker

Just when you thought my blog couldn’t get any more exciting, here’s a word on regulatory oversight.

No, really! It matters. I’ll keep it short.

I loved President Reagan’s line, “Trust, but verify.” Perfect trust is ideal but I still like the idea that clients know a few basic ways to tell if they are on track and if I’m doing my job. Just knowing they can is usually enough. It also makes me easier to recommend.

I recently met a couple interviewing possible new advisors. They asked me what I knew about a competitor. I keep my opinions to myself but I did suggest they visit for more research.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has primary jurisdiction over people who do what I do. Even this blog needed to be approved according to FINRA guidelines before Audra could post it.

It had been a couple years since I looked at my own profile so I pulled-up the site and was impressed by how user-friendly it has become. FINRA was created to educate and protect investors and there are lots of useful articles.

On the right of the main page is a box called BrokerCheck. Enter a person or firm and you instantly get a detailed report on any current or former registered representative (my official designation). My profile included; passed tests, securities registrations, insurance licenses, where and when I’ve worked and all the states where I am able to conduct business.

I’m proud to say I’ve never had a “Disclosure Event” but those could include: arbitration, complaints, judgements, personal financial issues or investigations. If the case was found for the rep, it will say so. If not, any fines, suspensions, sanctions or other disciplinary actions against the individual or firm are detailed.

FINRA only has the official records so this isn’t the last word in background checks but for a few clicks you can see a broker’s paper-trail from the start of his or her career. It’s worth a look.