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Advisory firms have another option to get attention from potential clients: opting to be rated by Investor.com.

The site has some 16,500 RIA public pages that help investors navigate the regulatory maze of judging an investment advisor, or knowing more about their current advisor.

Launched in 2018 by Michigan-based Reink Media Group, which also runs sites such as StockBrokers.com and ForexBrokers.com, the site works through advisory firm documents filed to the Securities and Exchange Commission and Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.

The site has two purposes: rating firms and investor education. Its main business model is to rate firms on a scale of one to 5 stars — for a fee of $1,000 to $5,000 a year — according to a proprietary algorithm.

Second, it provides direct links to the SEC and to FINRA’s BrokerCheck for each of its firms and advisors and provides an alert (if needed) on certain activities at a firm, along with questions that potential clients should ask the firm and why.

“We want to help Americans ask the right questions, flag something they should be aware of and make them feel empowered,” says Blain Reinkensmeyer, co-founder of the site.

The goal of educating investors stems from a personal experience. When his grandfather’s health was failing, Reinkensmeyer took up the task of sorting through his grandparents’ financial documents, only to discover that over 40 years they had spent $100,000 on excessive fees through a financial advisor. That motivated him to help others to avoid this fate.

The nine-person team works through information provided by advisors to the SEC and FINRA, including Form ADV Parts 1 and 2 and now Form CRS. That data is then crunched by an algorithm to provide a rating as well as other information.

Any firm, be it large or small, can pay between $1,000 to $5,000 annually to be rated, and if they rate high they get a “badge” that can be used for firm marketing. Reink Media doesn’t take payments for referrals and doesn’t sell banner advertising, Reinkensmeyer says.

He says the site gets roughly 80,000 visits a month, and currently lists 25 firms that have paid to be rated. The site says it has more than 7,000 RIAs and 650,000 individual financial advisors in its database.

Digging Deeper

The site highlights problems in a firm’s past and points out questions to be asked of an advisor. For example, on one large RIA, this alert was posted, along with suggested questions:

  • Your firm or an advisory affiliate has previously been found guilty of violating a regulation or statute by a domestic or foreign court, the SEC, CFTC, or another regulatory body or commodities exchange. [Questions to ask:] What happened? When? How many times did it occur? Will anyone that was involved be involved with my accounts in any capacity?

The site also pushes other questions investors might not be seasoned enough to understand or ask about, such as “What percentage of income [does an advisor] receive from fees versus commission?”

It also shows whether an advisor takes commissions or not, by asking questions like: “[Does an advisor] accept soft-dollar benefits?” and “[Does an advisor] offer mutual funds that have 12b-1 fees?” It also provides an explanation on why to ask these questions.

The site also has a section that highlights “top RIAs to watch in 2020.” To make it onto this list, firms must hold fiduciary status, have a secure website, have a fee-only model, not have any common conflicts of interest, not accept 12b-1 fees and have clean disciplinary records as of Dec. 31, 2019.

Reinkensmeyer started in the financial business as a stock investor and in 2006 he started a blog about his trading, which took off especially with the financial crisis, he says. Then he teamed up with his brother Brandon, who heads up the operations and finance side of the company, to launch Reink Media Group.

StockBrokers.com and ForexBrokers.com use similar business models in rating providers. StockTrader.com is an educational site for those who want to trade stocks.

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