It’s All About Communication – Navigating Off-Channel Communications in the Investment Advisory Space

In the rapidly evolving landscape of financial services, off-channel communications present a significant compliance challenge for investment advisers. With the rise of digital platforms, advisers can engage with clients through various channels, such as email, social media, and messaging apps (e.g., WhatsApp, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams). Using off-channel communications carries compliance risks and regulatory challenges, so it is important to implement effective protocols and best practices for managing off-channel communications in the investment advisory space.

Understanding Off-Channel Communications

Off-channel communications refer to any informal or unofficial interactions between advisers and advisory clients outside of approved and monitored channels. These can include text messages from personal phones, using personal emails for business communications, social media interactions, and/or instant messaging apps. While these channels offer convenience and immediacy, they also pose significant risks related to compliance, record-keeping, and client confidentiality.

Regulatory Landscape

Regulators like the US Securities Exchange Commission (“SEC” or “Commission”) have clear mandates for record-keeping and monitoring of communications related to registered investment advisers’ advisory business. This requirement extends to electronic communications, irrespective of whether they occur through official or personal channels.

Main Risks Associated with Off-Channel Communications

  • Compliance Risks: Failure to capture, archive, and monitor these communications can lead to non-compliance with regulations, including but not limited to the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 (“Advisers Act”).
  • Information Security: Unofficial channels may lack the necessary security protocols, increasing the risk of data breaches and client information leakage.
  • Reputation Risk: Non-compliance and information security breaches can severely impact the reputation of the advisory firm.

Strategies for Managing Off-Channel Communications

  • Policy and Procedure Development: Develop a clear policy that outlines permissible communication channels and the use of personal devices. This policy should be communicated effectively to all staff members to include procedures for monitoring and enforcement as discussed below.
  • Training and Awareness: Regular training sessions should be conducted to ensure that all employees understand the risks and policies related to off-channel communications. Technology can be designed with training modules to be completed be employees throughout the year. The modules can be customized by topic and employee level, and set up as required reading, testing, and/or certifications.
  • Technological Solutions: Implement technological solutions that can capture and archive communications across various platforms, including mobile devices and social media.
  • Monitoring and Enforcement: Regularly monitor communications and enforce policies strictly. Non-compliance should be addressed with appropriate disciplinary measures.
  • Advisory Client Education: Educate clients about the importance of using official channels for all investment-related communications. This can include information sessions, written communications, and reminders during meetings.
  • Regular Audits and Reviews: Conduct regular audits of communication records to ensure compliance and identify any potential gaps in policy or training.

Case Studies and Industry Best Practices

Examining case studies where RIA Firms have faced penalties or challenges due to off-channel communications can provide valuable insights.

For example, in the matter of JP Morgan Securities LLC[1], which is a firm dually registered as a broker-dealer and an investment adviser, the SEC issued a fine of $125million in December of 2021 for the firm’s failures to create and preserve in an easily accessible place, originals of all communications received, and copies of all communications sent relating to the firm’s business as such.

In September of 2022 the SEC charged 10 firms[2] with widespread recordkeeping failures to maintain and preserve electronic communications. Each of the firms admitted that their employees communicated advisory business through personal messaging platforms.

Best practices in the industry include:

  • Leveraging Advanced Compliance Software: Many firms now use advanced software that integrates with various communication platforms to ensure all communications are captured and archived.
  • Use of Official Mobile Apps: Firms can seek out mobile applications that allow advisers and clients to communicate securely, ensuring that all communications are recorded and monitored. Some firms have developed their own mobile applications in order to meet regulatory requirements.
  • Clear Client Agreements: Having clauses in client agreements that specify approved communication methods.

Challenges and Future Outlook

As technology continues to evolve, investment advisers will face ongoing challenges in managing off-channel communications. We will assuredly continue to see increased regulatory focus on these areas, as well as the development of more sophisticated technological solutions.


The handling of off-channel communications in the investment advisory space is a complex but essential aspect of maintaining a robust compliance framework. It requires a multi-faceted approach that combines policy development, employee training, technological integration, and proactive client engagement. Investment advisers must remain vigilant and adaptable to the regulatory landscape and the evolving technological advancements to ensure they meet their obligations and maintain the trust of their clients and the wider financial community.

As we look towards the future, it is important for investment advisory firms to continue to innovate and invest in solutions that address the challenges of off-channel communications. This includes developing more sophisticated monitoring tools, enhancing client communication platforms, and continuously updating policies, procedures, and training programs to reflect the latest regulatory requirements and best practices.

Our consultants are well versed in this area and can assist advisers with implementing appropriate programs. Call or email us at 619-278-0020 or, or visit us at for more information.

Author: Maggie Tavares, Sr. Compliance Consultant; Editor: Tina Mitchell, Managing Director, Consultation Services, Core Compliance & Legal Services (“Core Compliance”). Core Compliance works extensively with investment advisers, broker-dealers, investment companies, and private fund managers on regulatory compliance issues.

This article is for information purposes and does not contain or convey legal or tax advice. The information herein should not be relied upon regarding any particular facts or circumstances without first consulting with a lawyer and/or tax professional.




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