The SEC Marketing Rule 2024: A Comprehensive Guide

The SEC marketing rule outlines the guidelines marketing from regulated firms must follow. Let's cover everything you need to know to remain compliant.
February 20, 2024
Thomas Stewart, Founder & CEO
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The SEC new marketing rule is key for investment advisors. It sets the rules for promoting their services, all to keep things clear and fair for investors. Understanding and following this rule is a must for advisors looking to grow their business the right way. In this post, we'll break down the rule, explore common challenges, and offer tips to stay compliant. Whether you're just starting out or you've been in the game for a while, our guide makes navigating the SEC marketing rule straightforward, helping you earn your clients' trust and protect your firm's good name.

Understanding the SEC Marketing Rule

The SEC Marketing Rule updates how investment advisors can promote their services, focusing on transparency and fairness. Here's what it means for advisors:

  • Truthfulness: Every claim in your ads must be true and backed by evidence. No unfounded promises about returns or strategies.
  • Balance: Ads must discuss risks just as much as they highlight benefits. It's about giving the full picture.
  • Performance Guidelines: When showing past performance, you need to be honest and clear, including fees in your calculations to show net gains, not just gross earnings.
  • Testimonials and Endorsements: You can use them, but you need to be clear if you paid for them. Transparency is key.
  • Third-Party Ratings: If you're flaunting a rating, disclose how you got it and what it means.

The Bottom Line:

This rule isn't just a regulatory hoop to jump through. It's about earning trust by being upfront and honest in your marketing. Understanding and applying these principles helps keep your firm compliant and builds a solid foundation with potential clients.

The Seven Principles of the SEC Marketing Rule

The SEC Marketing Rule is built around seven core principles designed to ensure that investment advisors' marketing practices are both transparent and truthful. Understanding these principles is crucial for creating compliant and effective marketing materials. Here’s a detailed look at each principle:

The SEC continues to update and expand the Marketing Rule, keeping up is critical

Truthfulness and Accuracy:

Every piece of information shared in your marketing must be accurate and not misleading. This includes not only the data or claims about performance but also any statements that could give an unrealistic expectation of the services provided.

Fair and Balanced Presentations:

It’s important to present a balanced view in your marketing. This means for every benefit or potential gain mentioned, corresponding risks should also be disclosed. The goal is to prevent advertisements from painting an overly optimistic picture without acknowledging potential downsides.

Clear Disclosure of Fees and Expenses:

Transparency about fees and expenses is non-negotiable. All marketing materials should clearly disclose the costs associated with your services, ensuring clients understand what they are paying for and how it affects their investment returns.

Comparisons Must Be Fair and Justifiable:

If your marketing compares your services to another provider's, these comparisons must be fair, factual, and capable of being substantiated. Avoid cherry-picking data that misrepresents the performance or services of others.

Prohibition Against Unsubstantiated Claims:

Claims about your services, especially those regarding performance, must be backed by data and evidence. This principle discourages the use of vague or broad statements that cannot be verified.

Use of Testimonials and Endorsements:

The rule allows for the use of testimonials and endorsements, but with strict guidelines. Any compensation given for these testimonials must be disclosed, and they should not be misleading or present an experience that is not representative of what clients might generally expect.

Presentation of Past Performance:

When including past performance data in marketing, it must be presented in a way that is not misleading. This includes showing net performance over gross performance to account for fees and expenses, and ensuring that any time-period selected for presentation does not skew expectations unrealistically.

Implementing the Principles:

Understanding these principles is just the start. The real challenge comes in applying them to your marketing materials in a way that is both compliant and engaging. This involves a careful review of all promotional content to ensure it meets the SEC’s standards, while also effectively communicating the value of your services. Remember, the goal of these principles is not just regulatory compliance but fostering trust and transparency with potential clients.

Common Compliance Challenges

Navigating the SEC Marketing Rule can be tricky, with several common hurdles that investment advisors face. Recognizing and understanding these challenges is the first step towards ensuring your marketing practices remain compliant. Here's a deeper look into some of the typical issues and how they impact compliance efforts:

The SEC will investigate your firm's compliance with the marketing during their routine examinations.

Interpreting the Rule Correctly:

The SEC Marketing Rule is comprehensive, and its interpretation can be complex. Advisors might struggle to understand the nuances of what is considered compliant versus non-compliant marketing, especially when it comes to subtleties like the presentation of performance data or the use of testimonials.

Updating Existing Materials:

Many firms have extensive libraries of marketing materials that were created before the new rule took effect. Reviewing and updating these materials to meet the current standards can be a daunting task, requiring significant time and resources.

Training Staff:

Ensuring that all team members, especially those involved in marketing and communications, are fully trained on the rule's requirements is critical. This includes understanding the principles of fair and balanced marketing, the importance of disclosing fees clearly, and the rules around testimonials and endorsements.

Monitoring and Review Processes:

Establishing effective processes for monitoring and reviewing marketing materials on an ongoing basis is a challenge. This is crucial to catch any potentially non-compliant content before it's published, but setting up these systems can be resource-intensive.

Documenting Compliance Efforts:

The SEC expects firms to not only comply with the marketing rule but also to have documentation proving their compliance efforts. Keeping detailed records of how marketing materials meet the rule's standards can be cumbersome but is essential for passing regulatory audits.

Adapting to Digital Marketing Trends:

With the rise of social media and digital marketing, advisors face the challenge of applying the SEC Marketing Rule to new and rapidly evolving platforms. Ensuring compliance across diverse channels, each with its own set of nuances, adds another layer of complexity.

Strategies for Overcoming These Challenges:

  • Seek Expert Guidance: Consulting with legal or compliance experts who specialize in SEC regulations can help clarify ambiguities and ensure your marketing practices are aligned with the rule.
  • Regular Training Sessions: Conduct ongoing training sessions for your team to keep them updated on the rule and its implications for your marketing strategies.
  • Implement a Review System: Develop a robust system for reviewing and approving marketing materials, possibly incorporating compliance software that can automate part of the process.
  • Document Everything: Keep meticulous records of your compliance efforts, including reviews, updates, and approvals of marketing materials.
  • Stay Informed on Digital Best Practices: Keep abreast of best practices for digital marketing compliance, adapting your strategies as needed to stay compliant across all platforms.

By proactively addressing these common challenges, investment advisors can navigate the complexities of the SEC Marketing Rule more effectively, ensuring their marketing practices remain compliant while still engaging potential clients.

Best Practices for Staying Compliant

Adhering to the SEC Marketing Rule requires a proactive and informed approach. By following best practices, investment advisors can ensure their marketing efforts remain compliant, avoiding regulatory pitfalls while effectively reaching their target audience. Here are essential strategies to enhance compliance and mitigate risks:

Conduct Regular Audits:

Periodically review your marketing materials and practices to ensure they align with the SEC Marketing Rule. This includes checking for accuracy in performance data, proper disclosure of fees, and the fair use of testimonials. Regular audits help identify potential issues before they become compliance violations.

Hopefully the future of the SEC's marketing rule examination process looks nothing like this.

Develop Clear Policies and Procedures:

Establish comprehensive policies and procedures that detail how your firm will adhere to the SEC Marketing Rule. This should cover the creation, review, and approval of marketing materials, training for staff, and monitoring of compliance. Clear guidelines help ensure consistency and accountability across your organization.

Train Your Team Thoroughly:

Ongoing education for your team about the nuances of the SEC Marketing Rule is crucial. This includes training on the ethical considerations of marketing practices, how to handle endorsements, and the importance of balanced presentations. Well-informed employees are less likely to inadvertently breach compliance.

Leverage Technology for Compliance:

Consider using compliance software that can assist in reviewing and monitoring marketing materials for potential rule violations. Technology can automate certain aspects of the compliance process, reducing the risk of human error and streamlining the review of large volumes of content.

Stay Updated on Regulatory Changes:

The regulatory landscape is constantly evolving. Staying informed about updates to the SEC Marketing Rule and other relevant regulations is essential. This may involve subscribing to regulatory updates, attending industry conferences, or participating in forums that focus on compliance issues.

Consult with Compliance Experts:

When in doubt, seek advice from legal or compliance professionals who specialize in SEC regulations. Their expertise can provide clarity on complex issues and help you navigate the intricacies of the marketing rule with confidence.

Document Compliance Efforts:

Maintain detailed records of your compliance activities, including audits, training sessions, and reviews of marketing materials. Documentation is not only a regulatory requirement but also a valuable asset in demonstrating your firm's commitment to compliance in the event of an SEC inquiry.

Embrace a Culture of Compliance:

Cultivating a culture that prioritizes compliance can have a significant positive impact. When compliance is integrated into the fabric of your organization, adhering to regulations like the SEC Marketing Rule becomes a natural part of your operations rather than an external imposition.

By implementing these best practices, investment advisors can navigate the complexities of the SEC Marketing Rule effectively. This proactive approach not only helps in maintaining compliance but also supports the building of trust with clients and the broader investment community.

Hadrius and the SEC Marketing Rule

Hadrius transforms the way investment advisors comply with the SEC Marketing Rule, especially in reviewing marketing materials. Here's a concise look at how it helps:

Automated Compliance Checks:

Hadrius uses AI to quickly review marketing content for SEC rule compliance, pinpointing issues like unsubstantiated claims or inadequate risk disclosures.

Hadrius reviews your marketing in real-time, catching compliance issues for your compliance team to address.

Detailed Feedback:

It provides specific feedback on how to fix potential compliance issues, making it easier to adjust and improve your materials.

Adherence to SEC Principles:

The platform is designed around the SEC's seven marketing principles, ensuring comprehensive compliance coverage.

Quick Turnaround:

With Hadrius, compliance reviews are fast, enabling quicker content deployment without sacrificing regulatory adherence.

Educational Support:

Beyond just reviews, Hadrius offers training to help your team better understand SEC marketing regulations, encouraging compliance from the start.

Audit Trail:

Every review and adjustment is recorded, offering a clear compliance trail for regulatory audits.

Updates with Regulatory Changes:

Hadrius stays updated with the latest SEC rules, ensuring your marketing remains compliant over time.

Hadrius not only simplifies compliance with the SEC Marketing Rule but also speeds up the process, allowing investment advisors to focus on their core business with the confidence that their marketing meets regulatory standards.


Q1: What is the SEC Marketing Rule?

The SEC Marketing Rule is a set of regulations established by the Securities and Exchange Commission to govern how investment advisors can market and advertise their services. It aims to ensure transparency, fairness, and accuracy in financial marketing to protect investors.

Q2: Why was the SEC Marketing Rule introduced?

The rule was introduced to modernize the regulatory framework for investment advisor advertisements, reflecting changes in technology, the rise of social media, and the evolving ways advisors communicate with clients and prospective investors.

Q3: What are the key components of the SEC Marketing Rule?

Key components include the requirement for truthful and accurate information, fair and balanced presentations, clear disclosure of fees and expenses, proper handling of testimonials and endorsements, and accurate presentation of past performance.

Q4: How does the SEC Marketing Rule affect investment advisors?

Investment advisors must review and potentially revise their marketing strategies to comply with the new rule. This includes ensuring all claims are substantiated, risks and benefits are balanced, fees are transparent, and any testimonials or endorsements meet the rule's criteria.

Q5: Can investment advisors use testimonials under the new rule?

Yes, investment advisors can use testimonials and endorsements under the new rule, but there are specific conditions that must be met, including disclosures about compensation and a clear representation of the client's experience.

Q6: What should I do if my marketing materials are not in compliance?

If your marketing materials are not in compliance, you should immediately review and revise them in accordance with the SEC Marketing Rule. Consider consulting with compliance experts or using compliance software like Hadrius to ensure your materials meet regulatory standards.

Q7: How often should I review my marketing materials for compliance?

Regular reviews are essential to ensure ongoing compliance, especially as marketing strategies and regulatory interpretations evolve. Establishing a routine compliance calendar can help manage these reviews systematically.

Q8: Where can I find more information about the SEC Marketing Rule?

You can find more information on the SEC's official website or consult with legal and compliance professionals specializing in securities regulation. Staying informed through industry publications and seminars can also be beneficial.

By addressing these FAQs, investment advisors and their teams can gain a clearer understanding of the SEC Marketing Rule and its implications for their marketing practices, helping them navigate compliance with greater confidence.

Thomas Stewart

Founder & CEO, Hadrius

Thomas Stewart is the founder and CEO of Hadrius, the most modern SEC and FINRA compliance software around. Thomas previously founded the SEC-registered RIA Quantbase where he learned first hand how to build an efficient compliance program that scales with high-growth firms.

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