Some investors do not understand the financial services industry’s licensing requirements and regulations. As a result, these investors may be reluctant to work with financial advisors siting confusion on this and other industry related topics which may lead to mistrust and skepticism.
In an attempt to give some clarity, I recommend that investors visit the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s (FINRA) website. This is a non-government, not for profit organization that works to make sure the securities industry operates fairly and honestly. Financial advisors are expected to act in the client’s best interest. In my opinion, this comes down to two points as stated by the SEC:
- The financial advisor must avoid conflicts of interest.
- The financial advisor is prohibited from overreaching or taking unfair advantage of a client’s trust.
Financial advisors are not supposed to pitch products, strategies or securities transactions with the idea that “this will be a win-win for both of us.” The client’s best interest comes first and it is the only interest that matters. That’s the type of financial advisor we all would want to have as our partner.
To learn more about the professional backgrounds of brokers, brokerage firms, investment advisor firms and advisors visit the BrokerCheck page of FINRA’s website. BrokerCheck can tell you if an individual is registered, provide an overview of their employment history, exams they have passed, state licenses held, as well as any customer complaints, regulatory actions and/or criminal convictions reported.
The SEC has recently approved a rule that will require all brokerage firms and investment advisors to include a link to BrokerCheck on their website. This rule will probably go in effect sometime in 2016. I have already added the link to my BrokerCheck profile on my website.
To help understand how the financial services industry and the people that work in it are regulated, I strongly encourage all investors to visit FINRA’s website.
By Debbie Craig, CFP®, MBA, CRPS®