It's the call that makes firms cringe—the one in which a regulator announces it is coming for a branch office visit.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has put more firms on notice that they should expect their branch office doorbells to ring frequently. In the past two years, the regulator has changed its approach when conducting examinations, favoring branch office inspections over the home office visits that it used to emphasize, said Susan Axelrod, executive vice president of regulatory operations at FINRA. She made the comment at the group's annual conference in May in Washington, D.C.

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