Registered Investment Advisor. Implementation

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1 Registered Investment Advisor Implementation

2 Let s begin with dissecting the term Registered Investment Advisor(RIA). First on tap is the understanding of the term Investment Advisors. An investment adviser is an individual or a firm that is in the business of giving advice about securities to clients. A client may be an individual, a business, institutions and endowments, or other RIA s. The firm is in the business of giving advice or the management of the assets and they hold themselves out as such. They cannot be a business that does this as a side-line. For example, they cannot be a dry cleaner who gives investment advice on the side. Some investment advisers only manage portfolios of securities and they are usually referred to as Investment Managers. Now that we understand what an Investment Advisor is, let s move on to the word Registered. The Registered Investment Adviser (RIA) is an Investment Adviser that is registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or a state s securities agency. A Registered Investment Advisor is defined by the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 as a person or firm that, for compensation, is engaged in the act of providing advice, making recommendations, issuing reports or furnishing analyses on securities, either directly or through publications. A Registered Investment Advisor has a fiduciary duty to his or her clients, which means that he or she has a fundamental obligation to provide suitable investment advice and always act in the clients best interests. The numerous references to RIAs within the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 popularized the term, which is closely associated with the term Investment Advisor (spelled Investment Adviser in U.S. financial law). That is a little confusing, but doesn t change the meaning. The law states that if you are in the business of giving advice and managing assets, you must register, if you meet certain criteria. People or firms that get paid to give advice about investing in securities generally must register with either the SEC or the state securities agency where they have their principal place of business. In general, RIAs managing assets totaling less than $100 million must register with the state securities agency in the state where they have their principal place of business. Many RIAs work with complex portfolios requiring highly customized investment management, strategy, and consultation. Many of their clients are considered affluent and sophisticated financially. However, that is not a requirement of the Investment Advisors Act of Many RIAs are owned by the individual advisors

3 who run them. The usual and customary practice is that they provide advice and services for a fee based on a percentage of their client s assets. And most importantly, they have a fiduciary duty to act in the best interest of their clients. An Investment Advisor must adhere to a fiduciary standard of care laid out in the Investment Advisers Act of This standard requires them to act and serve a client s best interests with the intent to eliminate, or at least to expose, all potential conflicts of interest. The difference between an investment adviser and a financial planner is that most financial planners are investment advisers, but not all investment advisers are financial planners. Some financial planners assess every aspect of your financial life including saving, investments, insurance, taxes, retirement, and estate planning and help you develop a detailed strategy or financial plan for meeting all your financial goals. To find out about an investment adviser and whether it is properly registered, read its registration form, called Form ADV. Form ADV has two parts. Part 1 contains information about the adviser s business and whether the adviser has had problems with regulators or clients. Part 2 sets out the minimum requirements for a written disclosure statement, commonly referred to as the brochure, which advisers must provide to prospective clients initially and to offer it to existing clients annually. The brochure describes, in a narrative format, the adviser s business practices, fees, conflicts of interest, and disciplinary information. You can get copies of Form ADV by accessing the Investment Adviser Public Disclosure (IAPD) website at The Dodd-Frank Act and SEC rules increased the threshold above which all investment advisers must register with the SEC from $30 million to $110 million of AUM. Prior to July 2011, an investment adviser regulated by the state in which it maintained its principal office and place of business generally was prohibited from registering with the SEC unless the adviser had at least $25 million of AUM, and was required to register with the SEC once it had at least $30 million of AUM. Now, investment advisers with less than $110 million of AUM may be prohibited from registering with the SEC, depending on the size of the adviser s AUM and whether the adviser meets other requirements.

4 This action was taken primarily to reduce the work load of the SEC so they could concentrate on the big fish like the Bernie Madoffs of the world, and it allows the state regulators to become more familiar with the RIAs in their states. This means that state securities authorities will have primary regulatory authority over a substantial number of investment advisers that previously were subject to primary regulation by the SEC. Larger investment advisers, generally, those with over $100 million of AUM, will continue to be registered with the SEC and will be subject to federal regulation (state investment adviser laws requiring registration, licensing, and qualification have been preempted for these advisers).

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