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How to become an RIA in Georgia

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

For financial advisors, going independent offers clear advantages: the ability to better serve your clients, the freedom to run your business how you please, and the opportunity to grow unhindered by the constraints of a wirehouse or larger firm. 

If you’re a Georgia advisor weighing a move to independence, you’ll need to understand the RIA registration process from front to back. In this step-by-step guide to becoming an RIA in Georgia, we cover the state’s specific regulatory landscape, what it takes to establish a practice there, and what it will cost to do so. 

Who is required to register in Georgia?

Advisors with less than $100 million in AUM that live in Georgia (more than $100 million might need to register with the SEC), have more than 5 clients in the state, or actively market their services will need to register as an RIA in Georgia. If you have more than 5 clients in another state, you’re required to register there as well. 

The state registration process is overseen by the Securities Division of the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office and involves several key steps and requirements that we'll cover below.

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What licenses does an RIA need in Georgia?

To become an RIA in Georgia, you must first pass certain exams or hold specific professional designations. The most common way to meet this requirement is by passing the Series 65 exam. Alternatively:

  • You can pass the Series 66 and Series 7 exams combined
  • Obtain another designation, such as CFP, CFA, CIC, ChFC, or PFS. 

These licenses demonstrate your sufficient knowledge and expertise in the field of investment advising.

For a comprehensive look at how to start a successful RIA – in Georgia, 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 Georgia?

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

RIA Fee: $255

Investment Advisor Representative (IAR): $255

FINRA Annual IAR Processing Fee: $15

How to register as an RIA in Georgia

Registering to become an RIA in Georgia 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 the Securities Division 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 Georgia

Part of the registration process requires RIAs in Georgia to submit basic financial statements for the business, including a balance sheet and income statements. Whether prepared by the advisor, an accountant, or someone else on your team, they must provide a clear picture of your firm's financial health.

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

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

Once you have submitted all required documents and paid the registration fees, Georgia regulators may spend up to 45 days reviewing your RIA registration application. During this time, receiving a "deficiency letter" requesting additional details or clarifications is not uncommon. 

Responding to a deficiency letter demands meticulous attention. Advisors should address any concerns promptly and thoroughly to facilitate a smooth approval process.

RIA forms and policies checklist for Georgia

To help you navigate the RIA registration process in Georgia, 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, Georgia 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 Georgia.

  • Code of Ethics

This formal document outlines the ethical and professional standards expected of advisors registered with the SEC or Georgia 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 Georgia’s compliance requirements.  

Ready for independence?

Starting your own RIA in Georgia and navigating the registration process can seem overwhelming at first, but having the right custodian and the right tools can help make the path to independence a smooth one.

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 Georgia – 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 Georgia 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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