Recently SEBI has issued a Circular dated 27th December, 2019 titled ‘Measures to strengthen the conduct of Investment Advisers (IA)’ which would be effective from 1st January, 2020.

It has come with a view to strengthen the conduct of Investment Advisers and stop the ill/fraudulent activities and to protect interest of investors seeking their advice.

The investment advisers (IAs) were providing advice on a free trial basis without considering risk profile of the client. The Circular restricts SEBI Registered Investment Advisors (RIAs) from giving free trials of their services to customers or accepting part payments for their services.

Now the investment advisers can provide investment advice only after completing risk profile of the client based on information provided by them and need to obtain consent of the client on completed risk profile either through registered email or physical document.

Furthermore, the IAs must display complaints against them on their own websites and can only accept payments through banking channels.

Text of the Circular is given below

Securities and Exchange Board of India

CIRCULAR

SEBI/HO/IMD/DF1/CIR/P/2019/169

December 27, 2019

All Investment Advisers

Sir/Madam,

Subject: Measures to strengthen the conduct of Investment Advisers (IA)

1. Securities and Exchange Board of India (Investment Advisers) Regulations, 2013 (IA Regulations) provides for code of conduct to be followed by IAs. In order to further strengthen the conduct of IAs, while providing investment advice and to protect the interest of investors seeking their advice, the IAs shall comply with the following:

(i) Restriction on free trial

As per SEBI (Investment Advisers) Regulations, 2013, investment advice can be given after completing risk profiling of the client and ensuring suitability of the product. It has come to the notice that IAs are providing advice on free trial basis without considering risk profile of the client. Hence the IAs shall not provide free trial for any products/services to prospective clients. Further, IAs shall not accept part payments (where some part of the fee is paid in advance) for any product/service.

(ii) Proper risk profiling and consent of client on risk profiling

Risk profiling of the client is essential to provide advice on suitable product based on various criteria like income, age, securities market experience etc. RIAs shall provide investment advice only after completing the following steps:

a. Complete the risk profile of the client based on information provided by the client.

b. Obtain consent of the client on completed risk profile either through registered email or physical document.

(iii) Receiving fees though banking channel only

It is observed that investment advisers are receiving advisory fee in the form of cash deposit in their bank accounts or through payment gateways which does not provide proper audit trail of fees received from the clients. To bring transparency in dealing with the clients, IAs shall accept fees strictly by account payee crossed cheques / demand draft or by way of direct credit into their bank account through NEFT/ RTGS/IMPS/UPI. It is clarified that, IAs shall not accept cash deposits.

(iv) Display of complaints status on website

In order to bring more transparency and enable the investors to take informed decision regarding availing of advisory services, IAs shall display the following information on the homepage (without scrolling) of their website/mobile app. The information should be displayed properly using font size of 12 or above and made available on monthly basis (within 7 days of end of the previous month):

Number of complaints

At the beginning of the month Received during the month Resolved during the month Pending at the end of the month Reasons for pendency

2. The measures as referred above shall come into effect from January 01, 2020.

3. This circular is issued in exercise of the powers conferred under Section 11(1) of the Securities and Exchange Board of India Act, 1992, to protect the interests of investors in securities and to promote the development of and to regulate the securities market.

Yours faithfully,

Naveen Sharma
General Manager
022-26449709
Email: naveens@sebi.gov.in

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