Investor Education and Tools

Background

An important part of FINRA's work involves providing investors the information and tools they require to make informed decisions about their assets and avoid dealings with bad actors. Several respondents to the Special Notice on Engagement issued in March 2017 provided a range of recommendations related to FINRA's efforts in the area of investor education—including the types of investor education content we develop and our dissemination strategies. For example, it is critical to develop the most effective means for communicating information to investors, and one commenter recommended that FINRA continue to use social media to distribute education materials quickly and at relatively low cost. Both FINRA and the FINRA Investor Education Foundation (Foundation) engage in ever-increasing use of social media to reach investors, including the use of Twitter and Facebook.

Another commenter recommended that FINRA host investor education seminars at elder centers and provide more in-person learning opportunities for investors. On our own, through partnerships with nonprofit organizations, or alongside fellow state and federal regulators, both FINRA and the Foundation host numerous in-person investor education events each year, many of which specifically address the concerns of older investors. We also facilitate investor education for younger audiences, especially underserved low-wage workers, through the Foundation's community-based programming. The Foundation's new website describes these efforts in greater detail.

Other commenters suggested that FINRA focus on evaluating ways to make disclosures more interactive, given that today's investor has a much greater comfort level with technology. The FINRA Foundation periodically provides grant funding to researchers who examine how to improve disclosure. One such study examining the impacts of social interaction on investor understanding of disclosure is expected to be completed later this year.

“At FINRA, we leverage earned and owned media, social media, data-driven tools and traditional outreach methods to help retail investors get the information they need to make sound financial decisions throughout life.”

— FINRA Senior Vice President of Investor Education Gerri Walsh

Another suggestion pointed to storytelling as a means to connect with investors at the individual level. While the Foundation has used storytelling with great success for several years—largely through the production and release of video vignettes featuring real investors as well as the dissemination of articles that reflect first-person narratives—FINRA also has adopted this approach when developing new content for the Alert Investor blog. In addition, FINRA recently added investor-focused content to its new FINRA Unscripted podcast series. We will continue using this format moving forward whenever practicable.

FINRA and the Foundation will continue to explore opportunities to collaborate on investor education and engagement initiatives with a wide range of partners, including as appropriate federal and state securities regulators, nonprofits, academics and industry.

Summary of Actions

  • Enhanced FINRA and Foundation investor-focused content, including introducing storytelling elements to better connect with our audiences and leveraging social media channels to boost dissemination.
  • Overhauled the Foundation's website at www.FINRAFoundation.org to better describe what we do, including the people we help, the networks we strengthen, and the knowledge we gain and share.
  • Engaged, and will continue to engage, stakeholders on ways to collaborate to improve investor content on finra.org and to deliver investor education to a wide range of audiences, including older Americans.