"Technology can help to optimize the storage and retrieval of e-mails and instant messages but it cannot do so without the policies and procedures in place, as well as the education and guidance that's required for people to use those tools," said Priscilla Emery, president of e-Nterprise Advisors, at the inaugural meeting of The Electronic Communications Compliance Council (TE3C) on Tuesday in New York City.
As the business use of e-mail and instant messaging increase along with industry regulations, more and more financial services firms will be forced to re-examine their electronic communications practices. Emery, along with her fellow founding members--Nancy Flynn, executive director of ePolicy Institute; Richard Marshall, former SEC attorney and partner at Kirkpatrick & Lockhart; Peter Mafteiu, director of operations at BKD Wealth Advisors; and Paul Chen, president and CEO of Fortiva--hope to bridge the gap between regulators and the financial community and provide a conduit of communication for all stakeholders.
TE3C's overall objectives include generating awareness on compliance issues related to electronic communications such as e-mail, instant messaging and text messaging; developing cross-industry positions on issues relevant to compliance, privacy, policy, records management, legal IT and e-discovery; and promoting effective messaging policies and enforcement procedures within organizations. "Without policies and clear guidance on regulations, technology is difficult to implement because it's an enabler of those policies," Emery said.
Council member Nancy Flynn added some cautionary words for all firms: "When you put your policies together, you want to be as clear as possible and not leave it open to personal interpretation." According to the 2004 Workplace E-Mail and Instant Messaging Survey of 840 U.S. companies from American Management Association and The ePolicy Institute, 43% of employees don't know if they were complying with their companies' internal electronic communications policies. In an effort to promote better policy-building, TE3C also announced a limited-time free offer of the Policy Builder by Greenwich, Conn.-based Fortiva, a hosted message archiving and compliance software provider. The Policy Builder is an online tool that enables businesses to create their own customized e-mail policy. It's currently available on the council's website www.TE3C.org
"E-mail and instant messages are the electronic equivalent of DNA evidence," Flynn said. "You must make sure that your policies can really withstand regulatory scrutiny."