First Southern, LLC
Business Continuity/Disaster Recovery Plan
I. Emergency Contact Persons
Our firm’s two emergency contact persons are:
W. Heath Hawk, President/CEO
W (770) 777-9373
C (770) 891-1232
H (770) 886-7974
Vasileios Sfyris, General Securities Principal
W (770) 777-9373
C (678) 557-3906
II. Firm Policy
Our firm’s policy is to respond to a Significant Business Disruption (SBD) by safeguarding employees’ lives and firm property, making a financial and operational assessment, quickly recovering and resuming operations, protecting all of the firm’s books and records, and allowing our customers to transact business. In the event that we determine we are unable to continue our business, we will assure customers prompt access to their funds and securities.
A. Significant Business Disruptions (SBDs)
Our plan anticipates two kinds of SBDs, internal and external. Internal SBDs affect only our firm’s ability to communicate and do business, such as a fire in our building. External SBDs prevent the operation of the securities markets or a number of firms, such as a terrorist attack, a city flood, or a wide-scale, regional disruption. Our response to an external SBD relies more heavily on other organizations and systems, especially on the capabilities of NFS.
B. Approval and Execution Authority
John Holman, CCO, is responsible for approving the plan and for supervising the required annual review. Vasileios Sfyris has the authority to execute this BCP.
C. Plan Location and Access
Our firm will maintain copies of its BCP plan, the annual reviews, and the changes that have been made to it for inspection. An electronic copy is on the firm’s server at S: Compliance\P&P\EDHJ Business Continuation Plan, a hard copy is kept at the home of Heath Hawk and Vasileios Sfyris at 4355 Cody Ct. Cumming, GA 30040 and 7050 Trellis Ct. Alpharetta, GA 30004.
D. Employee Training
Employees will receive a copy of the BCP Plan and be informed whenever the plan is updated. Training will be conducted at least annually.
III. Business Description
Our firm conducts business in equity, fixed income, municipal and government securities, as well as mutual funds, options, underwritings, and municipal advisory activities. Our firm is an introducing firm and does not perform any type of clearing function for itself or others. Furthermore, we do not hold customer funds or securities. We accept and enter orders. All transactions are sent to our clearing firm, which executes our orders, compares them, allocates them, clears and settles them. Our clearing firm also maintains our customers’ accounts, can grant customers access to them, and delivers funds and securities.
In the event that First Southern, LLC. ceases operations due to a significant business interruption, our clients may access their accounts by calling the clearing firm. Customers can call the Hilltop Securities Customer Service Line at 1-800-678-3792.
IV. Office Locations
The main office is located at Metro Office Park 8 St. 1, Ste 401 Guaymabo, PR 00968. Its main telephone number is 787-979-2160.
Any of the firm’s branch offices will coordinate with the main office for support if there is a disaster in any branch location. Branches are required in accordance with this plan to arrange for the phone carrier to forward all customer calls to the main office if a disaster is declared. The branch manager is responsible for such declaration and the CCO is to be responsible for all training functions of the branch. All branch employees are able to access the web based First Southwest systems and access client accounts. As such, there are no backup locations that would need to be defined.
V. Alternative Physical Location(s) of Employees
In the event of an SBD, we will move our staff from the affected office to the closest branch office or another office located at:
16650 Quayside Dr.
Alpharetta, GA 30004
Ph: (678) 557-3906
Toll Free(877) 778-9373
Fax: (770) 777-9308
All other staff will utilize our terminal server and SBS server after data is restored at the alternative location in the event of a long-term business disruption. Phone numbers will be forwarded to that location and all direct line will be forwarded to the staff mobile phone.
Customers’ Access to Funds and Securities
Our firm does not maintain custody of customers’ funds or securities, which are maintained at First Southwest. In the event of an internal or external SBD, if telephone service is available, our registered persons will take customer orders or instructions and contact our custodians on their behalf, and if our Web access is available, our firm will post on our Web site that customers may access their funds and securities by contacting the custodian on the account directly.
VI. Data Back-Up and Recovery (Hard Copy and Electronic)
Our firm maintains its primary hard copy books and records and its electronic records at its main office. Gary Schwartz, CCO, is responsible for the maintenance of these books and records.
The firm backs up its electronic records daily, and as a full backup, each night, via Carbonite which is Cloud Storage.
In the event of an internal or external SBD that causes the loss of our paper records, we will not be prevented from servicing our clients. All essential hardcopy records stored on-site have either been transmitted to our custodian or the data has been input into our company database, which is backed up daily. If our primary site is inoperable, we will continue operations from an alternate location. For the loss of electronic records, we will either physically recover the storage media or electronically recover data from the cloud, or, if our primary site is inoperable, continue operations from an alternate location.
VII. Financial and Operational Assessments
A. Operational Risk
In the event of an SBD, we will immediately identify what means will permit us to communicate with our customers, employees, critical business constituents, critical banks, critical counter-parties, and regulators. Although the effects of an SBD will determine the means of alternative communication, the communications options we will employ will include our Web site and telephone voice mail. In addition, we will retrieve our key activity records as described in the section above, Data Back-Up and Recovery (Hard Copy and Electronic).
B. Financial and Credit Risk
In the event of an SBD, we will determine the value and liquidity of our investments and other assets to evaluate our ability to continue to fund our operations and remain in capital compliance. We will contact our custodians, critical banks, and investors to apprise them of our financial status. If we determine that we may be unable to meet our obligations to those counter-parties or otherwise continue to fund our operations, we will request additional financing from our bank or other credit sources to fulfill our obligations to our customers and clients. If we cannot remedy a capital deficiency, we will file appropriate notices with our regulators and immediately take appropriate steps, including requesting assistance from regulatory authorities.
VIII. Mission Critical Systems
Our firm’s “mission critical systems” are those that ensure prompt and accurate processing of securities transactions, including order taking, entry, execution, comparison, allocation, clearance and settlement of securities transactions, the maintenance of customer accounts, access to customer accounts, and the delivery of funds and securities.
The firm has a primary responsibility for establishing and maintaining our business relationships with our customers and has sole responsibility for our mission critical functions of order taking and entry. First Southwest provides, through contract, the execution, comparison, allocation, clearance and settlement of securities transactions, the maintenance of customer accounts, access to customer accounts, and the delivery of funds and securities.
Pursuant to FINRA and SEC requirements, our custodians will maintain a business continuity plan and the capacity to execute that plan. Our custodian represent that it will advise us of any material changes to its plan that might affect our ability to maintain our business. First Southern Securities, LLC has requested an executive summary of its plan that will be attached as an addendum to this plan. In the event that the custodian executes its plan, it will notify us of such execution and provide us equal access to services as its other customers. If we reasonably determine that our custodian has not or cannot put its plan in place quickly enough to meet our needs, or is otherwise unable to provide access to such services, our custodian assures us that they will assist us in seeking services from an alternative source.
Our custodians represent that they back up our records at a remote site and operate a back-up operating facility in a geographically separate area with the capability to conduct the same volume of business as its primary site. First Southwest has confirmed the effectiveness of their back-up arrangements to recover from a wide scale disruption by testing.
Recovery-time objectives provide concrete goals to plan for and test against. They are not, however, hard and fast deadlines that must be met in every emergency situation, and various external factors surrounding a disruption, such as time of day, scope of disruption, and status of critical infrastructure—particularly telecommunications—can affect actual recovery times. Recovery refers to the restoration of clearing and settlement activities after a wide-scale disruption; resumption refers to the capacity to accept and process new transactions and payments after a wide-scale disruption. Our custodian’s business contingency plans are designed to ensure sustained service.
A. Our Firm’s Mission Critical Systems
A.1. Order Taking
Currently, our firm receives orders from customers via the telephone, fax or mail. During an SBD, either internal or external, we will continue to take orders via cell phone and internet communication and through any other methods that are available and reliable, and in addition, as communications permit, we will inform our customers when communications become available to tell them what alternatives they have to send their orders to us. Customers will be informed of alternatives by notices posted the firms website and/or recorded voice messages at the firm’s main office number. If necessary, we will advise our customers to place orders directly with our custodians.
A.2. Order Entry
Currently, our firm enters orders by recording them on paper and electronically and sending them to our custodians electronically or telephonically. We have contacted our custodians and were told that, under their BCP, we can expect service via cellular telephone.
In the event of an internal SBD, we will enter and send records to our custodians by the fastest alternative means available. In the event of an external SBD, we will maintain the order in electronic or paper format, and deliver the order to the appropriate custodian by the fastest means available when it resumes operations. In addition, during an internal SBD, we may need to refer our customers to deal directly with our custodians for order entry. Information will be promptly posted to our web site and/or recorded via voice message.
B. Mission Critical Systems Provided by our Custodians
Our firm relies on our custodians to provide order execution, order comparison, order allocation, and the maintenance of customer accounts, delivery of funds and securities, and access to customer accounts.
IX. Alternate Communications Between the Firm and Customers, Employees, and Regulators
We communicate with our customers using the telephone, e-mail, our Web site, fax, U.S. mail, and in person visits at our firm or at the other’s location. In the event of an SBD, we will assess which means of communication are still available to us, and use the means closest in speed and form (written or oral) to the means that we have used in the past to communicate with the other party. Phone Service can be replaced with cellular phones and cable internet by wireless service. If we have communicated with a party by e-mail but the Internet is unavailable, we will call them on the telephone and follow up where a record is needed with paper copy in the U.S. mail.
We communicate with our employees using the telephone, e-mail, and in person. In the event of an SBD, we will assess which means of communication are still available to us, and use the means closest in speed and form (written or oral) to the means that we have used in the past to communicate with the other party. We will also employ a call tree so that senior management can reach all employees quickly during an SBD. The call tree includes all staff home and office phone numbers. Mr. Hawk and Mr. Sfyris shall be responsible to make sure that each employee is contacted.
We communicate with the SEC, FINRA, and state regulatory authorities using the telephone, e-mail, fax, U.S. mail, and in person. In the event of an SBD, we will assess which means of communication are still available to us, and use the means closest in speed and form (written or oral) to the means that we have used in the past to communicate with the other party.
X. Critical Business Constituents, Banks, and Counter-Parties
A. Business constituents
We have contacted our critical business constituents (businesses with which we have an ongoing commercial relationship in support of our operating activities, such as vendors providing us critical services), and determined the extent to which we can continue our business relationship with them in light of the internal or external SBD. We will quickly establish alternative arrangements if a business constituent can no longer provide the needed goods or services when we need them because of a SBD to them or our firm. a supplemental contract with certain critical business constituents to provide such services.
We have contacted our banks and lenders to determine if they can continue to provide the financing that we will need in light of the internal or external SBD. The bank maintaining our operating account is: State Bank and Trust Company 2380 Old Milton Pkwy Alpharetta, GA 30009.
XI. Regulatory Reporting
Our firm is subject to regulation by the SEC, FINRA, and certain state regulatory authorities. We now file reports with our regulators using paper copies in the U.S. mail, and electronically using fax, e-mail, and the Internet. In the event of an SBD, we will check with the SEC, FINRA, and other regulators to determine which means of filing are still available to us, and use the means closest in speed and form (written or oral) to our previous filing method. In the event that we cannot contact our regulators, we will continue to file required reports using the communication means available to us.
XII. Disclosure of Business Continuity Plan
We provide in writing a BCP disclosure statement to customers at account opening and annually. We also post the disclosure statement on our Web site and mail it to customers upon request.
XIII. Updates and Annual Review and Periodic Testing
Our firm will update this plan whenever we have a material change to our operations, structure, business or location or to those of our custodian. All employees will be kept abreast of any such updates. In addition, our firm will review this BCP annually, to modify it for any changes in our operations, structure, business, or location or those of our custodian.
XIV. Senior Manager Approval
I have approved this Disaster Recovery/Business Continuity Plan as reasonably designed to enable our firm to meet its obligations to customers in the event of an SBD.
W. Heath Hawk, CEO