"I do agree the regulatory environment is challenging at the current time," Axelrod said in a panel discussion at FINRA's annual conference here last week.
"I think a lot of firms feel the regulatory pressure," she added. "It's a robust market for compliance professionals, I can tell you that."
Other panelists acknowledged that FINRA has been making an effort to address the costs of compliance, but urged the self-regulatory organization to do more.
'SCALE BACK' EXAMS
In a nod to those concerns, FINRA is piloting a program for limited-purpose broker-dealers and other small firms that would ease back on intensive practice exams and move toward more ongoing, but lighter-touch engagement between regulators and practices.
That program aims to reorient FINRA's approach around "less heavy oversight and more knowledge and understanding of what's going on day-to-day with these firms," Axelrod explained.
"We are going to try and scale back the examination part of our regulatory oversight and be more surveillance-focused," she said.
Axelrod points to other efforts underway at FINRA to ease the regulatory challenges, including the retrospective rule review the organization recently announced, a program to take a second look at significant rulemakings to determine if they are effecting meaningful investor protections without creating an undue burden on member firms.
Axelrod also noted that FINRA and other regulators have been taking steps to better coordinate their activities. Officials with the SRO now share their exam schedules with their counterparts at the
Similarly, FINRA staffers now have quarterly phone calls with securities regulators in each state to avoid overlaps in exams of smaller, state-registered firms, Axelrod said.
"Coordination is something we used to hear about all the time: 'You guys don't coordinate. You don't coordinate — you're tripping over each other,'" she said. "We don't hear that as much now, so I think we've taken steps to really get that aspect of our work much better."
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