A recent Financial Times podcast (timestamp 5:34) discusses how U.S. financial regulators are cracking down on Wall Street banks for how their employees are using messaging apps like WhatsApp while on the job:
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) says the messages aren’t being stored and that makes it harder for the SEC to access them. The FT says this could be a problem for regulators when conducting investigations so they are constantly requesting information from banks about various issues that they’re investigating or supervising. If banks aren’t storing the messages to create a full picture of certain situations, that actually slows down or impedes investigations that regulators are looking into. But in some ways it also does raise the question about the extent to which kind of financial regulations these days are really compatible with the modern way of doing business.
The FT reported that banks including JPMorgan, Chase, Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley are preparing to pay about a billion dollars in fines over this. Bankers have responded by hiring their own lawyers. They want to stop their employers from accessing their private phones to check work messages.
Meanwhile the banks themselves are trying to adjust to regulators demands. So, just to take a small example… of the warning that’s been sent to banks about how much more seriously they need to take this issue, if you’re a banker at a place like Goldman Sachs and you receive a message from a client that’s work related to your personal phone, the policy of the bank is to require bankers to take a picture of that message on their work phone and send that picture to compliance so they can properly log it.
So it really is just adding extra layers of work to the banks and the feeling from the regulators really is you need to take this seriously and you need to abide by the rules as they are today. The SEC is not going to to give you too much slack. And it sounds like this crackdown is already having an impact pretty much on every single work phone at a big bank on Wall Street.
Now employees will have some form of a messaging app that stores their messages and tracks their calls. There’s Movius, there’s TeleMessage. Bankers are getting regular reminders from their employers about what they need to do. We’ve seen some quite high profile bankers lose their jobs over this if they’ve been found to have repeated lapses in using personal phones. So I think this really has sent a very clear message that will change behavior… You’re always going to have some some outliers but I think certainly on a big scale this will have a big impact.
—Josh Franklin is the FT’s U.S. banking editor
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