Remember that postcard from FINRA or your state securities regulators? It’s over there under the pile of papers on your desk. It’s your renewal reminder, and when you tossed it under that stack you might have missed the fact that a key deadline has been shifted from March 31 to Nov. 13.

This year, the gauntlet of renewal obligations — there are three or four separate steps, depending on whether you are an SEC or state-registered advisor — begins with a revised U4 form due next week.

The deadline has been moved up for this form, filed by most employees and owners of most RIAs. The revised form also includes six new questions on previous violations of securities regulations.

Other deadlines remain the same, but if you are a new RIA, beware. Though it’s logical and easy to assume that RIA registrations run one year from the initial date of approval, that is not the case.

RIA is suspended

In the past, some RIA principals have ignored the reminder postcards and e-mails which come from either the state or FINRA in November and December, thinking they aren’t relevant. Then they show up for work on Jan. 2nd, to find their RIA is suspended.

To correct this, some states will simply allow you to refile your ADV and pay the registration fee, while in other states you will have to completely re-register, which can take months. The SEC generally has not suspended licenses for non-renewals, but it may be getting tougher on that front this year.

Here are the most important dates to remember:

The Form U4 has six new questions this year which must be answered and the form submitted by Nov. 13. Most states require this form, and even if you are SEC-registered but notice-filed with a state that requires one, you must file.

On Dec. 11th, whether you are SEC-registered or state-registered, you must have made your renewal payment into the RENEWAL account either through ePay or directly with FINRA.

In certain states, you have state specific paperwork due by Dec. 31st.(not applicable for SEC-registered RIAs).

You must have amended and submitted Form ADV by March 31st, if you are state-registered, or 90 days after the end of your fiscal year end if you’re SEC-registered.

Amend all prior estimates

A large percentage of the clients at RIA in a Box bring up the fact that “nothing has changed” in their RIA this past year – so why would they need to file an amendment? However, keep in mind that you must update and amend all prior estimates or accounting statistics on your RIA. For example, what are your assets under management? How many clients do you have? What types of clients? What types of services did you actually offer?

The renewal process can seem daunting for some RIAs. However, if you’re very familiar with the IARD/CRD (Investment Advisor Registration Depository and Central Registration Depository) system, it may only take about an hour or two to go through the process.

If you are new to the system, it may easily consume three or four hours to fill in the papers, not to mention the tedious phone calls to your state or the SEC to make sure you’re filing everything that is required.

So, what’s the best approach to getting your RIA renewals completed properly and on time? You can get in touch with the consulting firm that set up your RIA originally for help. You may feel comfortable handling your own amendment, but I urge you to check with your state regulators to make sure you have all the requirements you need.

Despite all the compliance and security issues facing RIAs in this security-oriented climate, make no mistake, the annual renewals are the most important on-going compliance issue. Don’t forget to take care of those, and soon. Your business depends on it.

Zachary D. Gronich is the owner and head consultant at RIA IN A BOX, headquartered in Houston, TX. You can contact RIA in a Box at (866) 611-7638,www.riainabox.com

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