August 31, 2015

CCO Series (2015) - Financial Statements

The financial statements that you maintain for your RIA firm, which include income statements, balance sheets, statements of cash flows, are powerful tools. Apart from the fact that they are a required to be maintained for books and records purposes, the data that they contain hold the key many other critical regulatory and practice management activities.

RIA Financial Statements In a Nutshell

Maintaining complete and accurate financials on your business simply makes good business sense. However, our primary purpose here is the maintenance of financial statements for compliance purposes, which may include:

  • Balance Sheet and Income Statement
  • Cash Journals - Documentation including cash receipts and disbursements, records, and any other records of original entry forming the basis of entries in any ledger
  • Banking Information - All checkbooks, bank statements, cancelled checks and cash reconciliations for your firm
  • Business Expenses - All bills or statements (paid or unpaid) relating to the business of your firm
  • Other Financial Statements - All trial balances, financial statements, and internal audit working papers relating to the business of the firm

While maintaining proper financial statements is required in order to avoid regulatory sanctions, it can also be a useful tool for RIAs. Creating and reviewing financial statements on a regular basis can prove to be an indicator of the health of the firm. The financial statements can demonstrate that the firm is performing as intended and disclosed, or act as a tool to show areas where it can improve. Ensuring financial stability of a firm is an important step in gaining client and regulatory confidence. Proving to be solvent and possess secure financials could be the difference between gaining and losing clients, or spending more time with regulators during an exam.

State Specific Requirements

Many of the regulations regarding financial statements for RIAs are dependent on the advisor’s principal state of business. Along with SEC Regulators requiring specific actions regarding financial statements, each state also has specific requirements on the issue. As an advisor it is important to recognize your specific state’s requirements in order to avoid unnecessary regulatory issues. Currently, there are states that require audited financial statements to be sent to their state regulatory agency each year. This applies only if the firm is registered with the state, and does not apply to SEC firms.

It is important to stay updated on your specific state’s requirements in order to avoid unnecessary regulatory issues. Depending on the state, there may be minimum net worth requirements that are to be demonstrated through the financial statements. Where applicable, your firm’s books and records archive should contain the necessary financial statements and audit results.

Custody’s Additional Burdens

When an advisor claims custody of their clients’ assets, there are additional rules and regulations to be aware of in regards to Financial Statements. Advisors that also act as Custodians may be required to submit an audited balance sheet at the end of the their fiscal year. This balance sheet must be prepared in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), and audited by a certified public accountant (CPA). The audit must also include the accountant’s opinion and other qualified notes regarding the firm’s financials. Custodian advisors must also provide clients with a quarterly account statement that outlines all of the activity of their funds in the given period.

Through the Regulator's Eyes

Regulators expect RIA firms to maintain updated financial statements that are created in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). Regulators have put an emphasis on monitoring the financial statements of newly-registered advisors. If they are not completed correctly, it is a sign that a further examination is needed. Compliant financial statements prove to the regulators that the firm is running effectively. Proper maintenance and submission, if required, of updated financial statements is one key way to avoid regulatory sanctions.

CCO Best Practices

  • Do not approach financial statements as just a way to avoid regulatory sanctions. They are important at spotting financial irregularities which might benefit you.
  • Utilize financial statements as a powerful tool to indicate advisory effectiveness and compliance.
  • Always stay informed of specific state requirements, which may differ from SEC and other states’ regulations, for example:
    • Alabama and New York require audited financial statements regardless of custody.
    • If the firm claims custody, the following states require annual audited financial statements: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Washington D.C, Florida, Hawaii, New Mexico and Oregon.
    • Other states may not require financial statements to be submitted at all.
  • Maintain accurate financial statements, in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP).
  • Claiming custody of clients’ assets will require an audit by an independent public accountant registered with, and subject to regular inspection by, the PCAOB.

The AdvisorAssist CCO Series is a collection of blog posts that cover each of the elements of your RIA's compliance program.  Each post will provide an overview of one compliance topic, including our insights on how regulators view each topic as well as some practical steps to help Chief Compliance Officers address this topic. As always, we would welcome your comments and thoughts.

Michael Conlon


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