The key for SEC examiners with robo-advisors is whether they are collecting enough information on customers, an SEC enforcement official said Tuesday.
“Some can do it,” said Jane Jarcho, deputy director of the Security and Exchange Commission’s Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (OCIE). Jarcho made her remarks at the SEC’s annual compliance outreach seminar for investment advisor and investment company senior officers.
Because robo-advisors are not meeting with clients, it is inherently harder for them to get the information than for traditional advisors, she said.
The SEC does not view robo-advisors as a good or bad business model, she added.
On another major issue, Jarcho said examiners are looking at investment advisor and broker-dealer branch offices more.
The move has come with the start of OCIE’s initiative last year to ensure the nation’s booming population of retirees and near-retirees is being treated fairly, she noted.
Over 200 exams have been done in the program.
Examiners are particularly looking out for baby boomers who are being improperly advised to roll over from a low-fee, employer-sponsored plan to a high-fee IRA, Jarcho said.
Jarcho said she finds comfort in the fact that exams of never-before-examined advisors have resulted in fewer referrals to the SEC’s Enforcement Division than repeat exams of advisory firms. This shows OCIE’s strategy of trying to find the riskiest firms to examine is working, she said, adding that her unit only has the staff to review 10 percent of advisors annually.