Hello everyone and welcome to this month’s Ask the CFP segment. This month’s question is, “How do I check a financial advisor’s background?” You may be surprised to learn that it’s fairly easy to look up information on financial advisors because of regulations that require public disclosure. I’m not talking about looking up parking tickets or court cases. I’m talking about public information regarding a financial professional’s licenses, years of experience, affiliations and more.

First, it’s important to know that most financial professionals are regulated by one of two regulators – FINRA or the SEC. It may seem confusing, but some professionals are regulated by both. FINRA is involved in regulating brokers that hold special licenses that allow for commissions on investments. The SEC is involved in regulating investment advisors that generally charge fees for their services. Some professionals are both investment advisors and brokers, which we call hybrid advisors.

Both FINRA and the SEC have free websites the public can use to look up information on advisors. If an advisor is regulated by both FINRA and the SEC, they’ll have information on both sites. The FINRA site is BrokerCheck.finra.org. If you find a broker on that site, you’ll see their licenses, the firms they’re affiliated with, states where they’re registered, employment history, designations and even notices on customer complaints or regulatory issues. If an advisor isn’t a broker or they’re no longer a broker, there may not be much or any information on the brokercheck website. The SEC’s website for investment advisors is adviserinfo.sec.gov. This site provides similar information, but for hybrid advisors or those that are strictly investment advisors. You can see licenses, employment history, designations, outside business activity and more.

This kind of information may help you understand how much experience an advisor has, their affiliations to other firms and how they may be compensated based on their licenses. If an advisor is also a Certified Financial PlannerTM or CFP®, you can check their standing with the CFP® board by going to CFP.net and clicking on the ethics section and then enforcement. Overall, I find many people aren’t aware of these free resources, so if you’re speaking with an advisor for the first time, make sure to check these sites.

If you have a question about this topic or have a question for next month’s video, please send it to TFreeman@MonetaGroup.com. Thanks for watching and we’ll see you next month.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. Please speak with a qualified tax or legal professional before making any changes to your personal situation.

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