What is an RIA?

Husband and Wife meeting with Financial AdvisorA Registered Investment Advisor (RIA) is a professional investment firm that offers securities investment advice, financial planning services, and manages clients’ portfolios. RIAs are required to register with either the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or state securities administrators. They have a fiduciary obligation to their clients, meaning they must act in their best interest when providing investment advice.

Key Points:
  • RIAs manage the assets of individual and institutional investors.
  • RIAs must register with the SEC or a state regulatory agency based on the value of the assets they manage.
  • RIAs typically earn income through management fees calculated as a percentage of a client’s assets under management.
  • RIAs have a fiduciary duty to prioritize their client’s best interests.
  • RIAs managing over $100 million in assets must register with the SEC.
Registration Requirements

The Investment Advisers Act of 1940 sets the regulations for investment advisors, requiring them to register with the SEC if they offer professional investment advice. Firms managing at least $25 million in assets may register with the SEC, while those managing $100 million or more must do so. Smaller firms are required to register with state securities authorities.

When registering as an RIA, the SEC requires disclosure of information, including the investment style, assets under management, fee structure, disciplinary actions, conflicts of interest, and key officers (if the RIA is a company). RIAs must update their information annually and make it available to the public.

Responsibilities and Requirements

RIAs provide comprehensive financial services, including financial planning, retirement planning, estate planning, wealth management, investment management, budgeting, debt repayment, and insurance. They must follow certain practices and procedures, including SEC registration, disclosure of risks and conflicts of interest, assuming the burden of proof, and acting as fiduciaries. RIAs must also meet compliance requirements with FINRA and keep extensive documentation in accordance with SEC regulations.

RIAs vs Broker-Dealers

RIAs differ from broker-dealers as they provide a broader range of financial advice, including investments, taxation, and estate planning. RIAs are expected to act in a fiduciary capacity and prioritize their client’s best interests, while broker-dealers only have to follow the suitability standard. RIAs must disclose potential conflicts of interest, while broker-dealers do not have to.

Earning Money

RIAs earn income through management fees, calculated as a percentage of their client’s assets under management, or through a flat rate fee. They may also charge performance-based fees based on portfolio performance, although this is only available to clients with a certain level of assets.


In conclusion, working with a Registered Investment Advisor offers numerous benefits, including access to a wide range of investment options, a fiduciary standard of care, and a high level of transparency. These factors make RIAs a popular choice for individuals and families seeking personalized financial advice and investment management. At Echo Trade, we’ve partnered with RIAs to provide a marketplace of affordable investment strategies for you to explore and copy, without requiring account minimums. Check out all RIA portfolios today at marketplace.echotrading.com.