One of the most important decisions investors will make is choosing an independent financial advisor. In today’s complex world of investing, they may have a difficult time making a confident, informed decision. Fortunately, a simple search on FINRA’s BrokerCheck provides access to important public information on independent financial advisors and their firms, such as if they are registered or licensed.
The BrokerCheck website is very user friendly and accessing the information requires just a few simple steps. Once on the website (http://www.finra.org/BrokerCheck/), click the “start search” button. You will then be prompted to accept the terms and conditions. After reviewing the information, check the box and click continue. Next, enter the name of an independent financial advisor or firm, select the proper type of search, and click “start search.” Type in the authentication code and click continue. Lastly, look through the search results for the specific individual or firm and click on their name. This will generate a summary report. You have the option of a detailed report by clicking on the blue button on the top left.
For an independent financial advisor, the BrokerCheck report provides important information broken up into three main sections: (1) Qualifications, (2) Registration and Employment History, and (3) Disclosure of Customer Disputes, Disciplinary, and Regulatory Events. Where an independent financial advisor is licensed and can do business is covered under Qualifications. Next, the Registration and Employment History section lists previous firms where the independent financial advisor held FINRA registrations along with a 10 year employment history. Lastly, the Disclosure of Customer Disputes, Disciplinary, and Regulatory Events section details events reported about an independent financial advisor to FINRA’s Central Registration Depository (“CRD”), the central licensing and registration system for the U.S. securities industry and its regulators. “Examples of such disclosure events include formal investigations and disciplinary actions initiated by regulators, customer disputes, certain criminal charges and/or convictions, as well as financial disclosures, such as bankruptcies and unpaid judgments or liens.”
The BrokerCheck report for firms is set up much like the independent financial advisor report. Differences include: basic business information such as how the firm is classified (i.e. corporation, LLC, etc.), and a listing of the different business activities the firm conducts.
FINRA will soon make it even easier for investors to find information on independent financial advisors and firms by expanding the BrokerCheck database and to include investment advisor disclosures (if applicable), adding the ability to search by location, and adding educational content. The public is encouraged to weigh in with comments through FINRA’s website by April 27, 2012. Updates to the BrokerCheck site are expected by July 2012.
For more information on Summit Brokerage Services, visit www.joinsummit.com or contact us at (800) 354-5528.