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What Every Advisor Should Know About FINRA Rule 3110

For financial services firms, regulatory compliance is a crucial part of protecting clients and building trust. One key rule that firms must follow is FINRA Rule 3110, also known as the Supervision Rule.

This rule establishes requirements for supervising the activities of brokers and associated persons to detect potential misconduct.

The Importance of Diligent Supervision

In the hero’s journey, the mentor provides guidance to overcome challenges. For financial firms, diligent supervision serves as an internal mentor, identifying risks and steering the firm toward integrity.

Without proper supervision, there’s a danger of associated persons engaging in unethical or illegal behavior that harms clients. Some common compliance pitfalls we’ve seen include:

  • Unsuitable recommendations: Brokers must recommend investments aligned with a client’s risk tolerance.
  • Excessive trading: Brokers making trades solely to generate commissions. This “churning” is a form of fraud.
  • Unsuitable use of margin: Margin accounts carry significant risks requiring careful oversight.

Unfortunately, statistics show just how prevalent these issues can be. One study found that 7% of financial advisors have misconduct records[1]. Proper supervision protects clients and the firm’s reputation.

Key Components of FINRA Rule 3110

Let’s explore the core elements financial firms must implement to comply with Rule 3110’s supervision requirements.

Written Supervisory Procedures

Firms must create written compliance procedures tailored to their specific business activities. These procedures should be reasonably designed to achieve adherence to securities regulations and laws.

At a minimum, your written supervisory procedures should cover:

  • Review of customer accounts and transactions
  • Handling of customer complaints and litigation
  • Processing of sales materials and communications
  • Supervision of branch offices and remote locations
  • Delegation of supervisory duties
  • Training of supervisory personnel
  • Documentation and retention of compliance records

Designating Supervisors

Your firm must appoint qualified principals to serve as supervisors. These supervisors should have the experience, training, and authority to monitor activities within their area of responsibility.

Supervisory roles must be clearly defined and documented. It’s also important to specify backup supervisors to cover absences.

Internal Inspections and Reviews

Conducting internal inspections is key for assessing the effectiveness of your written procedures. During inspections, you should review:

  • Customer accounts and transactions
  • Correspondence and internal communications
  • Sales and advertising materials
  • Complaint logs and disciplinary records

Inspections help identify areas needing enhanced supervision. Rule 3110 requires firms to document their inspection findings and promptly address any deficiencies.

Follow-Up and Documentation

Maintaining records of supervisory activities is crucial. Your records should demonstrate oversight of all aspects of the firm’s business.

Some examples of supervision records include:

  • Documented reviews of transactions and correspondence
  • Records of customer complaints and internal investigations
  • Inspection reports and follow-up
  • Evidence of remedial actions for compliance issues
  • Training logs for supervisory personnel

Implementing a Robust Supervisory System

Now that we’ve covered Rule 3110’s core requirements let’s discuss best practices for implementing a comprehensive supervisory program.

Adopt a Risk-Based Approach

Leverage risk assessment tools to identify high-risk areas needing enhanced oversight. For example, options trading or volatile penny stocks may warrant tighter controls.

You can also use risk factors to focus inspection resources. Checking higher-risk branches or reps more frequently improves efficiency.

Promote a Culture of Compliance

Provide regular training to instill ethical values and compliance across your firm. Emphasize that supervision helps advisors act in clients’ best interests.

Utilize Technology

Automated surveillance tools can help detect issues like churning and unsuitable trades. Centralized data systems also facilitate managing supervisory records.

Test Supervisory Controls

Continuously evaluate whether your written procedures translate into actual oversight on the frontlines. Update systems to address emerging risks.

Collaborate Across Departments

Compliance overlaps functions like trading, sales, HR, and IT. Fostering connections between groups improves supervision.

Consequences of Inadequate Supervision

Unfortunately, we’ve seen the dire impacts when firms fail to meet Rule 3110’s supervisory standards. These consequences include:

  • Regulatory fines and censures – FINRA levied over $14 million in fines for supervision violations in 2018[2].

  • Investor harm – Without oversight, advisor misconduct can destroy client savings and retirement funds.

  • Litigation risks – Investors often sue firms for failure to supervise when exploited by brokers.

  • Reputational damage – Supervision breakdowns erode public trust in the firm.

For firms seeking to strengthen supervision while avoiding these pitfalls, our team of regulatory experts provides trusted guidance. We’ve helped develop tailored solutions for financial services firms across the country. Our nuanced understanding of Rule 3110 helps ensure you have systems enabling robust oversight.

Custom Compliance Solutions for FINRA 3110 Rules

At My RIA Lawyer, they appreciate the complex challenges financial services companies face in meeting their regulatory obligations. Rules like FINRA 3110 present crucial supervision requirements but also allow flexibility in implementation. They can help craft the right supervisory program for a firm’s unique risks and business model.

If you have questions about designing and implementing compliant policies and procedures, reach out to them today at They’re passionate about helping financial services companies succeed while safeguarding investor interests.

Their team combines legal expertise with practical business experience to provide trusted guidance on achieving compliance goals.