When it became clear that FINRA was going to move to a fully remote work environment in early March, most of the focus was on how to continue conducting business in a fully digital environment. But several functions FINRA performs still require sending materials in the mail to firms and individuals. One example is the Regulatory Review group within Credentialing, Registration, Education and Disclosure department.
The group is responsible for mailing physical letters to firms and individuals who have been sanctioned, statutorily disqualified or received an expungement. Team members Chris Dragos and Samantha Fricke were quick to raise their hands to take materials home ensuring FINRA could seamlessly continue this important responsibility.
“We spent most of that week beginning discussions on how to make this process work in a remote work situation. But on that Friday, March 13, we really sat down and went through the process step-by-step to see what could be impacted and what we would need to continue operations,” said Sam Fricke. “That evening, I went to the grocery store for food and picked up a couple of books of stamps to make sure I had enough.”
For Fricke, who has been with FINRA for 15 years, the experience took her back to her first job as a contractor in the Testing and Continuing Education department where she coincidently worked with Dragos on a large mailing for an industry change in firm’s continuing education obligations.
For Dragos, the move to remote work during a pandemic was another opportunity to step up during a crisis.
“I previously worked in a FEMA call center as a supervisor, so I have that 'all hands on deck' mentality ingrained in me,” said Chris Dragos. “You just need to tap your experience and do whatever is necessary to help the team.”
Dragos, who has been with FINRA for nearly 20 years, was also involved in providing assistance to firms both in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and 9/11.
Beyond the one-to-two-page notification letters, Regulatory Review is also responsible for sending what are known as Membership Continuance Files – all of the necessary documentation for when a firm or one of its associated individuals applies to continue being a FINRA member after a statutory disqualification – which posed a particular issue for Dragos. Some packages can run over 1,000 pages, not something that can be done easily (or inexpensively!) with a printer at home.
Members of FINRA’s Information Operations team volunteered to print and mail these packages on behalf of the Regulatory Review group. The team has a few staff who go into its Rockville, Maryland office for several hours a day to scan critical documents and distribute the electronic versions throughout the organization.
“These guys deserve a lot of credit for continuing to go into the office while nearly all of us are working from home,” Dragos added.