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How to become an RIA in Colorado

Note: This page was updated on May 16, 2024.

As a financial advisor, going independent offers a unique opportunity to better serve your clients while simultaneously pursuing professional growth and deeper personal fulfillment.

If you’re a Colorado advisor considering making this transition, there are a range of requirements you’ll need to meet when starting an RIA. From understanding Colorado's specific regulatory landscape to actually establishing your firm, this guide will provide a step-by-step approach to starting an RIA in Colorado.

Who is required to register in Colorado?

If you manage less than $100 million in assets, serve more than five residents in Colorado and/or market your services there, you typically must register with the state as an RIA. If you manage assets exceeding $100 million, you may need to register with the SEC instead.

The state registration process is overseen by the Colorado Division of Securities and includes numerous requirements specific to Colorado. Those are covered in detail later in this guide.

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What licenses does an RIA need in Colorado?

To become an RIA in Colorado, you must first pass certain examinations or hold specific professional designations. The most common requirement is passing the Series 65 exam. Alternatively, you can pass the Series 66 and Series 7 exams combined, or obtain other appropriate designations such as CFP, CFA, CIC, ChFC, or PFS. These licenses demonstrate your knowledge and expertise in the field of investment advising.

For a comprehensive look at how to start a successful RIA – in Colorado, or any other state – check out our Going Independent Series, which covers everything you’ll need to know about the jump to independence: from compliance set up, to transitioning existing clients, to scaling your new independent firm. 

How much does it cost to register an RIA in Colorado?

All RIA firms that register with the state of Colorado must pay annual registration fees for both the firm itself, and each IAR it employs. Those annual fees for Colorado in 2024 can be found below:

RIA Fee: $85

Investment Advisor Representative (IAR): $20

FINRA Annual IAR Processing Fee: $15

How to register as an RIA in Colorado

Registering to become an RIA in Colorado requires advisors to complete all necessary documentation, as well as set up ongoing procedures to ensure they remain in compliance. The basic process is outlined below:

  1. Prepare Your Documents: Gather all necessary documents, including Form ADV, financial statements, and disclosure documents. Ensure all information is accurate and current. Many of these documents can be found on this list on the Colorado Division of Securities website.
  2. Register with FINRA: Create an account with FINRA's WebCRD/IARD online system. This is where you will submit your registration application and other required documents.
  3. Pay Registration Fees: Pay the required initial and renewal state registration fees through the Investment Adviser Registration Depository (IARD) system.
  4. Complete Form ADV: Fill out Form ADV Part 1 and provide brochures in Form ADV Part 2A and Part 2B. These forms will provide detailed information about your firm and its services.
  5. Establish Policies and Procedures: Develop the necessary policies and procedures for your firm, such as a Policies and Procedures Manual, Client Advisory Contract, Code of Ethics, Privacy Policy Statement, Anti-insider Trading Policy, and Business Continuity Plan.
  6. Register Investment Advisor Representatives: Investment advisor representatives (IARs) will also need to register individually. They must complete Form U4 on CRD and meet the examination or designation requirements.
  7. Maintain Compliance: Once registered, it's crucial to stay compliant with all regulatory requirements. This includes updating your Form ADV annually, paying renewal fees, and ensuring that your policies and procedures are up to date.

Financial statement requirements for RIAs in Colorado

As part of the registration process, RIAs in Colorado must submit financial statements for their business, including a balance sheet and income statements. These should be prepared by your accountant or management team and provide a clear picture of your firm's financial health.

Colorado also sets specific net capital requirements for RIAs, the amounts of which depend on how client assets are handled. 

  • Firms that have discretionary authority over client funds must maintain a minimum of $10,000 in net capital.
  • Firms that hold custody of client assets must maintain a minimum net capital of $30,000.

How long does it take for RIA registration approval in Colorado?

The process of registering as an RIA in Colorado typically spans between 45-90 days, starting from when you first initiate the process until the Division of Securities officially confirms the filing.

After submitting all necessary documents and covering the registration fees, state regulators may take up to 45 days to review your RIA registration application. During this period, it’s not uncommon for the state examiner to send something called a “deficiency letter” requesting further details or clarifications on your initial registration.

The response to a deficiency letter requires careful attention. Advisors should proactively address any issues raised to ensure the approval process can move forward smoothly.

RIA forms and policies checklist for Colorado

To help you navigate the RIA registration process in Colorado, here's a checklist of forms and policies you'll need:

  • Form ADV Part 1 (online)

In this portion of the ADV, RIAs will disclose information about how they conduct business. The information includes details about the advisor's business and ownership structure and any affiliations related to business practices, clients, and additional information about employees. Part 1 is also used to upload ADV Part 2A and Part 2B.

  • Form ADV Part 2A (paper and online)

Form ADV Part 2A is your firm's brochure that details the RIA's services, fees, disciplinary disclosures, and other details. As with other states, Colorado requires it to be written in plain English.

  • Form ADV Part 2B (paper and online)

Unlike 2A, this part is all about the advisor. It contains information about the advisor's employment, education, conflict of interest, and disciplinary information. Anyone else at the firm giving investment advice to clients, including each IAR as well any Executive Officers, must also have a Form ADV 2B.

Both of these brochures are given to your clients, prospective and current.

  • Business Formation Documents

Copies of articles of incorporation, partnership agreement or articles of organization depending on your firm’s business structure, and any amendments.

  • Financial statements

These are your balance sheet and income statements, discussed above.

  • Policies and Procedures Manual

For your Policies and Procedures Manual, you must include your RIA’s internal policies on all parts of your business. From handling clients’ complaints to training new advisors to join your firm – every policy and procedure you practice at your RIA must be included and explained in this manual.

Additionally, you will need to include your RIA’s Information Technology Policy, Anti-insider Trading Policy, Business Continuity Plan, and Anti-money Laundering Policy. 

  • Client Advisory Contract

In this contract, you will detail the relationship your RIA will have with your clients. This contract is also required to meet the regulatory authority standards for client advisory contracts in Colorado.

  • Code of Ethics

This formal document outlines the ethical and professional standards expected of advisors registered with the SEC or Colorado regulators. The code of ethics ensures advisors act in the best interests of their clients, promoting integrity, fairness, and honesty in all their professional activities.

  • Privacy Policy Statement

Your RIA’s Privacy Policy is given to your clients at the beginning of your agreement and must be shared on an ongoing basis annually. It must explain how the firm stores and handles client information.

Your policy should be tailored to your RIA’s specifications and must meet the state of Colorado’s compliance requirements.  

Ready for independence?

Navigating the registration process to start an RIA in Colorado can seem like a big hurdle, but it doesn’t have to be. Having the right custodian and resources at your disposal throughout the process can make a world of difference in your move to independence.

About Altruist

Altruist helps advisors seamlessly transition to a modern custodial platform built specifically for RIAs. Simplify your tech stack, reduce overhead, delight your clients, and grow your business. True independence awaits. 

If you're ready to make the leap, our team of experts is here to help you navigate the path to forming an RIA in Colorado – schedule a call today.

Still deciding? Explore our in-depth RIA Launch Kit that includes even more detail about the essential steps to get your RIA off the ground in Colorado and beyond.

Altruist and its affiliates do not provide legal advice, so it’s important to check with a qualified professional for each state’s registration requirements.

Step-by-step advice on forming your RIA
Altruist’s COO guides you toward a successful RIA launch.


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