June 27, 2016

CCO Series: Top Regulatory Deficiencies for RIAs -- Advisory Agreements

What you need to know

Examiners will review agreements that the advisor uses for its client engagements during an examination as a standard request item. This will include a review of the agreement templates that you use for your prospective clients and a sample of agreements that your firm has executed with existing clients. In reviewing agreements examiners report finding two common deficiencies: 1) the fees are not fully disclosed in the agreement and 2) that firms do not have an executed copy of its client agreements in the advisor’s books and records.

Common Deficiency: Fees fully disclosed

The written advisory agreement must detail the relationship that the client is entering into with the advisor, including how fees are calculated and the payment methodology. The fees section of the agreement must be comprehensive to cover all fees being charged for the services, when the fees are being charged, and how they are to be paid. The information in the client agreement should also align with the general disclosure of fees made in Form ADV Part 2A Disclosure Brochure in Item 5. Any additional compensation that the firm receives in its advisory practice should also be described in Form ADV Part 2A in Item 14.

Common Deficiency: Books and records

Advisors are required to keep and maintain all written agreements (or copies thereof) entered into by the advisor with any client.1Examiners are reporting to the North American Securities Administrators Association that advisors are not creating written agreements for all of their client relationships. They also noted that when written agreements are created, the agreements are not clearly noting, and adequately explaining, the advisory fees as described above.2

How do we avoid these deficiencies?

To avoid these deficiencies at your firm AdvisorAssist recommends the best practices of:

  • Reviewing the language in your Form ADV Part 2A Disclosure Brochure to ensure that it adequately discloses for each type of fee the following:
    1. How fees accrue for each service offered.
    2. How fees are billed to the clients.
    3. Whether the advisory fees include other fees, such as brokerage trading fees.
    4. How fees are impacted by contract termination, such as a pro-rata refund if collected in advance.
    5. Whether the fees represent any compensation for the sales of securities or other conflicts of interest.
  • For each new client onboarded, ensure that a written agreement is executed for the services that the client will receive and the fee is consistent with Form ADV Part 2A.
  • Review client agreement[s] templates and Form ADV Part 2A at least annually to ensure that the fees described are consistent and fully disclosed.

1. See 17 CFR §275.204-2(a)(10). Link.
2. See North American Securities Administrators Association, “2015 Investment Adviser Coordinated Exams,”. Link.

AdvisorAssist’s CCO Series: Regulatory Deficiencies for RIAs is a series of articles that will help your firm understand and avoid the most common compliance deficiencies found by regulators. Our goal is to help you increase your confidence that your firm remains “exam ready” as well as some practical steps to help Chief Compliance Officers address this topic.

Brendan Furey
Michael Conlon


Post a Comment