Finra relies on big data for better use of resources

Regulator's chief risk officer says data collection marks a “paradigm shift” in how the regulator conducts examinations

Feb 19, 2014 @ 11:54 am

By Mason Braswell

Finra is relying on complex data analytics to target examinations of brokers at higher risk for violations, according to the regulator's chief risk officer, Carlo di Florio.

The industry's self-regulator is stepping up data collection and hiring quantitative analysts as it looks to better use information from firms to target its examinations, Mr. di Florio said. Instead of running exams based on random samplings that try to find a “needle in a haystack,” the regulator is starting to ask for data ahead of examinations to more selectively target its exams, he said.

“That's an incredible shift, and hopefully you all feel that it is a more efficient, focused use of our regulatory resources, “ Mr. di Florio explained at the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association's Compliance and Legal Society luncheon in New York on Tuesday. “That paradigm shift is a real new day in regulation.”

Over the past year, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Inc. has been piloting a number of data analytics efforts designed to make the process more efficient.

Mr. de Florio, who was hired last May out of a similar role at the Securities and Exchange Commission, helped establish the regulator's department of risk and strategy, which oversees three teams focused on improving the risk-based platform.

As part of that strategy, Mr. di Florio is bringing on experts in quantitative analysis, econometrics and data sciences to comprise what he called his “quant shop,” which operates as the external risk team. They will focus on determining what data to look at in order to determine which branches or brokers to visit.

Mr. di Florio has also helped establish two teams that report to Finra executives about how Finra can better streamline its examinations under a risk-based approach.

One will focus on making sure that resources within the firm are allocated effectively and the other will focus on how to partner with outside firms and other ways of improving the process, Mr. di Florio said.

The end goal is that the programs reduce the amount of time examiners spend out in the field in branch offices examining parts of the firm that may not be as important.

“Finra is always looking for ways to be more efficient,” Daniel Nathan, a partner at the law firm of Morrison Foerster. “It's a change from what use to be called a 'check the box approach' from looking at everything to a risk-based approach that looks only at areas that might pose a risk.”

Finra collects information on products, services, clients and brokers from surveys firms fill out, such as the Risk Control Assessment survey, which is voluntary.

In addition, since October, Finra has been working on a pilot program in which a few firms have uploaded additional data prior to exams so that examiners can identify potential red flags ahead of time.

The regulator has also issued a regulatory notice requesting comments on a new Comprehensive Automated Risk Data System that would automate what kind of data and how often it has to be collected from firms, although that would be more comprehensive and is farther off, Mr. Nathan said.

The feedback from firms who submitted data ahead of time has been initially positive, but the issue will be making sure everything runs smoothly for everyone, according to Andrew Sidman of Bressler Amery & Ross, who represents claimants in investigations and disciplinary proceedings by regulators.

“The feedback that we hear from firms is that some folks feel that the risks assessments and the data downloads have helped the exam process and made it more efficient,” he said. “Others seem less certain, so hopefully as this evolves, the process is tweaked and gets better.”

The other risk in relying on firms to submit data is ensuring that firms are providing the regulator with a full picture of their operations, said Brian Hamburger, chief executive of MarketCounsel, a compliance consulting firm.

“Bad guys aren't known for filing truthful reports,” Mr. Hamburger said.


What do you think?

View comments

Recommended for you

Sponsored financial news

Upcoming Event

Apr 30


Retirement Income Summit

Join InvestmentNews at the 12th annual Retirement Income Summit - the industry's premier retirement planning conference.Much has changed - and much remains to be learned. Attend and discuss how the future is full of opportunity for ... Learn more

Featured video


Why some retirement plan advisers think Fidelity is invading their turf

InvestmentNews editor Frederick P. Gabriel Jr. and reporter Greg Iacurci talk about this week's cover story that looks at whether Fidelity Investments is stepping on the toes of retirement plan advisers.

Latest news & opinion

8 apps advisers love for getting stuff done

Smartphone apps that advisers are using in 2018 to run their business more efficiently.

Galvin's DOL fiduciary rule enforcement triggers industry plea for court decision

Plaintiffs warned the Fifth Circuit that Massachusetts' move against Scottrade signaled that the partially implemented regulation can raise costs for financial firms.

Social Security underpaid 82% of dually entitled widows and widowers

Agency failed to tell survivors that they could switch to a higher retirement benefit later.

Is Fidelity competing with retirement plan advisers?

As the Boston-based mutual fund giant expands the products and services it brings to the retirement market, some financial advisers say the firm is encroaching on their turf.

Gun violence hits investment strategies, sparks political debates with advisers

Screening out weapons companies has limited downside.


Hi! Glad you're here and we hope you like all the great work we do here at InvestmentNews. But what we do is expensive and is funded in part by our sponsors. So won't you show our sponsors a little love by whitelisting It'll help us continue to serve you.

Yes, show me how to whitelist

Ad blocker detected. Please whitelist us or give premium a try.


Subscribe and Save 60%

Premium Access
Print + Digital

Learn more
Subscribe to Print