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News Update: SEC Provides Road Map for Investment Advisory Firm Examinations

News Update: SEC Provides Road Map for Investment Advisory Firm Examinations

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September 28, 2023

September 2023

Overview & Summary

On Sept. 6, 2023, the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Division of Examinations issued a Risk Alert detailing the Division’s examination selection process for SEC-registered investment advisers. 

Given the size and variety of the adviser population, the Division utilizes a risk-based approach for both selecting advisers to examine and in determining the scope of risk areas to examine. The Risk Alert highlights the Division’s risk-based approach for both (A) selecting Advisers to examine and (B) determining examination focus areas and documents. The Division leverages technology to collect and analyze large sets of industry- and firm-level data to help identify risks and better understand the firm’s business during examinations. The Division also reviews disclosure documents and various filings with regulators (e.g., Form ADV) and other regulatory filings.

A. Selecting Firms to Examine

Some of the reasons the Division may select an adviser to examine include, but are not limited to, one or more of the following: the firm’s risk characteristics; a tip, complaint, or referral; or the staff’s interest in a particular compliance risk area.

There are also firm-specific risk factors that the staff considers when selecting advisers for examination, such as those related to a particular adviser’s business activities, conflicts of interest, and regulatory history. In the Risk Alert, the Division lists 11 firm-specific factors it may consider: (1) prior examination observations and conduct, such as when the staff has observed what it believes to be repetitive deficient practices during more than one review of a firm, significant fee- and expense-related issues, and significant compliance program concerns; (2) supervisory concerns, such as disciplinary history of associated individuals or affiliates; (3) tips, complaints, or referrals involving the firm; (4) business activities of the firm or its personnel that may create conflicts of interest, such as outside business activities and the conflicts associated with advisers dually registered as, or affiliated with, brokers; (5) the length of time since the firm’s registration or last examination, such as advisers newly registered with the SEC; (6) material changes in a firm’s leadership or other personnel; (7) indications that the adviser might be vulnerable to financial or market stresses; (8) reporting by news and media that may involve or impact the firm; (9) data provided by certain third-party data services; (10) the disclosure history of the firm; and (11) whether the firm has access to client and investor assets and/or presents certain gatekeeper or service provider compliance risks.

B. Selecting Examination Focus Areas

Once an adviser is selected for examination, additional risk assessment occurs to determine the scope of the examination, such as selecting areas of the business that examiners will review. This involves requesting documents with respect to the firm’s operations, disclosures, conflicts of interest, and compliance practices related to core areas, including custody and safekeeping of client assets, valuation, portfolio management, fees, expenses, brokerage, and best execution.

The Risk Alert includes an attachment that outlines the types of information and documents the staff requests during a typical exam. The list includes (1) general information about the Adviser’s business and investment activities, (2) information about the assessment of risks and the implementation of a written compliance program and internal controls, (3) information with respect to advisory trading activities, and (4) information for compliance testing in particular areas.

The Division is providing this information so that advisers may prepare themselves for an examination. Although the Division continuously refines and enhances its risk assessment process, the information shared herein also may assist firms in their compliance efforts.

Our Take

This SEC Risk Alert lays out how the SEC approaches the selection of firms for examination, as well as their selection examination focus areas. In doing so, the SEC has essentially established a  step-by-step guide for Advisers to follow relative to examination preparedness.CRC recommends that firms consider partnering with an established compliance team who can help you navigate and prepare for future examinations. A mock examination utilizing the document request areas outlined within the Risk Alert should serve as an accurate predictor of overall examination preparedness.

Opportunities for CRC to Assist Your Firm

  • CRC will conduct a mock examination to identify any gaps or weaknesses relative to your firm’s examination preparedness.
  • CRC is available for general and ongoing outsourced support with respect to SEC-registered investment advisers.
  • CRC can proactively conduct a review of your existing compliance program to identify opportunities to potentially implement enhancements in preparation for regulatory examinations.
  • CRC is available to assist with examination responses.

Please contact Mitch Avnet for more information.

Mitch Avnet at or (646) 346.2468



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