September 17, 2012

Pershing Finds Many Broker Dealers Still Mired in Manual Compliance Processes

Pershing's Albridge white paper reveals large number of firms failing to take advantage of the cost savings afforded by automation

JERSEY CITY, N.J., September 17, 2012 — Albridge Solutions, Inc. (Albridge), an affiliate of Pershing LLC, a BNY Mellon company, today released an update to its 2010 white paper, "Broker Dealer Sales Practices Oversight: Secrets of Their Success."  The new findings for 2012, which come from in-depth surveys with 53 broker dealer firms, show that compliance continues to be a major challenge for broker dealers.

One of the most notable changes from the past two years is the increased number of broker dealers using fully automated compliance surveillance systems, as opposed to combination systems that blend automation with manual "eyes-on" reviews. Forty-two percent of firms now use fully automated systems, as opposed to 30% in 2010. The number of firms using combination systems has fallen from 33% to 18%. However, despite the increased use of automation, and the resulting efficiencies and cost savings they can deliver, 40% of firms still use purely manual surveillance systems, in which all transactions require "eyes-on" reviews.

"In general, broker dealers that were in the process of moving to automated systems in 2010 have continued to advance, while many of those that relied on manual processes have not," said Gregory Pacholski, chief executive officer of Albridge. "We think a major difference between them is the commitment of senior management to upgrading systems and putting more business through brokerage platforms, rather than placing it directly."

The white paper also reveals that the vast majority of firms (86%) spend up to 10% of their overall revenue on compliance-related expenses, with 14% of firms spending up to 20%. Albridge estimates that a well-automated compliance department should be capable of bringing compliance costs below approximately 7% of overall firm revenue. The 2012 update indicates that the industry as a whole has significant potential to increase cost savings in fines, settlements, staff productivity and additional staffing needs by automating compliance processes.

The research shows the year-on-year increase in compliance staffing that was identified in 2010 has continued over the past two years. Almost half of firms (45%) reported a growth rate of 0-10%; a range that can be attributed to growing business volumes or the response to increased regulatory scrutiny. The majority (55%) of firms reported that compliance staffing had increased by more than 11%. Of this majority, some reported that compliance staffing has increased by 30% or more.

Other key insights include the following:

  • Many of the top five challenges identified by broker dealers in 2010 remain the same two years later. However, suitability review has risen from third place in 2010 to first place in 2012. This increase can probably be attributed to FINRA's increased emphasis on this area. The only new issue on the list of top five challenges in 2012 is social media. Research indicates a strong trend toward broker dealer adoption and approval of social media. This is attributed to increased regulatory clarity from FINRA and the success of leading software suppliers in addressing review and retention issues.
  • The original 2010 report predicted an increased focus on suitability issues related to elderly investors. The 2012 research shows this to be true. The elderly investor population keeps growing, as do their regulatory issues and complaints. The white paper suggests broker dealers should consider devoting extra suitability emphasis to any client over a certain age, such as 65.
  • Regulators are becoming more assertive. In 2011, FINRA filed 1,488 disciplinary actions, a 13.6% increase over 2010, and it levied $68 million in fines, a 51% increase over 2010[1]. Anecdotal feedback from the 2012 surveys indicates that the regulatory reach of FINRA has grown steadily over the past two years. Examinations are delving into more details, with less tolerance for deviations from regulations and norms.

"When broker dealers focus on measuring the productivity and cost efficiency of their compliance departments, we have found that other best practices generally follow. Conversely, reliance on outdated processes and legacy systems creates extra costs and often results in lower service levels, longer processing times, higher error rates and increased risks," Pacholski continued. "By nature of business cycles and investors' changing needs, brokerage firms have limited ability to control fluctuations in top-line revenues. But all broker dealers have the ability to control costs, thereby exerting positive influences on their bottom lines."

Beacon Strategies, LLC, a strategy and tactical consulting firm that focuses on the broker dealer market, was commissioned by Albridge Solutions to produce the white paper, Broker Dealer Sales Practices Oversight: Secrets of Their Success. To obtain a copy of the white paper, visit

Albridge Solutions, an affiliate of Pershing LLC, is a leading provider of enterprise solutions, custom technology and business consulting services to institutional and retail financial organizations and independent registered investment advisors. Albridge draws upon its financial services experience and technology expertise to help financial organizations enhance their operating performance and maximize their productivity. Albridge's wealth management technology consolidates and reconciles client account information from hundreds of data sources that represent banking, brokerage, insurance, retirement, managed accounts and more.

Pershing LLC (member FINRA/NYSE/SIPC) is a leading global provider of financial business solutions to more than 1,500 institutional and retail financial organizations and independent registered investment RIAs who collectively represent approximately 5.5 million active investors. Located in 23 offices worldwide, Pershing and its affiliates are committed to delivering dependable operational support, robust trading services, flexible technology, an expansive array of investment solutions, practice management support and service excellence. Pershing is a member of every major U.S. securities exchange and its international affiliates are members of the Deutsche Borse, Australian Stock Exchange, Irish Stock Exchange, London Stock Exchange and Toronto Stock Exchange. Pershing LLC is a BNY Mellon company. Additional information is available at

BNY Mellon is a global financial services company focused on helping clients manage and service their financial assets, operating in 36 countries and serving more than 100 markets. BNY Mellon is a leading provider of financial services for institutions, corporations and high-net-worth individuals, offering superior investment management and investment services through a worldwide client-focused team. It has $26.6 trillion in assets under custody and administration and $1.3 trillion in assets under management, services $11.9 trillion in outstanding debt and processes global payments averaging $1.4 trillion per day. BNY Mellon is the corporate brand of The Bank of New York Mellon Corporation (NYSE: BK). Additional information is available on or follow us on Twitter@BNYMellon.

[1] Annual FINRA Sanctions Survey, Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP, March 12, 2012