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Can Advisors Use Instant Messaging for a Competitive Edge?


As a recent article in Investment News pointed out, “Clients who rely on Amazon’s Alexa to order dog food on command and Venmo to instantly transfer cash to friends are not going to be satisfied with a financial adviser who promises to answer account questions in a day or two.”

Along with text messaging and social media, instant messaging (IM) is one of the top tools that advisors should be using to communicate with clients and each other. Like text messaging and social media, IM allows advisors to collaborate and deliver a higher level of service with ease.

With this demand, the most innovative firms have invested in collaboration tools and platforms including Symphony, Slack Enterprise Grid, Instant Bloomberg, Skype for Business, and Cisco Jabber. Each of these platforms has its own specific set of features and benefits, but they all deliver a way for advisors to communicate internally across teams, and with clients.

There’s a catch with these platforms, though.

In financial services, not knowing who says what to whom can be damaging and costly. Like all other forms of electronic or mobile communication, firms must also meet their FINRA and SEC requirements for recordkeeping and oversight when using IM.

As a result, firms must incorporate IM policies and procedures into their practice that explicitly state which IM platforms their advisors can use. Many firms choose to deploy firm-controlled devices, and implement IM platforms that allow incoming /outgoing messages and other content between advisors and clients to be archived for retention and supervision.

How to Archive and Supervise IM

As noted above, while many IM platforms are extremely effective business tools that give firms a great way to help advisors and clients communicate, they often don’t provide the compliance and archiving functionality required to meet compliance and eDiscovery needs for firms.

Here are the most important points you need to know to properly archive messaging and collaboration tools:

  • IM conversations should be fully threaded and policy-checked when archived, and not flattened and stored as email. To mitigate risks, firms must be able to produce IM conversations in their entirety when responding to audits, regulatory examinations, and eDiscovery requests.
  • Your compliance team should be able to quickly and securely search, review and produce IMs alongside email, social media, text messages, and other electronic communications. Since conversations can start in IM, move to email or text, and then return to IM, it’s essential to be able to see and produce records of these interactions in context across various communications platforms.
  • Your archiving processes should not disrupt or impact how your advisors interact with each other or clients on the IM platform. Your archiving solution should securely capture all IM conversations and content in real time, for every advisor in your firm, whether they are in the office or traveling, without missing a beat.


You’ll also want your archiving platform to:

  • Capture, index, and search IM messages, notifications, files and more in their original format, regardless of a user’s device, location, or network
  • Search across all communications (by person, keywords or content type) within the IM platform and review fully threaded conversations to see the context of messages, updates, comments, and files
  • Leverage a full supervision audit trail that tracks each IM review session and actions taken on specific messages
  • Escalate and tag IM content based on cases, events or topics
  • Assign or forward IM messages to supervisors for further review
  • Export only necessary IM data in multiple formats securely and directly to outside counsel, regulatory examiners or third-party eDiscovery providers during litigation events
  • Preserve IM communication on non-erasable, non-rewriteable media in its native, unaltered format to meet recordkeeping obligations
  • Search IM content alongside other message types, such as email, text messaging, and social media, in one archive

A word of caution for firms reviewing their IM and archiving options: make sure you use an enterprise-grade IM platform. Some firms continue to use consumer IM products, including AOL Instant Messenger, for advisor communications. However, Smarsh does not recommend using these platforms for business, since free consumer providers often do not prioritize the unique business and compliance requirements of financial services firms.


Smarsh supports many business-class IM platforms and trading platforms, including Skype for Business, Slack Enterprise Grid, and Symphony.

To learn more, please visit, or call Smarsh at 866–762-7741.



Smarsh® delivers a comprehensive and integrated suite of information archiving applications and services that help companies protect themselves and manage risk. Its centralized platform provides a unified compliance and e-discovery workflow across the entire range of digital communications, including email, social media, websites, instant messaging, mobile text messaging and voice.

Founded in 2001, Smarsh helps more than 20,000 organizations meet regulatory compliance, e-discovery and record retention requirements. The company is headquartered in Portland, Oregon, with offices in New York City, Boston, Raleigh, N.C. and London.

For more information, visit, follow @SmarshInc on Twitter or like Smarsh on Facebook at