Regulatory Notice 17-18: FINRA Makes It Clear That Mobile Communications Must Be Archived

By June 14, 2017blog
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Regulations concerning mobile communications and text message archiving are becoming more clear across all industries. The health industry, public sector, and private sector – big institutions and small – everyone is being encouraged to ensure proper archiving systems on employee’s mobile devices so that all work-related content is archived and kept on hand for industry compliance regulations, auditing purposes, in cases of legal litigation, and best business practices.

In its April 2017 Regulatory Notice, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) made it clear that financial institutions under its authority must have a way to retain the records of employees from all messages sent from any platform on their mobile devices.

The notice states that “every firm that intends to communicate, or permit its associated persons to communicate, with regard to its business through a text messaging app or chat service must first ensure that it can retain records of those communications…”

Could companies go a different route? Could they choose to ban employees from using messaging and chat apps for work purposes in an attempt to circumvent the need for a comprehensive archiving system?

It’s not unfathomable, but it seems like a poor choice. Instant communication is a prized asset in modern businesses. Clients and vendors and employees themselves want the ease and comfort of utilizing familiar apps to communicate and chat apps often come with additional benefits, such as notifications when the message has been seen, group messaging abilities, and more.

When companies have decided to try banning text messaging, messaging apps, and chat apps from being used for work, one of the problems they have had to deal with is compliance and many of these companies admit to simply not having strong enforcement methods. This can result in the loss of important information if employees use their mobile devices against company policy.

There are companies that choose a middle ground – giving employees work phones with a clear message to keep work-product on the work device and personal mobile use on the employee’s personal device. This allows some extra measure of control over the work-product on the mobile device, because certain apps can be made unavailable and archiving software can be installed to retain all communications and work product made on the mobile device. Even this doesn’t allow for the company to ensure that no work-product is ever present on an employee’s personal device, but it is less likely to happen when a clear distinction is made between the two mobile devices.

The fact is, however, that the Regulatory Notice by FINRA is making it clear yet again that it isn’t worth trying to get around the idea of proper archiving. Regulations are becoming more formalized and legal rulings are setting precedents across the United States – archiving is important. It is easy to get rid of personal emails and messages from the archiving system. It isn’t easy to retrieve work-product from a device that no longer works or no longer belongs to the employee or was simply deleted from a particular app. Mobile phone archiving allows companies to retain all the information they need in order to comply with regulations and in order to avoid costly law suits in the future.

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