FINRA, or the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, created BrokerCheck as a free, online research tool that provides information about individual brokers, brokerage firms and investment advisor firms. The database contains details like registrations, employment history – and any criminal matters, regulatory actions and civil judiciary proceedings complaints.
BrokerCheck is a good tool for getting basic info about a given firm. If you’re looking to find advisors in your area, though, you can also use our financial advisor matching tool to get matched with advisors who meet your needs.
What Is FINRA BrokerCheck, and How Do You Use It?
FINRA is the organization that oversees the database that is BrokerCheck. This non-government agency was created by Congress to make sure that the securities industry operates honestly and fairly. Every broker licensed to conduct securities transactions in the United States must register with FINRA.
Choosing a broker, investment advisor or financial advisor is not a decision to be taken lightly. Not only are you trusting this person and company with the management of your money, you’re also picking someone who you ideally believe will help you create a strong financial plan or investment portfolio.
Here to help is FINRA BrokerCheck, which aids you in determining if you can trust a particular person who you’re considering to help manage your assets. Through this extensive database, you can make sure that the broker or investment advisor you’re working with is licensed. You can also review their qualifications and check if they have any disclosures on their record. These disclosures are incredibly important to check, as they might provide some insight into whether this person has broken legal or regulatory rules in the past.
To find the individual or firm you’re looking for, enter their central registration depository (CRD) number. You can get this number from the broker or advisor themselves, or you can simply search by their name and firm.
Most information on FINRA BrokerCheck comes from two sources: the Central Registration Depository (CRD) and the Investment Adviser Registration Depository (IARD). CRD provides information about registered and licensed brokers, while IARD uses information from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for information about investment advisors.
What You Can Find About Brokers on BrokerCheck
FINRA BrokerCheck offers a wealth of actionable information on brokers, investment advisors and firms that are currently registered with FINRA or who have been within the previous 10 years. You can find the following information on brokers through BrokerCheck:
- Report Summary
- This involves a brief overview of the broker’s current job functions and credentials.
- Qualifications and Licenses
- This section will tell you about the broker’s various registrations and licenses. It also contains a list of any qualification exams he or she has passed to gain wider access to the securities industry. In order to be licensed to trade most securities, a broker must pass the Series 7 exam.
- Registration and Employment History
- From this section, you’ll learn about the broker’s employment history over the last 10 years. These may include jobs outside the securities industry, but they generally don’t. It also provides a listing of registered securities firms where the broker is or has been registered with.
- This part contains information about whether the broker underwent disciplinary action, customer disputes or criminal offenses. If present, some of these disclosures may involve matters that are pending action or have yet to be resolved. It also contains the broker’s most recently submitted comments on these matters, if there are any.
Brokerage Firm Information on FINRA BrokerCheck
While you’ll surely want to learn about the advisor or broker you may work with, the firm itself matters, too. Learning about the firm may give you some insight into the kinds of overarching practices your advisor/broker engages in. Much of the firm information found on BrokerCheck may overlap with what’s available for a broker, but things are typically more general. Check out what you’ll find below:
- Report Summary
- From this section, you’ll learn about the firm’s services and history. It also shows where the firm is licensed to operate and its addresses. Additionally, you can access the link to the firm’s SEC profile if it is an investment advisor in addition to a brokerage.
- Firm Profile
- This part contains a detailed breakdown of the firm’s structure. It includes the firm’s founding date and the names and titles of its largest shareholders and leaders.
- Firm History
- This section tracks the firm’s moves from establishment to the present. It details any mergers, acquisitions, name changes and similar actions.
- Firm Operations
- This part describes the services the firm offers, along with any licenses and registrations it holds.
Information Available on Investment Advisors and Firm
The FINRA BrokerCheck database doesn’t contain detailed information about investment advisors and firms, but it directs you to the Investment Advisor Public Disclosure (IAPD) database that is administered by the SEC. You can look up a firm or individual by name or CRD number.
For most advisors and firms, you’ll find a Form ADV and one or more informational brochures. Every advisor registered with the SEC must file and update the Form ADV at least annually. This document provides a glance at information like business practices, types of clients served, disciplinary disclosures and much more. Brochures provide more intricate details, such as:
- Advisory Business
- This part explains the types of services the advisor or firm provides to its clients. It also goes over who owns the firm and how long it has been in business.
- Fees and Compensation
- This section provides a detailed breakdown of the fees the firm or the individual charges for each kind of service rendered. Keep an eye out here for any conflicts of interest that may be involved with said fees.
- Other Financial Industry Activities and Affiliations
- This provides crucial, but often overlooked, research material for a potential client. It details whether its business practices with other firms may affect the fees it would charge you, and whether these collaborations may pose a potential conflict of interest. For example, a firm or individual working for the firm may receive commissions from other firms for recommending its products.
Other Resources for Researching Brokerages
Depending on what other information you’re looking for, there are a few other databases that you can use during your research process. For example, the FINRA Disciplinary Actions Online database offers further insights into the legal issues and disclosures that a broker, brokerage or advisor may have been involved in. This database only records disciplinary actions from 2005 and on.
Another resource is FINRA’s Arbitration Awards database. It can provide some insights into disputes the brokerage or broker has had with clients that have been resolved through arbitration or mediation. To locate case reports through this database, you’ll need to know a relevant case number, keyword or name and the the type of case it is.
FINRA BrokerCheck is an effective research tool for vetting brokers, brokerages or investment advisor firms. It provides information like a professional’s qualifications, fee structure and disciplinary disclosures if any. The database serves as a one-stop-shop for these details and more. Of course, you can also access additional resources like the databases and websites of your own state securities regulators.
Tips for Finding a Financial Advisor to Work With
- Looking for a financial advisor in your area? Finding the right advisor for your financial needs doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
- FINRA BrokerCheck can serve as a great starting point when vetting brokers or advisors. To help, we’ve produced one of the best overviews of the various online brokerage accounts available to you. So if you want to start investing on your own, be sure to pick the account that’s best suited to your needs.
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