September 30, 2009

How to let traders, salespeople, customer service reps and investment bankers use social networking in a beneficial way (to attract customers, fix problems, share tips, collaborate, etc.) and be certain that confidential information about the firm will not be leaked, that no employee will ever post an inappropriate comment on a social network, and that no rule will ever be broken (for instance, FINRA's rule requiring customer communications to be monitored and archived) — is a challenge to compliance and risk managers on Wall Street.

One answer to this challenge is being offered today by FaceTime, a provider of compliance and security software for Web 2.0 applications and "unified communications" (integrations of voice, instant messaging, video and web conferencing linked together by presence awareness software). Its Unified Security Gateway 3.0 combines content monitoring, management and security of Web 2.0 applications such as social networking, instant messaging, and unified communications, with URL filtering, malware and Web antivirus protection.

One large Wall Street client recently told Kailash Ambwani, CEO of FaceTime, "Our compliance group has said Facebook and Twitter are electronic communications and they need to be brought under compliance or blocked." Yet blocking is not the preferred tactic, Ambwani says, because firms are under grass-roots pressure from employees such as financial advisers to allow social networking.

More than 600 financial services companies have employees who have Twitter accounts, Ambwani says. Another large financial services client has several thousand financial advisers in the field who would like to use Facebook and Twitter, he says, for three reasons: First, the leads they get through Faceboook convert into customers at a much higher rate than normal leads. "That makes sense because in our sales process, we find our reps get a higher response when they reach out to their LinkedIn or Facebook networks than when they cold call companies," Ambwani says. Second, the financial advisers catering to a 30-40 year old demographic want to come across as innovative and embracing these technologies. Third, providing social network platforms is helpful in recruiting young MBAs who have grown up with the technology.

On the other hand, FINRA considers employees' tweets or posts about a company to be advertisements, according to Ambwani. "They have to be archived and monitored just like any other ad," he says.

The Facetime software lets companies set rules for employees' use of more than 900 social networking sites and internal communications tools and for the archiving of that information. For instance, one policy might stipulate that research analysts can't communicate with traders. Another might block anyone at the company from typing a customer's Social Security number into a social networking site. A third might call for archiving Twitter exchanges between sales reps and customers. The Facetime product also protects against malware that tends to be distributed over popular social networking sites.

Pricing for the monitoring, security and archiving platform starts at $9,200.

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