How to Retain and Save iPhone Text Messages for SEC Compliance

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Jay Walsh

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How financial firms can save text messages for SEC compliance

In today’s business world, most financial advisors find themselves regularly texting with clients. These text message exchanges happen on both firm-issued devices as well as on an employee’s own personal mobile phone.

Text messaging has grown to become an integral and strategic part of any financial firm's communication strategy. Employees routinely send and receive text messages, not only with clients, but also with colleagues at other financial institutions.

In recent years, financial service firms in the USA find themselves having to comply with industry laws put in place by the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) in order to help regulate how mobile devices are used within the workplace and also how text messages are backed up and retained for compliance.

SEC Order and JonesTrading

In 2020, the SEC charged JonesTrading, a financial institution broker-dealer based in California, with failing to retain and preserve business-related text messages.

The text message conversations were sent and received on personal mobile devices and the texts contained data referencing timing of trades, order sizes, as well as pricing details for specific securities. The SEC settled the charges in September 2020 and the individual had to pay a penalty of $100,000.

Like JonesTrading, all broker-dealers and financial firms are required to comply with strict regulatory requirements put in place by the Exchange Act and FINRA which require financial firms to both monitor and retain all business-related written communications.

Mobile devices in the workplace

What do BYOD, COPE, CYOD, and COBO mean?

It falls upon each individual financial firm to decide upon their own specific internal firm mobile device polices. Below is an explanation of mobile device acronyms that are commonplace today.

  • BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) - BYOD references when an employee uses their personal mobile phone for business or work-related communications. The employee purchased and maintains ownership of the mobile device. In 2021, 59% of all organizations and firms allow BYOD for their staff.

  • COPE (Company Owned/Personally Enabled) - COPE is when a firm or company owns the device and provides an employee with a phone. Employees then have the freedom to personalize their devices and install whatever apps they want. It's up to the firm of company to monitor an employee's device to ensure they are following proper guidelines and compliance protocols.

  • CYOD (Choose Your Own Device) - CYOD is when a firm has a varied selection of pre-configured mobile devices and employees can then pick the device of their preference to use as their work phone. These mobile devices are set up and already contain specific apps, often with limited services that are chosen by the employer and company IT department.

  • COBO (Company Owned/Business Only) - A COBO policy is where a firm or company supplies employees with a specific device that is restricted for business use only. Under this option, employees are typically not given a choice about what device or model they are being issued.

Desktop software to retain and save iPhone text messages for compliance

Financial firms have an ongoing and increasing need to manage any risks by text messages being sent and received on an employee’s personal or work-issued mobile device.

Regardless of the type of phone or the specific carrier associated with the device, firms and organizations are always looking for ways to better capture and retain text messages so that the records of employee text messaging is documented and archived for regulatory compliance requirements.

As financial firms implement and update policies and corporate strategy related to retaining and saving text messages, the widely used desktop software program Decipher TextMessage is a welcome addition to any financial firm or IT department workflow.

Decipher TextMessage runs on Windows or Mac computers and enables iOS text messages, iMesssage, and photo/video attachments to be retained and saved for compliance, evidence, and archiving.

How to save iPhone text messages for financial firm SEC and FINRA compliance.

Specific steps for financial firms to retain and save text messages for SEC and FINRA compliance

  1. Back up an iPhone on a computer.

  2. Launch Decipher TextMessage.

  3. Select an iPhone.

  4. Pick a contact that has text messages you need to save for SEC compliance.

  5. Choose "Export" to save the financial firm-related text messages as a PDF.

Download Decipher Text Message

Getting started

For any financial firm IT department or trader/broker employee, the first thing is to make a backup of an iPhone or iPad on a computer. If you are currently using a Mac that runs either macOS Catalina or Big Sur you can simply back up via the Finder. All other Windows and Mac users would back up their iPhone or iPad via Apple's iTunes software.

When you plug in an iPhone to any computer and select the device, you will be prompted with the option to "Back Up Now."

Choose Back Up Now to back up an iPhone and save text messages for SEC compliance.

After opening Decipher TextMessage, the iOS device you backed up will appear in the left-hand column of the software. Here is an example:

Launch Decipher TextMessage to start saving text messages for finanical compliance.

Select the iPhone.

Select an iPhone by clicking on the device in order to save text messages for Finra or SEC regulations.

Pick any contact that has financial firm-related text messages that you want to retain or export to a computer.

Select a contact that has text messages you want to export for compliance reasons.

With a contact selected, choose "Export" from the menu and select "Current Conversation PDF." You can now copy and transfer the work-related text messages to your computer as a PDF file.

Choose "Export" to save financial firm text messages.

After saving the text messages, when you open the PDF you'll see a complete history of all the business text messages and conversations. If necessary, you can also print out the PDF for SEC or FINRA compliance.

Open the PDF containing financial firm text messages and print them out for evidence or compliance regulations.

Benefits of using Decipher TextMessage to save financial firm text messages:

  • Decipher TextMessage keeps a separate, independent copy of all iOS text messages, iMessages, and photo/video attachments saved locally on a firm or organization's computer.

  • Ability to print iPhone text messages conversations in PDF format.

  • Date, time-stamp, and contact info displayed on every single iOS text message, both sent and received.

  • Ability to search iOS text messages from all contacts using keywords and phone numbers.

  • Text message data is stored privately and locally on the financial firm’s computers.

  • Compatible on both Windows or Mac.

  • IT departments have the ability to deploy the software on as many computers as needed.

  • Employees working remotely can install and run the software on their home computer. A PDF of text message data can then be sent to the IT department or financial firm legal team.

  • The software also has a helpful monthly and daily text message count export option to have a concise record of the total amount of text messages sent and received.

Video Tutorial - Follow along to save text messages for SEC compliance

Our YouTube video will walk any financial firm IT department or broker/trader through through the exact steps to retain and document text messages for SEC compliance

Need additional help capturing iOS text messages for compliance?

The complex regulations instituted by the SEC and FINRA require that financial firms and IT departments retain and capture all business-related text message communications.

These ever-changing regulatory and compliance laws must be tightly followed and firms find themselves working tirelessly to design, build, and implement effective policies and practices to ensure that they are complying with securities rules.

If you need assistance or have questions about how best to capture and retain iOS text message data for your firm or brokerage, feel free to drop us an email via our Decipher Tools contact page and one of our team from either our San Francisco or Phoenix offices will reply.