Leadership Profiles - FINRA (2013)

Paul Andrews

Paul Andrews (bio)
Secretary General, International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO);

Immediate Past Chair, International Forum for Investor Education (IFIE)

Geraldine "Gerri" M. Walsh

Geraldine "Gerri" M. Walsh (bio)
Senior Vice President, FINRA Office of Investor Education;
President, FINRA Investor Education Foundation;
Chair, 2012 IFIE-IOSCO Conference Programme Committee


Joint Interview with Paul Andrews and Gerri Walsh

Tell us about the work of FINRA and the FINRA Investor Education Foundation.

Paul Andrews: The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority is an independent, non-governmental regulator for all securities firms doing business with the public in the United States. We are the first line of defense for investors in today's environment of fast-moving markets, complex products, fraud and market losses. We are overseen by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and often we work together on important issues such as investor education. We have a huge responsibility: not only do we oversee every securities firm doing business with the U.S. public (about 4,300 firms), but we also oversee the registered representatives of those firms (about 640,000) as well as about 80 percent of all trading in U.S. markets. Every day, we watch over nearly 6 billion shares traded in U.S. listed and OTC equities markets, using state of the art technology to detect potential abuses. If brokers break the rules, we can fine them, suspend them—even put them out of business. Our mission really says it all: investor protection and market integrity.

Gerri Walsh: That's right—and, at FINRA, we believe investor education is a critical component of investor protection. Over the last decade, we have worked hard to develop a strong retail investor outreach program that includes producing and distributing alerts, interactive tools and educational content to help investors make wise financial decisions. Our BrokerCheck tool, for example, provides investors with a quick way to check a broker's disciplinary and professional background. In 2003, FINRA created the FINRA Investor Education Foundation, which seeks to provide underserved Americans with the knowledge, skills and tools necessary for financial success throughout life. We carry out our financial education and investor protection initiatives through a combination of educational and research grants, as well as targeted projects managed directly by the FINRA Foundation.

What is your role and how did you get involved with the organization?

GW: I head up all of FINRA's retail investor education initiatives, and I manage the Foundation's grant making and programmatic efforts to educate and protect investors. While we focus especially on young adults, Native Americans and members of the U.S. military, we also have a robust fraud fighting initiative underway and a strong research program that examines financial capability in the U.S. Before joining FINRA in 2006, I was deputy director of the SEC's Office of Investor Education and Assistance. I've been involved with investor education in some form or other form more than 15 years.

PA: Like Gerri, I joined FINRA from the SEC. I was asked to be part of FINRA's international work in 2004 to run the DC office, and I have been running the entire department since mid-2007. The work we do internationally related back to our mission of investor protection and market integrity. Among other things, we are constantly looking at ways that other regulators tackle the same problems we face in the US to learn from what others are doing. At the same time, we share our approaches when asked to assist other regulators. We look for ways to cooperate with other regulators to help oversee the largest firms that do business in many countries. We negotiate information sharing memoranda of understanding, participate in supervisory colleges and conduct roundtables on key business conduct issues that virtually every regulator must address.

How do you see the FC/IE agenda fitting into your work (or the role of Financial Capability and Investor Education in your work)?

GW: FINRA believes that investor education is a critical component of investor protection. As a result, building financial capability across the income spectrum is core to the work of FINRA Investor Education and the FINRA Foundation.

PA: Over the past several years, my team and I have noticed among our international colleagues a growing interest in these areas. In our view, investor education serves as an additional topic on which regulators around the globe can collaborate and learn from one another.

FINRA was a founding member of IFIE. Why did FINRA decide to join IFIE? What roles does FINRA think IFIE can play in strengthening the FC/IE work of FINRA?

GW: IFIE came into being because of the passion and collective energy of several organizations, including FINRA. We're proud to have had a role in IFIE's creation—and we are thrilled with how quickly it has grown. I cannot underscore enough how the sharing of ideas and experiences—including exchange of information about both successes and failures—promotes efficiency and fosters innovation. IFIE provides that forum.

FINRA has been actively involved in the leadership of IFIE since inception. Two FINRA executives served as Chairmen of IFIE. Paul, you were recently elected to be IFIE VIce Chair. And, Gerri, you have been on the IFIE Board for many years and served as Chair of the 2012 IFIE-IOSCO Global Investor Education Conference. Tell us more about your vision for IFIE, its mission and activities.

PA: In my view, IFIE has two main goals: (1) to be the premier global cross-sector organization devoted to sharing experiences and developing approaches on financial capability and investor education programs and initiatives; and (2) to contribute and strengthen the quality of substantive resources available to its members by such things as developing content, communicating and sharing ideas, programs, strategies, and best practices. IFIE is developing a powerful voice in the investor education/financial literacy arena, and it's very exciting to be a part of this effort. We draw strength from our diversity of members, but are united in one goal – creating a more informed and therefore better protected investor in today's marketplace.

GW: IFIE's focus on practical skills and actionable learning makes us unique. I'm excited that IFIE has evolved to the point that we now offer training outside the context of our global conferences through webinars and shared materials.

FINRA has also contributed significantly to the building of the newest IFIE global-regional Chapter, IFIE Americas, and indeed serves as Vice Chair of this Chapter. What is your vision for the work of IFIE Americas? How do you think this work will benefit and strengthen the work that FINRA does?

PA: We are very pleased to be involved with IFIE Americas. The needs of investor education and financial literacy are universal, but we thought that there were likely some common issues and concerns that would flow through a geographical region. Our job in IFIE Americas is to find those common issues and work together to address them in as unified a way as possible. We see the regional chapters as being part of the larger IFIE global family, and in that way, will contribute to the knowledge base and shared vision of IFIE Global.

What is your priority to do list for FINRA's/FINRA Foundation's FC/IE work over the next two years? What priority goals do you hope IFIE accomplishes over the next two years?

GW: FINRA will continue to coordinate with our colleagues in regulation to identify and alert investors to new products, trends and issues—and to provide tools and resources to help investors make sounder, better informed decisions. And the FINRA Foundation will focus on research and educational projects that support our mission of providing underserved Americans with the knowledge, skills and tools necessary for financial success throughout life. We are particularly interested in research projects that have the potential to advance our understanding of the relationships among financial literacy, financial capability and financial well-being. We hope that IFIE continues to grow as well, providing practical, actionable guidance to members and broadening its reach across the globe.