*Updated on Jan 16, 2019
Making the decision to sail the waters of independence and start a registered investment adviser (RIA) firm involves many important tasks including setting up a new office, partnering with a custodian, and properly implementing back office technology and systems. However, another key decision which should not be overlooked is what to name your new RIA firm and how to begin to establish a new independent advisory business brand.
- Should I name my new RIA firm after myself or another key principal? It is quite common to name business after the individual principal or executives that are starting the RIA firm. Naming the practice after one or more parties is a good option when the advisory firm has a strong established client base or is well known within the community where the business is located. There is however a downside to this naming approach. Often, as the company evolves, a business name reflecting one or more individuals may be somewhat limiting in both recruitment and developing a succession plan at a point in the future. As such, unless there is compelling reason to, we generally advise individuals creating a new RIA firm to avoid naming the firm after a principal.
- Should I take a more local approach in the naming of my new investment advisory firm? Investment adviser clients have various circumstances, needs and goals for an adviser to fulfill that can cross into a very personalized relationship, so naturally people often look for comfort and expertise from someone within close proximity to where they reside. A local landmark, town, city, theme or slogan can also be incorporated into the advisory name. If employing this strategy it is important that the name be unique enough to differentiate it from the other competing investment management businesses that may have chosen a similar name. Of course, a regional name can be limiting to growing the advisory business in new geographies. Thus, local names are great if you plan to run a local practice. However, if you are looking to build a larger regional or national firm, we generally advise those registering a new RIA firm to avoid a local naming strategy.
- Will your new RIA firm be providing holistic advice or be more focused on portfolio management? The beauty of the registered investment adviser model is that it allows for a wide range of focuses and types of business to be conducted. Services may include financial and estate planning, asset management, investment management, retirement planning and/or several other specialized niches. Define who you and your business are and the marketplace you are serving by creating a powerful mission statement. Clarify the vision of the practice or mantra you want to portray to your clients. The firm name should reinforce this philosophy along with the goals and values you want your company to stand for.
- I'm struggling to come up with a unique name for my advisory firm, any tips? If struggling to find an original name, a solution to differentiate your firm can be a combination of one or more words. If utilizing a mash up of two separate words make sure to be able to relay the meaning behind the sequence and that the name flows and is easy to remember. The best solution would be to use commonly recognizable words with a succinct definition. Many successful businesses in the financial services world are named after a word with historical context or with reverence to ancient mythology. This type of name should have relevance including an easy to tell story or message behind the name and not be so obscure that it is unrecognizable. When push comes to shove, don't forget to keep it simple. A name should always be easy to pronounce, spell, and memorable so someone can redirect back to the firm or locate the business online with a simple search. The name should also be comprised of somewhere between two to four words.
- What are some standard naming conventions utilized by RIA firms? The prefix of your firm's name can be combined with some commonly used suffixes listed below to formulate the syntax of the RIA firm name: For example: ABC Advisor Group or XYZ Advisors. Some common suffixes include: Advisor Group, Advisors, Advisory Services, Asset Management, Associates, Capital, Capital Advisors, Capital Management,Financial Advisors*, Financial Management, Financial Services, Financial Group, Investment Advisors, Investment Management*, Partners, Wealth Management, and Wealth Advisors. *Please note that certain states such as New York will require prior approval of using certain words in a name from the New York Department of Financial Services (eg. Bank, Finance, Investment, Savings and Trust).
- How do I check to see if the domain name is available for my new RIA firm's name? Developing a professional web site to market to potential investment advisory clients is an extremely important consideration when deciding on what to name your new advisory firm. The name should be unique enough in order for you to secure a .com domain name. A good resource to check the availability of a web address is to use GoDaddy's online domain name search tool. You should expect that the vast majority of prospective clients are going to research your firm online and it's vital that you make a strong first impression with a professional web site. As RIA compliance consultants, we also just want to remind you that your firm's web site should never be published before your new RIA firm's registration has been officially approved.
When beginning the search for the right name, a good initial strategy is to conduct some preliminary market research by polling others, including your clients, and to gather information on how they might view your new advisory business or what actually may be most important to them. You could also have a few different names and gather feedback or input from family, friends and colleagues. You'll often be surprised by the results of this preliminary research and this can help prevent you from making a naming mistake that you later regret.
However, it's important to note that this initial name does not have to be set in stone. A registered investment advisory firm can always change the name or re-brand the firm and follow the applicable RIA compliance protocol.