Becoming a Financial Advisor in Ohio

You will find all of the information you need to become a financial advisor and establish your firm in this step-by-step guide. Financial advisors are licensed as registered investment advisers (RIAs) or investment adviser firm representatives (IARs). This guide will walk you through the process for state level registration with the Ohio Division of Securities as well as federal level registration with the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC).

All investment advisers and their representatives operating in Ohio are subject to the Ohio Laws and Rules pertaining to financial professionals in the state.

Step 1. Get Your Education

Get an appropriate degree. Your background information, including education, will be available to clients and regulators through the Investment Adviser Public Disclosure (IAPD) registry.

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You will find that most financial advisory firms hire professionals with a specialized four-year degree. Degrees useful in developing your skills:

  • 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 relevant courses that teach you the skills necessary to become an independent investment advisor or firm representative:

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

Professional certifications can be useful way of highlighting your advising skills, although these are entirely elective and not required as a prerequisite to registration in Ohio. Eligibility requirements often include a four-year degree or a minimum level of industry experience. Relevant certifications:

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

Step 2: Register Your Firm in Ohio

(This step is only applicable if you are interested in establishing your own investment adviser (IA) firm. If you will start your career by working with an established firm, move on to Step 3.)

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The Investment Adviser Registration Depository (IARD) will be used to complete the required steps for registering your IA firm at either the state level with the Ohio Division of Securities or at the federal level with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Federal registration applies to IAs managing assets greater than $100 million, while state registration applies to all other firms. The following steps describe the process for both.

  1. Open an IARD User Account. Submit Entitlement Forms specific to your Investment Adviser Firm (Section 3) and designate a Super Accountant Administrator (SAA) who will have access to the Firm Gateway. Access to this system is necessary in order to finalize all of the registration requirements listed in the remainder of this guide.
  2. Each new firm is responsible for funding their own IARD User Account. This account is used to pay all required state filing fees, registration fees, IAR registration and testing fees:
  • $225 initial filing fee for SEC-registered firms with over $100 million in assets under management
  • $100 initial state firm filing fee charged by the Ohio Division of Securities
  • Exam fees for each IAR in the firm’s employ
  • $35 filing fee charged by the Ohio Division of Securities for each IAR that will be employed by the firm
  • Complete the electronic version of Form ADV in the IARD. This form is necessary to the registration and disclosure process, as it outlines your new IA firm’s investment philosophy and fee structure. This will be made available to prospective clients.
  • Complete Form U-4 Uniform Application for Securities Registration or Transfer for each IAR in the firm’s employ. As an independent IA firm owner in Ohio, you will also be recognized as a representative of your firm. This requires submitting Form U-4 for yourself.
  • Send the following documents to the Division of Securities.By email to [email protected]

    By postal mail to Division of Securities, 77 South High Street, 22nd Floor, Columbus, OH  43215-6131

    • Sample copies of any investment advisory agreements that will be used with clients
    • A list of all branch offices within the state
    • A list of the supervisors and IARs in each respective office
    • A list of all other employees in the IA firm, and their duties
    • A copy of your compliance manual, which must include a disaster recovery plan, a business continuity plan, and the procedure you will follow to complete an annual review
    • The designation of a chief compliance officer for the firm
    • Copies of business cards to be used by each IAR
    • Copies of any solicitor agreements
    • Statements related to how you file financial statements with the state and how you will meet the requirement to maintain all records for at least five years

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

Exam requirements are waived for individuals that hold the following designations:

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


Register for exam(s):

  • Schedule an appointment to attempt the exam(s) through one of the Prometric or Pearson Professional Center testing locations in Ohio. It is imperative that you schedule the exam(s) within 120 days of registration.
  • Allow yourself ample time to arrive at the testing center prior to your scheduled exam on the designated day.
  • All exam scores are released immediately after the exam is complete.

Step 4: Ongoing Renewal and Update Requirements in Ohio

Investment Advisor Firm:

  • License renewal actions must be completed by December 31st every year
  • IARD administrative fees charged for each annual renewal are $100
  • Ohio’s renewal fees are $100 for the firm and $35 for each IAR employed by the firm
  • Annual updates to the ADV will always be required
  • Renewal fees are paid to all states in which IARs are registered
  • Ohio based IAR and IA firm renewals will be completed through the Investment Adviser Representative Depository (IARD)
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Investment Adviser Representatives:
The Form U-4 must be updated for all IARs who are responsible for notifying their firm’s compliance department of the need to make updates. A Sole proprietor or IA firm owner is responsible for updating their own data while employees of the firm will notify the firm’s Super Account Administrator of any changes to the following:

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