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Becoming a Financial Advisor in Georgia

Financial advisor is a term used to describe investment adviser representatives (IARs) or sole proprietors of investment adviser (IA) firms. The following is a step-by-step explanation of how to become an investment adviser representative (IAR) or establish an investment adviser (IA) firm in Georgia registered at either the state level with the Georgia Securities Division or at the federal level with the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC).

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Step 1. Get Your Education

  1. Becoming a financial advisor starts by getting the best education possible through one of the many degree programs available. Once licensed, potential clients will access your profile through a national registry that includes your educational background. Formally educated professionals that have earned a bachelor’s or master’s degree provide most financial planning and advisory services. It is increasingly common to find advisors holding highly specialized degrees.

    Some of the degrees that would adequately prepare you to become a financial advisor include:

  • BA-Consumer and Family Financial Services
  • BA or BS -Accounting
  • MBA-Accounting and Finance or simply Finance
  • MS-Accounting, Personal Financial Planning, or Finance
  • PhD-Accounting or Finance
  • Take the right classes. Your education should give you the knowledge needed to deliver the best possible information to clients. Regardless of the degree you pursue, relevant courses to consider enrolling in include:
    • Behavior of organizations, persons and groups
    • Business communications
    • Business ethics
    • Business law
    • Management
    • Accounting
    • Marketing
    • Computer information systems
    • Taxation
    • Economics
    • Finance
    • Statistics
    • Quantitative applications in business
  • Consider pursuing an elective specialty credential. Specialized professional certification programs help differentiate and identify the particular skills that you have as an advisor. You’ll need to meet unique eligibility requirements to earn these designations, and that will usually include either a certain amount of dedicated financial services and industry experience or a certain level of formal education; most often a bachelor’s degree at minimum. Specialized certifications that are specific to financial advisors:
    • Certified Financial Planner (CFP)
    • Personal Financial Specialist (PFS)
    • Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC)
    • Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)
    • Chartered Investment Counselor (CIC)

    Step 2: Register Your Firm in Georgia

    (This step will only be applicable to those who are interested in establishing their own IA firm. If you intend to work for an existing firm, skip to Step 3)

    To operate as an independent practice, you will need to complete the registration process specific to an investment adviser (IA) firm, which is done through the Investment Adviser Registration Depository (IARD). This will see to state-level registrants are registered with the Georgia Securities Division and federal-level registrants are registered with the SEC.

    1. Begin the FINRA Entitlement Process and create an IARD User Account by completing Entitlement Forms for the New Investment Adviser Firm (Section 3). The entitlement process provides authorized access to FINRA’s Web-based systems. During this process, your firm will designate a Super Accountant Administrator (SAA) and after approval of Entitlement, the SAA will be able to access the FINRA Firm Gateway and complete the remaining steps.
    2. Fund your IARD User Account. Firm registration and state filing fees, as well as IAR registration and testing fees will need to be funded through the IARD User Account. Fund the account adequately to cover the following costs:
    • Initial IARD set up fees for state registrants are currently being waived (less than $100 million in total assets under management)
    • $225 initial filing fee for SEC registrants with more than $100 million in assets under management
    • Exam fees for each IAR in the firme (including yourself if appointed as an IAR in a sole proprietorship or LLC)
    • Annual filing fees in Georgia are $250 per firm, also paid through the IARD
    • Annual filing fees in Georgia are $50 for each IAR that is employed by the firm and licensed to offer advice
  • Complete a Form ADV. This is an SEC form that details the firm’s investment philosophy and fee structure, provides the background on IARs within the firm, and includes other important information that potential clients may need. An electronic version of Form ADV is available in the IARD. Selecting Georgia as the state in which the firm will do business in will automatically register the firm with the state of Georgia Securities Division.
  • Complete and submit Form U4, Uniform Application for Securities Registration or Transfer for each IAR within the firm. If you will be operating your firm independently, you will be considered to be a representative of your own firm and will need to submit a U4 for yourself. See step 3 for additional IAR testing and licensing requirements.
  • Send audited balance sheets directly to the Georgia Securities Division 237 Colliseum Drive, Macon, GA 31217-2440 if your firm will be holding client assets or charge advance advisory fees of more than $500. 
  • Requirements to Transact Business in Other States

    By being registered in Georgia, your firm will be allowed to conduct a minimal amount of business in other states without registering in that state. This usually means no more than four clients. After gaining a fifth client in any one state other than Georgia, you will need to register with that state through the IARD system, and pay all fees required by that state.

    RIAs that are registered in another state can conduct some business in Georgia under this De Minimis Exemption, and register only when they add their seventh client.

    Step 3: Get Your Registered Investment Adviser License in Georgia by Taking the Required Exam

    If you will be offering your services to mostly local clients that live in Georgia and managing assets of less than $100 million, you will be regulated by the Georgia Securities Division and your services and conduct must comply with the Georgia Uniform Securities Act.

    If you are going to be managing assets with a total value of more than $100 million, you will fall under the regulation and authority of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). If you will be starting your firm by managing assets at that level, the SEC will waive the Series Exam requirements for applicants that hold at least one of the following professional designations:

    • Chartered Investment Counselor (CIC)
    • Certified Financial Planner (CFP)
    • Personal Financial Specialist (PFS)
    • Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC)
    • Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)
    1. Register for the required exams. Alabama requires IAR candidates to take the following:

    OR

    Register using one of the following forms:

    OR

    • Form U-10, the Uniform Examination request for non-FINRA Members, which is an exam-only application for non-sponsored exams and does not complete IAR registration. The U-10 cannot be used to apply for Series 7, which requires a sponsor. If applying for the Series 65 Exam using Form U-10, you will still be required to formally register within two years of passing the exam by way of Form U-4.
  • Submit fingerprints through the Cognet electronic system. Once registration is complete a confirmation will be provided. Take the confirmation to a Georgia vendor to have fingerprints scanned. You will need the following information to do complete the processing:
    • ORI OR OAC Number:  GA922974Z
      Verification Code:  922974Z
      Reason: Sec. of State – Broker-Dealers, Agents, Invest Advis/Sales Persons

    • There will be a processing fee of $52.90
    • Out of state residents should submit three completed fingerprint cards to Georgia Securities Division, 237 Coliseum Drive, Macon, GA 31211, and a money order or certified check for $46.75 made payable to the Georgia Bureau of Investigations.
  • Once your application has been approved, you will receive specific registration instructions related to the Series 65 exam.
  • Schedule the exam through the FINRA website, where you can locate a Georgia Pearson Professional Center or Sylvan Prometric testing location.
  • Plan to arrive at the testing center about an hour before your examination time.
  • You’ll receive your test score as soon as you complete the exam.
  • Step 4: Ongoing Renewal and Update Requirements in Georgia

    Investment Advisor Firm:

    • IA firm and IAR license renewals for Georgia are done completely through the IARD
    • License renewal needs to be completed before December 31st each year
    • Georgia’s renewal fees are $100 for the firm and $40 for each IAR within the firm
    • Renewal fees will have to be paid for all states in which the IAR is licensed
    • Additional fees of $100 paid to the IARD are required for renewal
    • Annual updates to the ADV are also required

    Investment Adviser Representatives:
    There aren’t any ongoing continuing education requirements for IARs once you have passed the Series 65. IARs do have to keep their Form U-4 current. If you are a sole proprietor you will need to make these updates yourself. As an employee of a firm, you will have to alert the SAA of any required amendments. Amendments must be completed within 30 days in the event of the following:

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