Becoming a Financial Advisor in Colorado

To become a financial advisor in Colorado, you’ll either act as founder of a new investment adviser (IA) firm or register as an investment adviser representative (IAR) with one of the firms already serving clients in the state. This easy to follow guide explains the process for both founding principals and firm representatives registered at either the state level with the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies, Division of Securities or at the federal level with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

All investment adviser firms, their owners, and representatives who work with residents of Colorado must act in accordance with Colorado’s statutes and rules.

Step 1. Get Your Education

Enroll in an appropriate degree program. Prospective clients and regulatory agencies routinely verify licenses and educational background of independent advisor and investment adviser representatives through the Investment Adviser Public Disclosure (IAPD). Most professionals who market financial planning and investment advisory services in Colorado hold bachelor’s or master’s degrees.

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Degrees commonly held by financial advisors include:

  • BA-Accounting
  • BA-Consumer and Family Financial Services
  • BS-Accounting
  • MS-Accounting
  • MS-Finance
  • MS-Personal Financial Planning
  • MBA-Accounting and Finance
  • MBA-Finance
  • PhD-Accounting

Register for the right courses. Your education will prepare you to be an expert in financial markets and personal finance. Some of the courses you’re likely to encounter in one of these degree programs:

  • Business law
  • Behavior of organizations, persons and groups
  • Business ethics
  • Business communications
  • Economics
  • Finance
  • Computer information systems
  • Marketing
  • Management
  • Statistics
  • Quantitative applications in business
  • Accounting
  • Taxation

Some financial advisors choose to pursue specialized professional certification. These designations require meeting eligibility requirements that include either a minimum level of formal education or a minimum number of years of business and financial services industry experience. Because of the standards maintained by these certifying bodies, the Colorado Division of Securities and the SEC waive additional exam requirements for independent IA firm and IAR applicants that hold one of the following certifications:

  • Certified Financial Planner (CFP) awarded by Certified Planner Board of Standards, Inc. requires either CPA, CFA, CLU credentials, being a licensed attorney, holding a doctorate in business administration, or transcript review of bachelor’s program or completing a CFP registered program.
  • Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) awarded by American Institute of CPAs requires a bachelor’s degree at minimum and a state-issued CPA license.
  • Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) awarded by The American College requires at least three years of business experience.
  • Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) awarded by CFA Institute requires a bachelor’s degree at minimum but can be pursued by students in their last year of undergraduate studies.
  • Certified Investment Management Consultant (CIMC) previously awarded by Investment Management Consultants Association, this program is no longer available to new enrollees as the Association is no longer in existence.
  • Certified Investment Management Analyst (CIMA) awarded by Investment Management Consultants Association requires a minimum of three years experience in the financial services industry.
  • Chartered Investment Counselor (CIC) was previously awarded by Investment Council Association, this program is no longer available to new applicants.

Step 2: Register Your Firm in Colorado

(This section applies to advisors establishing independent firms. If you’ll be going to work for an established firm, skip to step 3)

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If you’re going to operate an independent practice, you will need to file the paperwork to register the Investment Adviser (IA) firm. This will be completed through the Investment Adviser Registration Depository (IARD). The database is administered by FINRA and is used by both state-registered investment advisers and SEC-registered investment advisers.

    1. Apply for and obtain access to FINRA’s Web-based systems by completing hard copy Entitlement Forms and sending them to the address listed below.

Attn: Registration and Disclosure Department
9509 Key West Avenue
Rockville, MD 20850

Your firm will designate a Super Accountant Administrator (SAA) during this process, and after approval, the SAA may access the FINRA Firm Gateway to complete the remaining steps.

  1. Fund CRD general account from which all fees will be paid:
    • Colorado firm registration fees is $60
    • Colorado IAR registration is $10 each
    • Registration fees for additional states whose residents your firm will serve
    • Initial fees owed to the IARD system:
      • $40 for new firm with less than $25 million in assets under management
      • $150 for new firm with between $25 million and $100 million in assets under management
      • $225 for new firm will more than $100 million in assets under management (Federal SEC registered firms)
  2. Register all of the firm’s representatives, including yourself if you will act as an IAR for the firm. Submit Form U-4 Uniform Application for Securities Registration or Transfer, through the Central Registration Depository (CRD). This serves as an exam application for firm representatives, as well as Colorado state and SEC registration.
  3. Complete Form ADV and submit it electronically through the IARD. This serves as a registration application for the firm itself for both Colorado state and SEC registrants.
  4. Mail sample contracts to The state Division of Securities at 1560 Broadway, Suite 900, Denver, CO 80202

Step 3: Take the Required Exams

The Colorado Division of Securities and the SEC will waive exam requirements for applicants that have earned one of the following professional designations:

  • Certified Financial Planner (CFP)
  • Personal Financial Specialist (PFS)
  • Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC)
  • Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)
  • Certified Investment Management Consultant (CIMC)
  • Certified Investment Management Analyst (CIMA)
  • Chartered Investment Counselor (CIC)
    1. Complete the test application Form U-4 Uniform Application for Securities Registration or Transfer. Your employing firm will submit it through the Central Registration Depository.

When your exam application has been approved you will be notified of your ability to register for one of the required exams:


Step 4: Ongoing Renewal and Update Requirements in Colorado

Investment Advisor Firm:
Renewal in Colorado is done through the >Investment Adviser Registration Depository. Investment adviser firm principals and representatives that have passed the Series 65 do not have any ongoing continuing education requirements. Annual updates to the ADV are required and renewal fees need to be paid in all states where the firm is registered by December 31st each year. Renewal fees need to be paid for all states in which the firm and its representatives are registered. Colorado’s renewal fees are $60 for the firm and $10 for each IAR within the firm. Additional IARD renewal fees are $100 total.

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Investment Adviser Representatives:
Depository. IARs are expected to keep their Form U-4 current. As a firm principal, you will make these updates yourself. Employees must alert the Super Account Administrator of amendments, which must be made within 30 days of any changes to the following:

  • Residential address
  • Education
  • Certification
  • Disciplinary action
  • Customer complaints
  • Jurisdiction changes
  • Name change (marriage)
  • Additional business activities
  • Criminal record
  • Civil judgments