What is 'Know Your Client - KYC'

The Know Your Client form is a standard form in the investment industry that ensures investment advisors know detailed information about their clients' risk tolerance, investment knowledge and financial position.

KYC forms protect both clients and investment advisors. Clients are protected by having their investment advisor know what investments best suit their personal situations. Investment advisors are protected by knowing what they can and cannot include in their client's portfolio.

BREAKING DOWN 'Know Your Client - KYC'

The Know Your Client (KYC) rule is an ethical requirement for those in the securities industry who are dealing with customers during the opening and maintaining of accounts. There are two rules which were implemented in July 2012 that cover this topic together: Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Rule 2090 (Know Your Customer) and FINRA Rule 2111 (Suitability). These rules are in place to protect both the broker-dealer and the customer and so that brokers and firms deal fairly with clients.

The Know Your Customer Rule 2090 essentially states that every broker-dealer should use reasonable effort when opening and maintaining client accounts. It is a requirement to know and keep records on the essential facts of each customer, as well as identify each person who has authority to act on the customer’s behalf.

The KYC rule is important at the beginning of a customer-broker relationship to establish the essential facts of each customer before any recommendations are made. The essential facts are those required to effectively service the customer’s account and to be aware of any special handling instructions for the account. In addition, the broker-dealer needs to be familiar with each person who has authority to act on behalf of the customer, and the broker-dealer needs to comply with all the laws, regulations and rules of the securities industry.

Suitability Rule

As found in the FINRA Rules of Fair Practices, Rule 2111 goes in tandem with the KYC rule and covers the topic of making recommendations. The suitability Rule 2111 notes that a broker-dealer must have reasonable grounds when making a recommendation that it is suitable for a customer based on the client’s financial situation and needs. This responsibility means that the broker-dealer has done a complete review of the current facts and profile of the customer including the customer’s other securities before making any purchase, sale or exchange of a security.

Establishing a Customer Profile

Investment advisors and firms are responsible for knowing each customer's financial situation by exploring and gathering the client's age, other investments, tax status, financial needs, investment experience, investment time horizon, liquidity needs and risk tolerance. The SEC requires that a new customer provide detailed financial information that includes name, date of birth, address, employment status, annual income, net worth, investment objectives and identification numbers before opening an account.

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