Asset Management Firms Regulation
Asset management firms provide advisory and financial planning services as well as investment strategies to their clients. SEC regulates investment advisors with assets under management exceeding $110 million. To ensure compliance with SEC rules and regulations, FINRA oversees brokerage firms and individual brokers. Other regulatory bodies involved in the regulation of asset managers include the Federal Reserve, the U.S. Treasury, and FDIC.
The financial industry relies on regulation to ensure smooth market functioning and safeguard the well-being of consumers and investors. Oversight serves the purpose of facilitating the flow of capital while mitigating risks and deterring fraudulent practices.
The asset management sector operates under the supervision of two main entities: the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). Although distinct, there is some degree of overlap between these organizations and other regulatory bodies. Navigating the regulatory landscape for asset management firms can become intricate. Read on to explore how these agencies, among others, regulate and maintain oversight of the asset management industry.
Asset Management Industry in a Nutshell
Within the financial services sector, the asset management industry plays a significant role. This industry comprises various investment firms that offer a range of services, including advisory services, financial planning, and investment strategies. Clients have access to diverse investment options, such as mutual funds, equities, fixed income, private investment funds, and exchange-traded funds (ETFs). Asset managers, employed by these firms, customize these services and strategies to meet the specific needs of their clients.
What Is the SEC?
The SEC is a government agency established in 1934 to protect investors and promote fairness in securities markets. With broad regulatory powers over U.S. securities markets, including exchanges, the SEC enforces regulations to maintain market integrity. Investment advisors, including those offering portfolio management services, are subject to SEC regulation.
Advisors with assets under management (AUM) exceeding $110 million must register with the SEC, while those below this threshold register with their respective states. SEC registration indicates adherence to SEC rules and disclosure requirements. However, it is important to note that SEC registration does not imply the endorsement of any specific investment manager or advisor. SEC-regulated firms are subject to unscheduled audits to ensure compliance with regulations.
What Is the FINRA?
FINRA is a self-regulatory organization operating under the oversight of the SEC. Its primary role is to enforce SEC rules and regulations among its members, ensuring compliance and overseeing the activities of brokerage firms and individual brokers. Essentially, anyone involved in selling securities to the public, either as a stockbroker or on behalf of a broker-dealer, is subject to FINRA regulation.
There is a significant degree of overlap between the regulatory responsibilities of both the SEC and FINRA. In practice, it is common for a firm to have brokers registered with FINRA who also serve as registered investment advisor representatives. Consequently, an asset manager may be subject to oversight and audits from both entities simultaneously.
SEC and FINRA Regulatory Requirements
The SEC oversees various companies in the securities industry, such as investment advisors, investment companies, and broker-dealers. Smaller companies are required to file SEC reports if they have assets over $10 million and 500 or more shareholders, or if they trade on a U.S. exchange.
To participate in the securities business, individuals must be registered with FINRA and pass competency exams. This applies to salespeople, supervisors, partners, managers, directors, and officers. It is important to note that the FDIC does not provide insurance coverage for stocks, annuities, mutual funds, bonds, or life insurance policies.
Other U.S. Regulatory Bodies
Asset management firms and their investment advisors are regulated by various bodies in addition to the SEC and FINRA. These regulatory bodies include:
- The Fed: Central bank of the U.S. that controls monetary policy and ensures financial stability.
- U.S. Treasury: Oversees tax collection, manages government finances, and issues bonds and currency.
- FDIC: Insures deposits up to $250,000 per bank, protecting consumers in case of bank failure.
- OCC: Enforces national banking regulations for fair treatment of consumers and safe financial institution operations.
In addition to federal regulation, asset management firms, and advisors are also subject to regulation by state authorities and agencies.
Multi-strategy firms that engage in diverse asset management activities often face regulatory complexities. For example, investment banks with divisions for asset management, wealth management, and traditional banking may be subject to regulation by multiple entities such as the SEC, FINRA, the Federal Reserve, the Treasury Department, and the FDIC.
To address regulatory conflicts and promote clarity, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act established the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC). The FSOC serves as a coordinating body, streamlining bank regulation and monitoring systemic risks in the financial industry.
Asset management firms are subject to regulation by various bodies, including the SEC, FINRA, and other regulatory agencies. These regulatory bodies work to ensure the smooth functioning of the financial industry while protecting investors and consumers. Although the regulatory landscape for asset management firms can be complex, understanding the basics of how these organizations operate can help navigate the space more efficiently.