Frank Eliason, Finance and Social Media

The views in this post are mine and mine alone and do not necessarily reflect those of the Chairman of the SEC, its Commissioners or my colleagues.  I am not a lawyer and do not offer legal advice.

As you may have guessed from my uber-disclosure above, I am the Director of New Media for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.  We have three pillars at the SEC, one could argue the most important of which is to protect investors.  This is why we hold most publicly traded companies to a very high standard, regulating what they can say, when they can say it and how.

This is one of the reasons that I closely followed Frank Eliason’s departure from Comcast and subsequent landing at Citi.  Frank is truly one of the pioneers of using social media in general and Twitter in particular – as a platform for customer service.  “Comcast Cares” was arguably one of the best uses of social media to help resolve customer service issues.  I got to meet Frank at BlogWorld Expo last year and I found him to be down to earth and likable as well.

Technically Philly noted of Frank:

He was the start of a social media craze from Comcast, chasing down and responding to online complaints from customers. In the history book of social media, Eliason, who popularized Twitter handle @ComcastCares, will be among the forefathers of the movement.

True ‘dat.

Throughout a long and checkered career, every new job I have gotten has been based largely upon the experiences and successes from prior jobs.  This is true for almost everyone and, I presume, the same for Frank as well.  And since he was so successful at Comcast, I cannot help but wonder which of the social media tools and tactics he can take with him to Citi.

Tech Philly Frank describes what he will be doing at Citi:

Together with my Citi team, we can … further build relationships with our customers. Since my days at Vanguard Investments, I have always enjoyed the industry, and with the transformation that has been taking place, now seems to be a great time to return.

Here’s where the social media rubber hits the financial regulation road.

As I stated, the SEC issues strict guidance on what publicly traded companies say, what they can say and when they say it.  Much of this is encapsulated in something called “Regulation FD” – the “FD” being “fair disclosure.”  Feel free to read the SEC explanation of Reg FD, but in plain English, this means that the SEC mandates that all publicly traded companies must disclose material information to all investors at the same time.  Hence, “fair disclosure.”

FINRA , the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Inc., also has a say in financial disclosure (they regulate  individuals and entities as well) and they issued some pretty detailed requirements in January 2010.  If you’re interested, read their notice, but they list social media platforms – one by one – and their requirements.  Really good, detailed stuff.

Since Frank is beginning anew at Citi, I can’t help but wonder which strategies and tactics will be replicable at his new job.  As I note above, communication in the financial services industry is, quite “frankly,” more strict and controlled than it is in the non-regulated industry.   Oftentimes, there is a lot more legal approval that has to go through internal compliance offers to ensure that companies are, well, in compliance with FINRA and/or SEC regulations.   Strict stuff.

None of this is to say that Frank will be anything less than successful – what he has been in prior stops in his career – but I wonder how much more challenging it will be to deploy a wide array of social media tools and tactics to inform and educate investors and other market participants.

Good luck, Frank, but I doubt if you will need it.

Mark

P.S. – Have I mentioned that these words are mine and mine alone?

Image credit:  Citi.

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Comments

  1. Very timely post. I should have asked you about some of this during our rendezvous at Union Station (lol!)

    The reason is – I’ve had several potential clients in the financial industry approach me about working with them – all have mentioned enough about these ‘regulations’ to have me run the other way.

    One person, in particular, mentioned that these regulations were changing soon and “loosening” up in regards to blogging & social media.

    Any thoughts? You’re own of course 🙂

  2. This is a great post about PR. I’m a student just trying to learn more about this industry and I really enjoyed your article. Keep up the great work!

  3. Great page, I unfortunately had some problems printing this artcle out, The print formating looks a little screwed over, something you might want to look into.

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