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Financial Advisor Marketing Compliance Checklist


Compliance is something that affects virtually every area of your business, and it can be challenging to keep up with the continually evolving regulations. It’s particularly important to be aware of your responsibilities when marketing your advisory business, both online and offline. Having a go-to advisor marketing compliance checklist can help you and your firm follow the required rules.

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Understanding Financial Advisor Marketing Compliance Rules

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC), among others, issue compliance rules for financial advisors, including ones that apply to marketing. FINRA governs registered broker-dealers, while the SEC regulates broker-dealers and registered investment advisors (RIAs).

Some of the most important financial advisor marketing compliance requirements center on:

  • Avoiding misleading, false or unsubstantiated claims
  • Presentation of fair and balanced information
  • Use of client testimonials or endorsements from non-clients
  • Hypothetical performance reporting
  • Recordkeeping and archiving
  • Use of third-party ratings
  • Inclusion of required disclosures
  • Identification of sources

SEC Rule 204-2 covers books and recordkeeping, while Rule 206(4)-1 deals with advisor marketing compliance.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) enforces marketing rules that apply to business owners in general, including financial advisors. For example, the CAN-SPAM Act requires businesses that use email marketing to obtain consent to add someone to their list and remove them promptly should a recipient choose to opt-out.

Whether you market your firm through one channel or many, it’s important to ensure compliance in all of your communications with current and prospective clients.

Advisor Marketing Compliance Checklist

Advisors reviewing their financial advisor marketing compliance checklist.

Periodically reviewing your marketing plan gives you an opportunity to spot potential compliance issues. The checklist below may prove helpful when auditing an existing marketing strategy or creating a new one:

  1. Do communications meet the standard of an advertisement, as defined by the SEC’s marketing rule?
  2. Are communications fair, balanced and complete, with no omission of material facts or information?
  3. Does any marketing material include false, misleading, promissory, exaggerated or unsubstantiated claims that your firm cannot verify?
  4. Do you make any attempts to predict or project investment performance?
  5. Do performance representations include both gross and net results?
  6. If you’re sharing information from third parties, have you identified the source of that information?
  7. If you’re sharing information from third parties, have you verified that it does not include any misleading or false claims?
  8. Do the statements you provide regarding specific services or products offer a fair and balanced treatment of both the risks and rewards?
  9. Have you identified your target audience and are your marketing communications appropriate for that audience?
  10. Have you included required disclosures when sharing client testimonials or endorsements from non-clients?
  11. Do you have a written agreement in place with promoters who offer testimonials or endorsements?
  12. If an advertisement includes third-party ratings or reviews, have you completed the required due diligence and included appropriate disclosures?
  13. Do your communications include information that would reasonably be likely to cause an untrue or misleading implication or inference regarding a material fact that relates to you or your firm?

These questions pertain to your marketing content, but there are other things you’ll have to keep in mind in order to remain compliant. As you complete your checklist, remember to weigh the following:

  • Are you maintaining records of marketing communications, including social media content and email newsletters?
  • Do you have a written policy in place regarding marketing, including social media use?
  • If you’re marketing via email, do you have the recipient’s consent to send messages?
  • Are you properly disclosing any affiliate relationships when marketing financial products or services sold by someone else?

It’s also important to ensure compliance when using automated marketing or lead generation tools to promote your business. SmartAsset AMP, for instance, is a digital marketing tool that helps advisors connect with qualified leads while being fully compliant with SEC Rule 206(4)-1.

Financial Advisor Marketing Compliance Mistakes to Avoid

Compliance rules cover a lot of ground, and it can be helpful to focus on some of the broader themes that can help you ensure compliance as you market your business. Some of the biggest mistakes advisors should avoid include:

  • Failing to fact-check information from third-party links to ensure accuracy.
  • Presenting information that only highlights the benefits of a product or service, without telling clients about the risks.
  • Not disclosing any compensation paid to clients in exchange for testimonials.
  • Offering hypothetical performance results without implementing policies and procedures that are reasonably designed to ensure performance is relevant to the situation being presented.
  • Not keeping accurate and up-to-date records of marketing communications.
  • Failing to mitigate compliance violations promptly.

Compliance violations should be taken seriously. The SEC is increasingly cracking down on firms that fail to adhere to marketing regulations and subjecting them to substantial fines. Your chief compliance officer (CCO) should be keeping an eye on new rules as they’re issued, as well as trends that could affect the compliance landscape.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the marketing rule for financial advisors?

SEC Rule 206(4)-1 is a rule governing marketing practices and compliance for registered investment advisors and broker-dealers. This rule prohibits advisors from sharing misleading or unsubstantiated claims and requires them to present information in a fair and balanced manner. SEC rules also require advisors to maintain accurate records of marketing communications.

Are Financial Advisors Allowed to Advertise?

Financial advisors are allowed to advertise their services through a multitude of channels, including:

  • Social media
  • Email newsletters
  • Direct mail
  • Local advertising
  • Digital ads

A comprehensive marketing plan can help advisors determine which advertising methods are likely to produce the most favorable results.

Where Should Financial Advisors Advertise?

Deciding where to advertise your services ultimately hinges on who you’re trying to reach and where they’re most likely to see the message your brand sends. Some of the most popular marketing channels for financial advisors include YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok. Advisors can also market their businesses via a professional website or blog, podcasts, and digital and print ads.

Bottom Line

Having an advisor marketing compliance checklist can help you avoid landing on the wrong side of regulatory agencies.

Actively marketing your business can help fuel your long-term growth if you’re able to gain exposure to a larger base of potential clients. Reviewing compliance guidelines and having an advisor marketing compliance checklist can help you avoid landing on the wrong side of regulatory agencies as you promote your business.

Tips for Growing Your Advisory Business

  • Automation can make marketing easier and less time-consuming, allowing you to focus on other important tasks. SmartAsset AMP helps you match with qualified leads while providing you with the tools you need to nurture relationships on autopilot. Schedule a free demo today to learn how you can leverage this marketing platform to grow your business.
  • Technology can be a huge help in creating a compliant marketing strategy. For instance, AI tools can be useful in generating search engine-optimized compliant content for social media platforms or a blog attached to your website. Any time that you save, can be redirected toward serving your existing clients.

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