June 25, 2018
In October 2017, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) announced, through Regulatory Notice 17-30 (the “Notice”), that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) approved a proposed rule change, which, (i) consolidates FINRA’s registration rules; (ii) makes a number of technical changes to permissible registration categories and related rules; and (iii) restructures the representative-level qualification examinations. Each of these is discussed in greater detail below. The Proposed Rules (as defined below) take effect on October 1, 2018.
The proposed rules, FINRA Rules 1210-1240 (the “Proposed Rules”), will adopt and consolidate, with amendment, certain National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD) and New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) rules related to registration and qualification of individual persons associated with FINRA member firms. The Notice explains that while the legacy NASD rules generally apply to all FINRA members, the existing incorporated NYSE rules only apply to FINRA members that are also members of the NYSE. The proposed rules, however, will generally apply to all FINRA members. The Notice further posits that while there are certain key differences, as discussed below, the Proposed Rules are substantially similar to the NASD and NYSE rules that are being consolidated. The Proposed Rules are:
Once the Proposed Rules take effect, unregistered persons will not be allowed to accept an order from a customer under any circumstances. In the event that a registered person is unavailable, an unregistered person will be permitted to transcribe order details if a customer contacts a firm to place an unsolicited order for the purchase or sale of securities. A registered person, however, will be required to subsequently contact the customer to confirm the order details prior to the order being accepted.
Under the Proposed Rules, FINRA will be establishing a waiver program, effective October 1, 2018, for individuals who terminate their representative or principal registrations with a member firm in order to work for a non-U.S. or U.S. financial services industry affiliate of a member firm (the “Waiver Program”). The term “financial services industry affiliate of a member” is defined as “a legal entity that controls, is controlled by or is under common control with a member firm and is regulated by the SEC, CFTC, state securities authorities, federal or state banking authorities, state insurance authorities, or substantially equivalent [non-U.S.] regulatory authorities.” Individuals who are eligible for the Waiver Program would be granted a single seven-year waiver period beginning on the date that they are initially designated as eligible for the Waiver Program. This waiver period is fixed and cannot be tolled or renewed. During this time period, individuals will be responsible for timely completion of Regulatory Element CE programs based upon their most recent registration category. Failure to complete the Regulatory Element within the prescribed 120-day window will result in an individual losing his or her eligibility for the Waiver Program.
The Waiver Program will allow for an individual to re-apply with FINRA for registration as a representative or principal, provided that the following conditions have been met:
The Waiver Program will not require that individuals return to the same member firm that designated them as eligible for a waiver, and during the seven-year window individuals may move between member firms, between a member firm and a financial services affiliate of the member firm or another member firm, and between financial services affiliates of member firms; provided that the individual continuously works for a financial services affiliate of a member firm since the filing of the individual’s last Form U5. An individual participating in the Waiver Program cannot, however, be working for a member firm while also working for a financial services affiliate of a member firm.
Member firms will be required to designate individuals as eligible for the Waiver Program by notifying FINRA concurrently with the filing of an individual’s Form U5. Member firms will also be responsible for requesting waivers when registering individuals who have been eligible participants in the Waiver Program. FINRA will rely on representations made by the member firm at the time a waiver is requested under the Waiver Program, and also may independently verify that the conditions under the Waiver Program have been met. FINRA will review and determine whether to grant any waiver requests under the Waiver Program within 30 calendar days of receipt of the request.
Under the Proposed Rules, firms will be required to designate a:
While the day-to-day duties of these positions may be delegated to other principals of the firm, the ultimate responsibility for the functions must remain with the Principal Financial Officer and the Principal Operations Officer.
These designations will replace the existing requirement that all member firms designate a Chief Financial Officer, and that FINRA and NYSE dual-member firms also designate a Chief Operations Officer, and will apply to all firms, regardless of whether the firm is exempt from the requirement to have a Financial and Operations Principal (“FinOp”) or an Introducing Broker-Dealer FinOp. Principal Financial Officers and Principal Operations Officers will be required to be registered as either a FinOp or Introducing Broker-Dealer FinOp, as applicable, and must be registered in the CRD system as Operations Professionals. With respect to these requirements, because Principal Financial Officers and Principal Operations Officers must also be registered as either FinOps or Introducing Broker-Dealer FinOps, they will not be required to pass the Operations Professional (Series 99) examination in order to register as Operations Professionals, as they already hold a qualifying registration.
Firms that are not self-clearing or do not provide clearing services are not required to designate separate individuals to serve as the Principal Financial Officer, Principal Operations Officer, and FinOp or Introducing Broker-Dealer FinOp. Firms that self-clear or provide clearing services, unless granted a limited-size waiver from FINRA, must designate separate individuals to serve as Principal Financial Officer and Principal Operations Officer. Such individuals, however, may also carry out FinOp responsibilities. A firm may designate multiple Principal Operations Officers in accordance with the Proposed Rules, but may not designate multiple Principal Financial Officers.
The Proposed Rules establish three new principal registration categories: (a) Compliance Officer; (b) Investment Banking Principal; and (c) Private Securities Offerings Principal.
Under the Proposed Rules, an individual is not eligible to register as an Investment Banking Principal or Private Securities Offerings Principal solely by virtue of being registered as a General Securities Representative and General Securities Principal.
FINRA member firms will be permitted under the Proposed Rules to permissively register or maintain the registration of any associated person or any individual engaged in the investment banking or securities business of a non-U.S. securities affiliate or subsidiary of the member. This expands the current categories of permissive registrations, which include individuals performing legal, compliance, internal audit, back-office operations, or similar responsibilities for a firm; individuals engaged in the investment banking or securities business of a non-U.S. securities affiliate or subsidiary of a firm; and individuals performing administrative support functions for registered persons of a firm. Permissively registered individuals will be considered registered persons of the member firm and subject to all FINRA rules relevant to their activities.
Firms must have adequate supervisory systems and procedures in place to ensure that individuals who are permissively registered do not act outside of their registered function. A permissively registered individual does not need to be directly supervised by a registered person, although the member firm must assign a supervisor registered with the firm who is responsible for periodically verifying that the permissively registered individual is not acting outside the scope of his or her registered function. This registered supervisor must have at least the same level of registration as the permissively registered individual (i.e., if the individual is permissively registered as a principal, the registered supervisor must also be a principal), although the registered supervisor does not need to be registered in the same representative or principal registration category as the permissively registered individual.
Under the Proposed Rules, registered representatives will now be permitted to function as principals of a firm for a period of 120 calendar days—an increase from the current 90-day period—before being required to pass the appropriate principal-level qualification examination. Firms will also be able to designate current principals to serve in another principal category (e.g., a current General Securities Principal can be designated to serve as a Municipal Securities Principal) for the same 120-day period. Registered representatives who are designated as principals in this manner, however, including with respect to principal categories that do not have pre-requisite representative-level registration requirements, must have at least 18 months of experience functioning as a registered representative within the immediately preceding 5 years.
The Proposed Rules make a number of changes to the representative-level qualification examinations, which are designed primarily to eliminate redundancies in the testing of general securities knowledge across the representative-level examinations, and also retire a number of existing representative-level registration categories. These changes are described in further detail below, and summarized in chart-form in Appendix A.
In connection with the Proposed Rules, FINRA will be restructuring its representative-level qualification examinations. Effective October 1, 2018, individuals seeking representative-level registration will be required to pass the SIE examination, as well as a revised function-specific qualification examination (e.g., General Securities Representative (Series 7)). Certain current and former registered representatives will be given credit for passing the SIE without having to sit for the exam. The SIE is designed to eliminate redundant testing of general securities knowledge across the representative-level examinations, including knowledge of basic products, the structure and function of the securities industry, the regulatory agencies and their functions, and regulated and prohibited practices. The revised function-specific examinations will focus on knowledge relevant to the day-to-day activities, responsibilities, and job functions of representatives. Individuals will be able to schedule the SIE and any function-specific examination(s) on the same day, subject to testing center availability. The SIE will be subject to a four-year expiration period, unlike the two-year registration lapse period that will continue to be applicable for representative- and principal-level registrations.
Individuals may continue to apply to become registered representatives prior to October 1, 2018. Such individuals will sit for the existing representative-level examinations, regardless of whether the examination takes place prior to October 1, 2018 (i.e., an individual who applies for registration on September 29, 2018, could sit for an existing representative-level examination in November of 2018). Individuals who attempt and fail an existing representative-level examination, and are precluded from sitting for the same exam until after October 1, 2018, will be required to take and pass the SIE and function-specific examination on his or her next attempt. If this occurs, however, the individual will not have to wait the typical 30-day period before sitting for the SIE and function-specific examination (e.g., an individual who fails the current Series 7 examination on September 29, 2018 could sit for the SIE and revised Series 7 examination on October 5, 2018).
All associated persons will be eligible to sit for the SIE. In addition, individuals not associated with a member firm, such as the general public, will be permitted to sit for the SIE, although passing the SIE alone will not qualify an individual for registration with FINRA. Associated persons who sit for the SIE will be subject to the SIE Rules of Conduct, which, among other things, requires individuals to attest that mere passage of the SIE does not qualify an individual to engage in investment banking or securities business. Individuals not associated with a member firm will be required to agree to be subject to the SIE Rules of Conduct. Firms will be able to register associated persons for the SIE through CRD, and FINRA is developing a separate system to allow associated persons not seeking registration as a representative and individuals not associated with a firm to enroll and pay the SIE examination fee.
In connection with the Proposed Rules, the following registration categories and examinations are being retired:
An individual currently registered in one of these categories will be grandfathered by FINRA and may maintain his or her registrations until the individual is terminated and remains terminated for a period of two years.
Under the proposed rules, individuals seeking registration as a Research Analyst will no longer be required to pass the General Securities Representative examination. Instead, individuals will be required to pass the SIE and revised Research Analyst qualification examinations (Series 86 and 87). In addition, individuals seeking registration as a Research Principal may now either pass the Research Analyst and General Supervisory Principal qualification examinations, or, alternatively, qualify and register as a Supervisory Analyst (Series 16) and pass the General Supervisory Principal qualification examination. In connection with these changes, FINRA is eliminating the experience prerequisite for individuals seeking registration as a Supervisory Analyst, which required that individuals seeking registration have at least three years of experience involving securities or financial analysis in the immediately preceding six years.
With the Proposed Rules, FINRA seeks to streamline the examination and registration process by establishing the SIE and revising many of the current qualification examinations. The Proposed Rules also introduce additional principal registration categories and requirements, while also retiring a number of existing representative-level registration categories and qualification examinations. Finally, through implementation of the Waiver Program, FINRA seeks to provide flexibility to allow individuals to move between member firms and their non-U.S. or U.S. financial services industry affiliates without having to re-take qualification examinations upon their return to a member firm, provided that certain conditions are met. While the Proposed Rules are substantially similar to the NASD and NYSE rules that are being consolidated, there are certain key differences, such as those outlined above, which should be considered and understood before the October 1, 2018 implementation date.
The below chart captures the principal- and representative-level examination and registration changes under the Proposed Rules, as well as the addition of the Principal Financial Officer and Principal Operations Officer designations. For more information please see the discussion above.
|REGISTRATION CATEGORY||EXISTING REQUIREMENTS AND PREREQUISITES||REQUIREMENTS AND PREREQUISITES UNDER THE PROPOSED RULES|
|Investment Company Representative||Series 6||SIE and Revised Series 6|
|General Securities Representative||Series 7||SIE and Revised Series 7|
|Assistant Representative - Order Processing||Series 11||Retired|
|United Kingdom Securities Representative||Series 17||Retired|
|Direct Participation Programs Representative||Series 22||SIE and Revised Series 22|
|Canada Securities Representative - with options||Series 37||Retired|
|Canada Securities Representative - no options||Series 38||Retired|
|Registered Options Representative||Series 42||Retired|
|Municipal Securities Representative||Series 52||SIE and Revised Series 52|
|Securities Trader||Series 57||SIE and Revised Series 57|
|Corporate Securities Representative||Series 62||Retired|
|Government Securities Limited Representative||Series 72||Retired|
|Investment Banking Representative||Series 79||SIE and Revised Series 79|
|Private Securities Offerings Representative||Series 82||SIE and Revised Series 82|
|REGISTRATION CATEGORY||EXISTING REQUIREMENTS AND PREREQUISITES||REQUIREMENTS AND PREREQUISITES UNDER THE PROPOSED RULES|
|Research Analyst||Series 7, 86, and 87||SIE and Revised Series 86 and 87|
|Operations Professional||Series 99||SIE and Revised Series 99|
|PRINCIPAL-LEVEL REGISTRATION CHANGES AND ADDITIONS|
|Compliance Officer||N/A||Unless an exemption is available, either registration as a General Securities Representative and Series 24 (General Securities Principal), or Series 14 (Compliance Official)|
|Investment Banking Principal||N/A||Unless an exemption is available, registration as an Investment Banking Representative and Series 24|
|Private Securities Offerings Principal||N/A||Unless an exemption is available, registration as a Private Securities Offerings Representative and Series 24|
|Research Principal||Series 24 and either the Series 16 or Series 87||Series 24 and either the Series 16 or registration as a Research Analyst|
|Supervisory Analyst||Series 16 and at least three years of experience involving securities or financial analysis in the immediately preceding six years||Series 16|
|Principal Financial Officer||N/A||Series 27 (Financial and Operations Principal) or Series 28 (Introducing Broker-Dealer Financial and Operations Principal), as applicable, and registration as an Operations Professional|
|Principal Operations Officer||N/A||Series 27 (Financial and Operations Principal) or Series 28 (Introducing Broker-Dealer Financial and Operations Principal), as applicable, and registration as an Operations Professional|
 Qualification and Registration, FINRA Regulatory Notice 17-30 (Oct. 2017) http://www.finra.org/sites/default/files/Regulatory-Notice-17-30.pdf (the “Notice”).
 See Notice at pp. 2-3.
 FINRA Rule 1230.01 (noting that “[t]he function of accepting customer orders is not considered a clerical or ministerial function”).
 FINRA Rule 1210.09.
 These activities are set forth in FINRA Rule 1220(b)(5)(A) and include:
(i) advising on or facilitating debt or equity securities offerings through a private placement or a public offering, including but not limited to origination, underwriting, marketing, structuring, syndication, and pricing of such securities and managing the allocation and stabilization activities of such offerings; and
(ii) advising on or facilitating mergers and acquisitions, tender offers, financial restructurings, asset sales, divestitures or other corporate reorganizations or business combination transactions, including but not limited to rendering a fairness, solvency, or similar opinion.
 The ability for member firms to permissively register any individual engaged in the investment banking or securities business of a non-U.S. securities affiliate or subsidiary of the member firm has been explicitly carried over to the Proposed Rules. Compare NASD Rule 1031(a), with FINRA Rule 1210.02.
 FINRA has established a specific website, http://www.finra.org/industry/exam-restructuring, which provides information with respect to the upcoming exam restructuring.