This is the third entry in a series of blogs RIA Compliance Consultants is posting concerning annual compliance requirements and end of year filings. While we are trying to touch upon the items that all advisor firms are required to complete, it is important that you refer to your regulatory authority to ensure you have an all inclusive list of the requirements your firm must meet. If your firm has questions or concerns about one of the items listed in this entry, please give us a call to discuss how we can help your firm meets its regulatory obligations.
Written Compliance Programs – The end of the year is a great time to complete a written review of your firm’s compliance and procedures program. While we feel that a written compliance program should be reviewed continuously and updated whenever needed, regulators require advisor firms to review and update their compliance programs at least annually. Again, the key is to document those reviews. Once a review is completed, employees should be made aware of the changes and required to sign off on their understanding and acknowledgement of the policies. Even if no changes are made, we suggest that all employees agree to their understanding and acknowledgement of the firm’s policies and procedures, in writing, each year.
Code of Ethics – The SEC and many states require advisor firms to have a Code of Ethics. Even if your firm does not require its employees to acknowledge their understanding of its compliance programs on an annual basis, all SEC firms must require all employees to read and agree to abide by the firm’s Code of Ethics on an annual basis. The Code of Ethics must be reviewed by the firm on annual basis and if needed, updated. It is important to document any changes to the Code of Ethics and document each employee’s agreement to abide by the code. Under the SEC’s rule, a firm must include the review of employee’s personal securities and its insider trading policy under the Code of Ethics.
Personal Securities Transactions – All SEC advisor firms must collect or prepare updated personal securities holdings reports from all access persons. The information on the report must be current as of a date no more than 45 days before the report is submitted. The annual report does not need to be done at the end of the calendar year; however, the timing of the report must be consistent from year to year. The holdings report is in addition to the review of fourth quarter transaction reports. As part of the Code of Ethics rule, all SEC advisor firms are required to review the activity of their access persons’ securities holdings. Quarterly transaction reports must be submitted no later than 30 days after the end of each calendar quarter.
Compliance Training for Representatives and Employees – The end of the year is great time to hold compliance training for all employees and representatives. This is because many firms implement new policies or advisory programs set to take effect at the beginning of the year. Any time a new rule or program is implemented, it is imperative that proper training be provided so all employees are aware of the changes. While we recommend more frequent training sessions or meetings, an annual process is essential in today’s regulatory landscape.