The landscape for Registered Investment Advisers (RIAs) is constantly shifting due to a batch of regulatory and compliance trends. These changes stem from various sources, including regulatory bodies like the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and evolving investor expectations. In recent years, one of the most significant developments has been the SEC’s comprehensive overhaul of its IA Marketing Rule.

Companies must brace themselves for a wave of forthcoming SEC proposals, including several pivotal rules that will impact RIAs and are likely to be finalized shortly. In this blog post, we delve into key areas of SEC attention and propose strategies for advisers to effectively navigate this evolving regulatory landscape.

Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG)

A key trend sweeping through the RIA landscape is the growing importance of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) considerations. Investors are increasingly looking to align their investments with their individual values, and regulators are responding accordingly. The SEC is actively working on enhancing ESG-related disclosures, aiming to provide investors with more information on ESG strategies and risks associated with funds. RIAs must tread carefully, balancing their fiduciary duty with the integration of ESG factors into their investment strategies to ensure they prioritize their clients’ best interests.

Cybersecurity and Data Privacy

In an age marked by an increasing number of cyber threats and data breaches, cybersecurity and data privacy have taken center stage in regulatory priorities. The SEC has issued guidance on the cybersecurity measures RIAs should implement to safeguard client data. These measures are crucial for maintaining investor trust and complying with evolving data privacy regulations, such as the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and California’s Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), among others. RIAs, particularly those operating internationally, must now navigate these global data privacy laws, necessitating strict data protection and disclosure practices.

Moreover, the outsourcing of various functions, including compliance and technology management, has become a prevalent practice among RIAs. However, regulators are closely scrutinizing outsourcing arrangements, emphasizing the need for RIAs to maintain control and accountability over outsourced activities. The evolving regulatory landscape demands transparency and accountability in these relationships, ensuring that RIAs remain responsible for the outsourced functions.

Custody and Asset Safeguarding

Another area of heightened regulatory scrutiny is the safeguarding of client assets. The SEC’s Custody Rule sets strict requirements for RIAs that have custody of client funds and securities. Balancing these rules while efficiently managing client assets can be challenging. The Custody Rule aims to prevent potential misuse of client assets, reflecting the SEC’s commitment to investor protection.

SEC Marketing Rule

As mentioned above, the SEC’s comprehensive overhaul of its’ Marketing Rule has been one of the most significant recent regulatory developments. The new requirements, effective since November 2022, impose stringent standards on how RIAs can advertise their services. The revamped Marketing Rule prioritizes transparency, placing a significant onus on RIAs to present performance data, including hypothetical metrics, with meticulous care. Additionally, RIAs must disclose material conflicts of interest. This paradigm shift places heightened responsibility on RIAs to provide investors with accurate and informative materials that empower better decision-making.

Under the amended Marketing Rule, RIAs must be vigilant when presenting performance data. This includes hypothetical performance, which should be accompanied by clear and prominent disclosures outlining the limitations and assumptions underlying such data. RIAs must ensure that these materials do not omit material information or mislead investors.

RIA’s are starting to see enforcement actions as a result of the modernized rule. On Sept. 11, the SEC said it charged nine RIAs “for advertising hypothetical performance to the general public on their websites without adopting and/or implementing policies and procedures required by the Marketing Rule.” On Aug. 21, the SEC brought its first action related to the rule, ordering a New York-based fintech RIA to pay more than $1 million for using hypothetical performance metrics in advertisements that were misleading, among other violations.

Mutual Fund Liquidity

Finally, liquidity risk management has emerged as a critical concern, especially for RIAs managing mutual funds. The requirement for comprehensive liquidity risk management programs is intended to protect investors from potential liquidity crises, highlighting the SEC’s emphasis on maintaining market integrity.

Navigating the Challenges

These regulatory and compliance trends present a series of challenges for RIAs. Understanding these challenges is the first step in devising effective strategies to navigate this complex landscape. Compliance has grown increasingly complex, demanding ongoing efforts to stay informed about evolving rules and regulations. Smaller RIAs, in particular, may grapple with resource constraints – as compliance often involves substantial costs – including hiring compliance experts, implementing technology solutions, and dedicating staff time to compliance efforts.

Technological integration has become more crucial than ever, as regulatory technology (RegTech) plays a pivotal role in streamlining compliance processes. RIAs must embrace these tools to enhance efficiency and reduce operational burden, all while ensuring the security of sensitive data. The risk of enforcement actions looms for non-compliance, potentially leading to fines and reputational damage. To protect their clients and their businesses, RIAs must proactively manage compliance risks.

Strategies for RIAs

Despite these challenges, RIAs have several strategies at their disposal to successfully navigate the evolving regulatory landscape. Developing comprehensive compliance programs is essential. These programs should encompass all relevant regulations and include robust documentation and regular audits to identify and rectify compliance gaps.

Moreover, leveraging technology solutions can streamline compliance processes and reduce operational burdens. RegTech tools for regulatory reporting and monitoring can enhance efficiency, allowing RIAs to allocate their resources more effectively.

Investing in compliance expertise is another crucial aspect. RIAs may consider hiring compliance officers or partnering with compliance consulting firms. Continuous training for staff ensures that everyone is aligned with compliance requirements, minimizing the risk of costly mistakes.

Proactively identifying and managing compliance risks is paramount. RIAs should conduct risk assessments and implement controls to mitigate potential issues before they escalate. Engaging with regulators and maintaining open lines of communication can provide valuable insights and guidance, ensuring RIAs remain compliant and informed about regulatory updates.

Connecting the Dots

In conclusion, the regulatory and compliance trends impacting RIAs underscore the evolving landscape in which these advisers operate. The SEC’s Marketing Rule overhaul, the growing importance of ESG considerations, cybersecurity and data privacy concerns, outsourcing regulations, custody rules, and liquidity risk management requirements are all contributing to a complex and intricate compliance environment. While smaller RIAs may face resource constraints, compliance excellence is central to their mission. Through comprehensive compliance programs, technological integration, expertise, proactive risk management, and engagement with regulators, RIAs can successfully navigate these challenges. In doing so, they play a pivotal role in maintaining trust in the financial industry, where investor protection and market integrity are paramount.

How RegEd Can Help

RegEd’s Regulatory Change Management is a workflow-enabled enterprise software solution that provides firms with everything they need to be aware of, comply with, and demonstrate compliance with all relevant regulatory changes. To complement the solution, RegEd’s Regulatory team comprised of more than 30 regulatory experts with over 300 years of combined knowledge and experience in the insurance and/or securities industries, delivers regulatory change analysis for new and amended rules that is easily digestible for compliance and business units.

The Regulatory Change Management offering helps firms manage regulatory change through the delivery of actionable content, in a closed-loop process, across the enterprise. This strengthens the firm’s compliance program, lowers compliance costs, and reduces non-compliance risk.

Schedule a consultation to learn how RegEd’s Regulatory Change Management solution helps compliance leaders:

  • Allow internal resources to focus on high-value work
  • Improve relationships with business units
  • Ensure Policies & Procedures are in line with regulatory requirements
  • Achieve peace of mind knowing that regulatory changes are monitored, communicated and implemented
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