SEC Approves Web-based Continued Education for Regulatory Element testing effective October 1, 2015.
October 1, 2015 FINRA will commence web-based CE programs to reduce costs and other concerns in managing remote location testing centers. The web-based plan provides a more convenient and efficient means for registered representatives to complete CE requirements, and passes savings on to FINRA member firms in both CE fees and man hours spent fulfilling test requirements.
FINRA proposes to launch the web-based delivery program in phases with the first phase starting October 1, 2015. Programs scheduled to be covered for October 2015 include; S106 for Investment company and Variable Contracts Representatives, S201 for registered principles, and S901 for registered operations professionals. An additional launch January 4, 2016 will include S101 for all other securities registration categories. FINRA proposes to phase out test-centers 6 months from January 2016, sometime in June 2016.
In addition to the web-based testing, fees for the Regulatory Element CE test will go down to $55 from $100 for each session. The reduction is a reflection of lower costs in managing the web-based platform. Most members welcome the change and agree it makes the testing requirements less intrusive on day-to-day workload. Some members are concerned about security breaches and authentication protocols. Authentication protocols will be built in to the system to verify candidate legitimacy. However, there are still some concerns and more information is sought to understand how protocols will be integrated.
SIFMA sent a letter to the SEC in July in support of the web CE proposal, citing that the plan takes advantage of technology and modernizes FINRA’s CE program. SIFMA emphasizes in their letter that implementation should include sufficient flexibility to address technology and operational issues that may crop up in the early phases of implementation. Additionally SIFMA asks that FINRA provide clarification on the level of information that will be available to firms regarding an individual’s progress or initiation of a CE session.
ARM also supports the plan for web-based continued education. In tune with the letter from SIFMA; ARM also suggests that feedback to firms on an individual’s progress would be helpful. ARM commends FINRA of or their work in updating CE delivery methods and passing the savings along to firms with improved efficiency.
FINRA has proposed that social security numbers will be a primary step in authenticating candidate identity. Both SIFMA and ARM pose concerns about CE authentication for registered representatives who do not have social security numbers. As, several individuals are non-US citizens located abroad. Suggestions have been proposed to have an alternative authentication process for non-US representatives.
We look forward to the change and have posted links here to the FINRA Regulatory notice 15-28 regarding the Web-based program. We’ve also linked answers to FAQs for Firms and Participants along with Technical Support. The FINRA CE online system requires Adobe Flash, version 10.1 or higher and supports Internet Explorer, version 9 and above, or Mozilla Firefox, version 20 or above. See the technical requirements for a complete list of system requirements necessary to use the FINRA online CE system.
What do you think? Is it long overdue for a Web-based CE approach to FINRA Regulatory Exams?
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