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Regulation Best Interest: The Client Relationship Summary

by Julie Mendel, Senior Product Manager | Aug 05, 2019

Formats and Record-keeping

Firm Element and Securities Regulation Best Interest

Regulation Best Interest (Reg BI) is the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) most recent regulation adopted to protect investors. One of the primary components of this regulation is the Client Relationship Summary (CRS). Reg BI lists specific requirements for preparing your CRS; they include:

  • Copies: You must make a copy of the CRS available at no cost.
  • Length: For broker-dealers or investment advisers, if your CRS is in electronic or paper format, it cannot be longer than two pages. For dual registrants, the electronic or paper format CRS cannot be longer than four pages.
  • Plain English; Fair Disclosure: A CRS must be written in plain English and must take into consideration the level of financial experience of retail investors. The SEC requires that you:

o make the CRS easy to read

o make the CRS concise and direct

o use short sentences and paragraphs

o use definite, concrete, everyday words

o use active voice

o avoid legal jargon or highly technical business terms unless you clearly explain them; and

o avoid multiple negatives.

All information published in the CRS must be true and accurate and cannot omit material facts necessary to make the required disclosures misleading. The responses to services provided cannot include exaggerated claims or point to vague explanations on investment services and products.

While complete instructions can be found on the SEC website, here are some of the highlights of the requirements. The SEC provides detailed instructions on the format, content, delivery, and filing of a Form CRS. Let’s start with what information is required by the SEC for the Form.

You are encouraged to use charts, graphs, tables, and other graphics or text features to respond to the required disclosures. You are also encouraged to enhance your disclosure by including text features, text colors, and graphical cues (i.e., dual-column charts) and to more clearly compare services, account characteristics, investments, fees, and conflicts of interest.

You are also encouraged to use a method to facilitating access to video or audio messages (e.g., hyperlink, website address, Quick Response Code (“QR code”), or other equivalent methods or technologies), mouse-over windows, pop-up boxes, chat functionality, fee calculators; or any other forms of electronic media, communications, or tools designed to enhance a retail investor’s understanding of the material in the CRS. \

For any conversation starters that are required you must use text features to make the conversation starters more noticeable and prominent in relation to other discussion text, for example, by using larger or different font, a text box around the heading or questions, bolded, italicized or underlined text, or lines to offset the questions from the other sections. If you are a dual registrant, you are encouraged to prepare a single Form CRS discussing both your brokerage and investment advisory services.

You must maintain records for at least six years after the earlier of the date the account was closed, or the date on which the information is updated. Any changes to a CRS to retail investors must be communicated to existing clients or customers within 60 days after the updates are required to be made. Any update and communication must be provided free of charge. These updates can be communicated through an additional disclosure that is delivered to your retail investors and does not need to be an entirely new CRS. If you choose to provide the amended CRS to a retail investor who is an existing client or customer, you must highlight the most recent changes by, for example, marking the revised text or including a summary of material changes. A current version of your CRS must be prominently posted on your public website in a location and format easily accessible for retail investors.

If the CRS is delivered electronically, it must be presented prominently in the electronic medium, for example, as a direct link or in the body of an email or message and must be easily accessible for retail investors. If the CRS is delivered in paper format as part of a package of documents, you must ensure that the CRS is the first among any documents that are delivered at that time.

 

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