Ethics Center: Sales & Marketing

Advisor Alert: RIAs Catch Break on SEC's Form ADV Requirements

If you’re a registered investment advisor worried about providing the new required Form ADV data, relax. You just caught a break from the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The problem arose when advisors asked about how to handle the new ADV information when they wished to make an ADV change other than their normal annual amendments. They worried that those who might need to file an address change, request a new private fund identification number, or update a Form ADV Part 2A brochure for the IARD system, for example, would then have to add the new required information at that point. This was a problem because the new information would not normally be available until the full Form ADV amendment date next year.

The new Form ADV data includes regulatory assets under management coming from various client types, whether the RIA uses an outsourced chief compliance officer, and further details about the firm’s 25 largest branch offices. The rule, which will go into effect on October 1, 2017, also requires RIAs to disclose their social media pages.

Under the SEC’s recently announced flexibility, RIAs who need to make an “other-than-annual-amendment” change to their ADVs after October 1 can do so without submitting the new required information. The agency said they can simply enter 0’s in the data field where applicable and provide an explanation in the miscellaneous section of Schedule D.

Then they can provide the new required information when they file their annual amendment in 2017.

“For a firm that does need to make an update before the annual update, it is a big deal,” Amy Lynch, president of FrontLine Compliance, told InvestmentNews.com. “They don’t need to go back and do the calculations of assets and the breakdown that would be required” in 2018.

Other industry experts have cautioned advisors not to read too much into the agency’s flexibility. The updated ADV rule itself has not changed, and RIAs need to start pulling the new information together for submission with their normal 2018 Form ADV filing.

The new ADV requirements are the most sweeping since 2010, when the agency moved from a “check-the-box” approach to a more narrative, detailed way of describing an RIA firm. As with most regulatory shifts, changes often have unintended consequences that leave advisors scrambling to stay on top of their compliance obligations. In this case, the SEC responded by giving advisors some flexibility on certain data points as they prepare for full compliance at their next full Form ADV amendment date.

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