Becoming a Financial Advisor in North Carolina

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 North Carolina registered at either the state level with the North Carolina Securities Division or at the federal level with the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC).

Step 1. Get Your Education

Pursue the right degree program. Education is one of the most important tools an investment advisor can have. Your educational background is stored in the Investment Adviser Public Disclosure (IAPD) and can be accessed by clients at any time.

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Specific degrees and areas of study worth considering:

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

Enroll in the right classes. Coursework applicable to a career dedicated to providing clients with expert investment advisory service would include:

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

Consider professional certification. You are not required to hold a professional designation; however, it does help indicate to clients a unique level of expertise. These designations often require a bachelor’s degree at minimum and/or an appropriate level of industry experience:

  • Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)
  • Certified Financial Planner (CFP)
  • Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC)
  • Chartered Investment Counselor (CIC)
  • Personal Financial Specialist (PFS)

Step 2: Register Your Firm in North Carolina

(This step is applicable if you intend to establish an IA firm of your own. If you’ll be working with an established firm, skip to Step 3.)

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As long as your firm does not manage more than $100 million in total assets, it will be registered exclusively with the North Carolina Securities Division. If you choose to take on assets greater than $100 million, your firm will need to register at the federal level with the SEC. In both cases, investment adviser (IA) firm registration is done through the FINRA administered Investment Adviser Registration Depository (IARD).

  1. Open an IARD User Account to begin the Entitlement Process. Completing the Entitlement Forms specific to your new firm and assigning a Super Accountant Administrator (SAA) responsible for managing the IARD User Account will allow your firm access to FINRA’s Web-based systems. Upon submission and approval of entitlement forms, the SSA will be granted access to the Firm Gateway so as to be able to complete the remaining steps.
  2. Your new investment firm is required to fund The IARD User Account with monies sufficient to paying all required fees:
  • Initial IARD set up fees for state registered investment advisors are currently being waived
  • $225 initial filing fee for SEC-registered advisors, which include firms with over $100 million in assets under management
  • $300 initial IA firm filing fee charged by North Carolina
  • Exam fees for each IAR that will be in the firm
  • $75 initial state IAR filing fee charged by North Carolina for each IAR employed by the firm
  • Your firm’s SSA will complete the electronic version of Form ADV. This form outlines the new IA firm’s investment philosophy and fee structures, as well as relevant background information on all IARs in the firm’s employ.
  • Each investment advisor representative (IAR) in the firm is required to complete a U-4 Uniform Application for Securities Registration or Transfer. As a sole proprietor in North Carolina, you will be required to submit Form U-4 for yourself as a representative of the firm. More specific requirements can be found in Step 3.
  • If the IA firm will have discretionary authority over client assets one of the following must be sent directly to the North Carolina Securities Division, PO Box 29622, Raleigh, NC 27626-0622:
  • Sole proprietors must send an unaudited bank statement showing a net worth of at least $10,000
  • All corporation types must send a surety bond of $35,000

Requirements to Transact Business in Other States

North Carolina IA firms can conduct business with as many as four clients in any other single state without registering or paying additional state fees. Your firm must register and pay state-specific fees in any and all other states in which it has more than four clients.

Under the De Minimis Exemption, properly registered RIAs from other states are, in kind, permitted to conduct a minimal amount of business in North Carolina, and are only required to register and pay North Carolina specific fees when their sixth North Carolina based client is added.

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

North Carolina-based investment adviser firms operate in accordance with the North Carolina Investment Advisers Act and are registered at the state level if managing client less than $100 million. Firms that manage more than $100 million in client access are registered at the federal level with The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) regulates. The state of North Carolina and the SEC both waive exam requirements for prospective IARs that have attained one of the following designations:

  • Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC)
  • Chartered Investment Counselor (CIC)
  • Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)
  • Certified Financial Planner (CFP)
  • Personal Financial Specialist (PFS)
  1. Register for and complete one of the following:


IARs should register:

  • Scheduled to attempt the exam(s) through one of the Prometric or Pearson Professional Center testing locations in North Carolina. You must schedule the exam(s) within 120 days of registration. Only one exam can be scheduled per day, so plan to commit two days to testing if going the multiple exam route.
  • Make sure you check in with the testing center at least one hour before your scheduled exam time on the appropriate day.
  • Exam scores are distributed immediately after the exam(s) is complete.

Step 4: Ongoing Renewal and Update Requirements in North Carolina

Investment Advisor Firm:

  • North Carolina’s renewal fees are $300 for the firm and $75 for each IAR with the firm
  • Annual updates to the ADV are required to reflect changes to fee structure and addition/termination of IARS within the firm
  • License renewals must be completed by December 31st each year
  • IARD administrative renewal fees are $100
  • All IAR and IA firm renewals will be completed through the IARD
  • Renewal fees are paid to all states where an IAR is registered
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Investment Adviser Representatives:
Maintaining a current and fully up to date Form U-4 is required of all employees of a firm. As a sole proprietor, you alone will be responsible for updating your Form U-4. Employees of a firm should contact their designated SAA and alert them with the information that should be updated in the system. Your SAA will have 30 days to complete this task. A change to any of the items listed below will require a system update:

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