Morgan Stanley to Test Spontaneous Tweets
June 25, 2012
Morgan Stanley Smith Barney has decided to move ahead with plans to allow all 17,000 of its financial advisors to adopt Twitter and LinkedIn accounts.
And, in a move that will test whether financial advisors and brokers can safely write spontaneously, the Morgan Stanley unit will allow 20 advisors to write their own tweets. This will act as a petri dish for the entire firm.
The use of Twitter accounts, with pre-written, pre-approved messages, and LinkedIn accounts has itself been in test for a year, with about 600 advisors.
The full rollout will start next month, once the merger of Morgan Stanley and Smith Barney brokerage operations are complete.
"MSSB FAs will now be able to use LinkedIn & Twitter in compliant way, ending successful pilot, starting much anticipated roll-out,'' said Lauren Boyman, director of digital strategy at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, in a tweet Monday.
Morgan Stanley and SMith Barney began to merge in 2009, in the wake of the 2008 credit crisis. Smith Barney has been owned by Citigroup, but Morgan Stanley is moving to take full control.
“It just takes time to get this done and make sure that we are supervising it in a way that’s up to the standards of the firm,” Boyman told Financial Times, which first reported the full rollout.
Until now, tweets have been treated as ‘static content’ by Morgan Stanley Smith Barney.
The company wants to make sure it doesn’t run afoul of securities industry regulation of communications with customers, existing or prospective. Which so far has meant pre-approving all tweets, even if they are only 140 characters long. Almost all of the tweets have been created centrally and are based on company research or investment strategy or branding initiatives.
“We consider every tweet to be static content requiring preapproval,’’ Boyman said, during the original testing.
The distinction is this: Interactive communications must be captured, recorded and stored for possible future review, in the same fashion as electronic mail, in Morgan Stanley Smith Barney’s reading of the regulatory environment.
“Static” content such as profile information on a social networking site or a blog posting will generally be considered an advertisement that requires firm approval before use, by the guidelines set out by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, which oversees brokers.
“We are getting used to new medium,’’ she said, and the company will go on the offensive when it is comfortable it has a suitable approach.
She has previously acknowledged that the company’s advisors chafe at the requirement for pre-approval, but she noted that they can communicate interactively with customers on LinkedIn, the social networking site for professionals.