The CPA's Guide to Investment Advisory Business Models

As a CPA financial planner, you face a confusing array of compliance guidelines. In this guide, you will find valuable information on:

  • Determining when you cross the line between providing financial planning advice “solely incidental” to your practice and providing investment advice that is not “solely incidental.”
  • The securities regulations to consider when providing investment services.
  • Selecting the right business model for your firm.
  • The registration and compliance entailed within that business model.
  • Resources available to you as you start and grow your firm.

CPAs who are providing personal financial services (including tax, estate, retirement, investment and/or insurance planning) to their clients are in an optimal position to add investment advisory services to their business. Surveys show that CPAs are ranked among the most trusted advisers. They put their client’s interest first when providing advice, which is an especially critical element that the American public seeks in investment advisers. There is significant untapped revenue in the investment advisory market, but many CPAs do not enter into this line of business because they believe the regulatory issues are too complex to navigate. The content within this guide is meant to provide you with a broad overview of some of the issues you will face in this area.

Additional Resources

The content in the CPA's Guide to Investment Advisory Business Models and accompanying resources is not intended as legal advice. CPAs with a PFP practice should consult legal or other appropriate professional counsel. 

Note to Reader:
The content covered in the CPA's Guide to Investment Advisory Business Models is generally evergreen; however, changes pursuant to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (“the Act”) will be made when studies and implementation of the Act are finalized. To keep apprised of movement with the Act’s studies and related implementation, visit