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Archiving for FCA Social Media Compliance

In March 2015, the FCA (the UK Financial watchdog, The Financial Conduct Authority) issued compliance guidance for how financial firms can use social media:

FG15/4: Social media and customer communications: The FCA’s supervisory approach to financial promotions in social media
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It's twenty pages long so, as with any government financial document, chock full of specific details. Obviously, if you're in the industry, you (or probably your compliance officer) should absorb it all. Today though, we're just going to focus on the archiving part; the requirement to keep accurate records of who said what, when.

Section 1.25 cuts to the heart of the matter:

Firms should also keep adequate records of any significant communications. As well as helping to protect consumers, these records enable the firm to deal effectively with any subsequent claims or complaints. Firms should not rely on digital media channels to maintain records, as they will not have control over this: social media in particular may refresh content from time to time, with the consequent deletion of older material.

In other words, use an archiving service. While you might see that as a self-serving statement, it's none the less true. Social media archiving services have the processes, technology and knowledge to ensure you have these records in place (without the need to develop everything in house).

Financial Communications - Promotional or non-promotional?

In general, when using social media financial firms will have two types of communication; promotional and non-promotional. As the non-promotional communications do not involve a financial aspect it's a non-regulated activity and do not require archiving.

However, anything that even has a hint of financial promotion probably falls under the regulations and thus needs archiving. Anything that "includes an invitation or inducement to engage in financial activity" is considered promotional. Be careful, a few words can turn an otherwise non-regulated communication into something that now falls under compliance.

Personal, or in the course of business?

Another factor is 'in the course of business'. Are you communicating as a person, with your personal views? Or, are you communicating for business? Ensure there's clarity, so that no one can mistake one for the other.

Just because it's a "new" medium doesn't mean that the old rules don't apply. All the previous rules for factors such as misleading statements, clarity, and fairness are still in place. You need to consider the medium and the intended audience; disclaimers, emphasis and balance all need to be taken into account.

The guidelines go through many examples, showing what is compliant and what is non-compliant. By understanding these examples, and having proper internal policies and procedures in place, UK financial firms don't have to be afraid of social media. Just make sure everything (including proper social media archiving) is in place BEFORE you start Tweeting and Posting!

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